Over the last decade, organisations in all sectors have made huge strides in supporting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and creating an inclusive workplace.
Big British brands like Barclays have established programmes such as Barclays' Spectrum, designed to support LGBT people within a huge corporation. And it turns out that the MI5 is good at more than training secret service. This year, it was named one of the top employers for LGBT equality.
The evidence is clear: companies that embrace LGBT policies outperform their competitors. Diversity helps draw top talent and foster innovation, and people perform significantly better when they can be themselves at work.
However, many LGBT people in the UK still choose not to disclose their sexuality at work. And many more Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) senior executives have not come out at the office.
Fear of homophobia, exclusion, being passed over for promotions and job interviews are still very real for many LGBT people. In fact, gay and lesbian job seekers are 5% less likely to be offered a job interview than heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience.
So, what can businesses do to better support LGBT employees, demolish career barriers, and reduce workplace discrimination?
1. Develop and communicate a clear mission to all of your employees, including managers and senior staff, through education and diversity training about your inclusion policies and strategies for supporting LGBT employees.
2. Take discrimination seriously in your recruitment and promotion practices. Establish a strong anti-discrimination policy and be sure all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace, and in cases of homophobic bullying, promptly recognise the problem and take action.
3. Develop support and engagement programmes for LGBT employees such as mentoring, employee networking groups, seminars and conferences.
4. Promote straight allies of LGBT people, who can act as support networks to LGBT employees and help champion the message that diversity is part of your organisation's mission.
5. Gain the support from the very top and promote senior staff champions, who can help implement diversity initiatives, mentor junior LGBT colleagues, and act as sponsors of employee network groups.
6. Support the local LGBT community by providing information to employees about local events and groups, sponsor a Pride Party, celebrate National Coming Out Day, encourage volunteering at LGBT events, and invite speakers to share their experiences.
7. Offer equal benefits to all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation, including parental leave, adoption leave, and time off to take care of dependants.
8. Create a gender-neutral environment by making bold changes such as establishing unisex toilets and using gender-neutral language, like 'partner' instead of husband or wife.
9. Celebrate your successes and monitor your progress by tracking things such as number of employee grievances, completion rates of diversity training, LGBT hires and promotions, and how many new employees have come out.