The 2015 Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage was a huge turning point for the LGBT community. That said we’re still fighting for our rights as equal human beings and Americans. That’s where companies come in, many people spend a good portion of every waking day either as a customer or an employee. It’s important for businesses to affirm their LGBT customers and employees. While companies today have come a long way with many being either tolerant of the LGBT community or somewhat friendly there is still work to be done.
What’s the difference between LGBT Tolerant, Friendly and Affirming?
LGBT Tolerant is when a company accepts the fact that someone is gay or transgender, and they don’t want the person to talk about it. It’s the attitude of “Oh. You’re okay as long as we don’t have to hear about it or see it”. In other words, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.
LGBT Friendly is when a company is fine with employees being gay or transgender and they offer some of the same benefits as straight or cisgender employees. For example, a same-sex spouse can be covered under employee health insurance. They have the attitude of “okay you’re awesome and it’s fine if you talk about your significant other” or “okay, well what pronoun should I use?”. Both LGBT Tolerant and LGBT Friendly companies should consider LGBT cultural awareness training. The benefit of training is that it helps employers and employees understand sexual orientation and gender minorities as well as provides information on appropriate (think non-harmful) ways to interact.
LGBT Affirming companies are not only friendly, they also make sure that there are rules and guidelines that support those who are LGBT. For example, any nondiscrimination policies would include the protection of sexual orientation and gender minorities. Also, if someone is being implicitly or explicitly discriminatory, their actions would be corrected immediately. There is no tolerance for discrimination of any kind in LGBT Affirming businesses. Additionally, they offer more benefits to their LGBT employees. For example, they may offer leave for the adoption of a child in a same-sex marriage or leave if an employee’s significant other is pregnant and just had a baby. LGBT Affirming companies may choose to be certified or may chose to be audited by an organization like the Human Rights Campaign.
Why should businesses be LGBT Affirming?
- It’s nice. One of the simplest reasons to be LGBT Affirming is because it’s a nice thing to do. No one wants to work for a company that doesn’t treat their employees like human beings.
- The LGBT community spends money. When consumers know that you are LGBT Affirming, they are more likely to support your business and buy your product or service. In fact, the LGBT community has over $3.7 Trillion dollars in purchasing power. Yes, trillion with a “T”. Why wouldn’t you want a piece of that pie while being inclusive of everyone?!?
- People will know that they belong. When an LGBT person walks into a business whether they are an employee or a customer, they immediately ask themselves if they belong there. When you have an LGBT Affirming business – there is no question. They automatically know and feel they belong. Therefore, this ends up being a magnet for your business.
- It attracts talent. Speaking of being a magnet, not only will you attract those who are LGBT, you will attract good employees who are inclusive of others and want to work for a company that has the same values.
- Employees are more productive. When an employee doesn’t have to worry about watching their back or feeling like they don’t belong, they can concentrate on their work making them more productive which of course, in turn, makes the business more money while unleashing employees creativity and leadership skills.
- It boosts morale. When you have a company that is supportive of everyone and stands up for its employees, morale will be better in the workplace. Good morale is always a plus – it means there are fewer negative behaviors in the workplace and that employees and management experience less workplace stress.
- Open-minded people are innovative. When you have employees who are open-minded, they think outside of the box. This means that they can come up with new ways for your business to be more efficient and they make innovative choices that create more revenue for the company.