Posted by: lwagner10 | August 24, 2009

LGBT Diversity Training

The LBGT community is frequently a relatively hidden element of the workforce in a company.  This includes a lack of statistics to support decisions relative to the community. In the past, a common reason not to include the LBGT community in diversity initiatives was that “no one like that worked in the company”.   In fact, I have heard that argument relative to the transgender community within the last few years.  For the most part, this was the case as far as many people could see. There were not many people out at work. When I finally came out at work and joined the LGBT diversity group at my company, I was surprised to learn how few of the members and even officers were actually out at work.  Not so long ago, I was shocked to find that there were significantly fewer people on the group mailing list than were using domestic partner benefits.  Both lists were held as confidential.  The community was invisible and in some ways still is within many companies.  But as the gay and lesbian communities have become more apparent in larger company diversity efforts, it has become a respected part of the diversity thrust in companies. In the fashion the “Best Little Boy in the World”, the LBGT community is often the one to support other community events. But in many ways, this is preaching to the choir, the people who embrace diversity.  While having other diversity communities on your side is a great start, acceptance in the diversity community is a separate issue from broader acceptance. So there is still much to do.  Ultimately, this much come from breaking down stereotypes.   

 

Being out in the workplace is a difficult decision.  It is the ultimately a very irreversible decision.  And for some, it is a terrifying situation.  Anyone who invests in stocks understands that the unknown is always worse than any possible reality.  I have seen a friend have a near breakdown when he saw his boss at a predominantly gay party supporting an AIDS charity.  The fear of being outed can be enormous.  But the benefits can be realized in improve efficiency and improved working relationships at work.  The real problem with people not being out is that overcoming stereotypes becomes very difficult.  My own stereotypes of the community before coming out were probably worse than most straight people have, so I understand the fear.  But stereotypes breakdown quickly as you gain personal knowledge of the LGBT community.  A possible solution is diversity training which exposes people to the community.  I believe that the best general approach is to support diversity in general as a starting point and then to expose people to the various diverse communities within a company including the LGBT community.  This exposure should include exposing people to the issues and needs of our community framed as the real equality that they represent.  LWSN Consulting (www.lwsnconsulting.com) provides diversity training of this type.

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