Kick starting your career: the importance of diversity

Eimear Noelle O’Reilly, Programme Officer for Diversity Champions at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), looks at what being an inclusive company really means and how diversity and inclusion can benefit both employees and companies.

Starting your career is an exciting time. The workplace is a new environment for you to develop your potential and take on new challenges. It is where you spend most of your time and where you become financially independent. It makes sense to choose an inclusive employer where you can bring your whole self to work. When looking for a job, we usually ask ourselves how can I best present my skills and attributes to potential employers and what can I bring to the organisation? But how do good employers present themselves to you?

Today in Ireland, the best employers ensure that their workplaces are diverse and inclusive. But this article isn’t just about diversity and inclusion being ‘the right thing to do’ or a ‘nice-to-have’, this is also the smart thing to do and it makes good business sense. “Staff’s performance and profit was markedly better in offices where employees could be themselves. In fact the profit difference of staff in revenue terms was $100,000 per employee per annum;” that’s according to Liz Bingham, EY’s Managing Partner for People and Ambassador for Diversity and Inclusion UK & Ireland, at the Diversity Champions Seminar on Executive Leaders Supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Inclusion. Employers recognise that a diverse workforce reflects and better understands a diverse customer base. Inclusive companies that value diversity can respond more effectively to the needs and demands of a diverse society.

How to spot a good employer

Spotting a good employer is easier than you think! An inclusive workplace culture will have a really positive impact on your experience of work and your career. In fact, the ultimate diversity and inclusion litmus test for any company is often whether it has lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender diversity and inclusion as a core part of its organisational and workplace culture. Organisations that are inclusive of their LGBT employees are generally inclusive of everyone. Joining LGBT inclusive companies means working for a company that values the ideas, skills and experiences that come from having a diverse workforce. GLEN’s Diversity Champions programme works with a wide range of employers who are committed to ensuring their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees can be comfortable at work, and are fully valued for their skills and talents. Diversity Champion employers and all good employers distinguish themselves in terms of their values, culture, policies and procedures. Here are some things to look out for when deciding if your employer or perspective employer is LGBT inclusive.

Policies, practice, culture

Diversity Champions employers don’t just talk the talk, here are some of the concrete things they are doing across their organisations:

Inclusive human resource policies. With the introduction of Civil Partnership pension schemes and partner benefits for opposite sex couples, these must now be offered by law to same-sex couples. Inclusive companies have made the relevant changes to all their policies and communicate these to their employees. These companies also offer paternity leave to employees who have become non-biological parents.

Inclusive companies have visible LGBT employees at all levels of their organisations. Diversity Champion members use the Diversity Champions logo on their websites and recruitment material to promote their values and culture. Many inclusive employers have senior leaders who have a formal role to lead on LGBT diversity.

LGBT diversity events. More and more employers and trade unions are “coming out” at Pride by showing their support for LGBT equality. Some have been shortlisted in the annual Gala LGBT awards. Others have LGBT events within their own organisations on topics from civil marriage to practical supports for parents of LGBT children.

Do they have an LGBT employee network? A growing number of larger employers have LGBT employee networks. Networks organise social events, support employee career development and help companies connect with the LGBT community.

Some companies are reaching out to LGBT consumers on commercial grounds to communicate how they value their business and how they understand their needs. There are plenty of examples in financial services, hotels and catering, car hire and public services.

Take the opportunity during the recruitment process to enquire about the company’s culture and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. It will be interesting to see just how fluently they can communicate their values and culture. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, knowing that an employer takes a supportive and proactive approach towards ensuring the workplace is LGBT inclusive can make a huge difference to your workplace experience and career. Whether you are a member of the LGBT community or straight, finding a workplace where you can be yourself will hugely benefit your performance and your creativity at work.

Visit the GLEN website for more information

This article originally appeared on the gradireland blog