With Pride Month concluding yesterday, and highlighting issues for LGBTQ+ employees, Andrea Talreja, Head of HR at iGaming affiliate QiH Group, addresses what employers should do to make their workplace as safe and understanding as possible all year long.

It may seem that in today’s world, we’ve come a long way and are now fully accepting of the idea that love comes in a variety of forms. But all one has to do is read the comments section on just about any article, social media site, app, etc, to see that’s not true. 

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights suggests that 50 per cent of LGBTQ people may have suffered hate speech or hate crime simply for being who they are. 

Sadly, even in 2024, we are still a long way from achieving the ideals that Pride Month promotes. As an example, I remember talking about my sister’s wedding at the school gates and feeling that the pause in conversation was just a moment too long when I mentioned how beautiful both brides were. 

And most recently, there’s still an initial look of confusion on the faces of adults and children alike when my daughters say their cousin has two mothers – because this still isn’t considered ‘the norm’.

A lack of acceptance is very hard to define, as often, it’s people’s body language rather than what they explicitly say that alerts us to an issue. But it is within our control as business leaders to play our part in making sure that eventually, these reactions are a thing of the past.

Defined by culture

As employers and HR leaders, the key role we play in supporting LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace is defined by our culture at work. All businesses should encourage each individual member of the team to show up to work as their true authentic self. This should allow people to perform at their highest level, as a result of feeling comfortable in their own skin – but more importantly, it can help ensure a safe work environment when we facilitate this kind of culture.

When we as individuals feel safe and supported to express our true identity in the workplace, we experience higher levels of job satisfaction, mental health, and overall happiness. 

When people feel they can express their true selves without fear of judgment or discrimination, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work. When this sense of authenticity permeates throughout the company culture and day-to-day work environment, that’s when you achieve a real sense of belonging and inclusion, which we know can significantly enhance employee engagement and productivity. 

I believe this is especially important for young LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, as it mitigates the stress and anxiety that often accompany the challenges of navigating one’s identity in the work environment. This will then allow them to focus more on their work goals and career development, rather than on managing the pressures of potential discrimination or exclusion.

Extending beyond this one facet of an inclusive work culture, a diverse workplace attracts a broader range of talent and perspectives, driving innovation and creativity, which is incredibly important for us as a scale-up business. At QiH, we showcase this on the walls of our office, along with our core values. We explicitly state that our expectation of everyone on the team is to ‘Respect, Understand, and Help Each Other’. We inherently value diversity and inclusion within the business; not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because we know we can see the benefits of operating this way.

Diverse perspectives and ideas are more likely to surface in an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and heard. As we as a business are growing and facing new challenges, having this diversity of thought can lead to better problem-solving and more innovative solutions.

A culture of authenticity attracts top talent, as prospective employees are increasingly seeking workplaces where they can be themselves and thrive.

Actions > words

It is one thing claiming to be an accepting and diverse company, but then you have to actually put this into practice. Equality and diversity training is important for all employees, to ensure they understand as much as possible on how to approach such issues, and they should always be encouraged to keep an open mind. Training materials will ultimately create a far better understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and the challenges that come with them.

Employees should also be aware they have the opportunity to share their personal experiences, which will in turn help the employer be appreciative and understanding of those issues.

Resources should be provided so that employees can organise educational events. If you’re a smaller company, you may benefit from joining a local LGBTQ+ professional network.

It is also important to consider how to leverage role models and leaders in your business based on their experience and personality traits. Individuals can be mentors to other employees who may at times wish to confide in them about issues they are experiencing.

Pride Month offers a fantastic opportunity for people from the LGBTQ+ community to talk about how their experiences have impacted on them, providing they feel comfortable speaking on the topic. That does not mean though that this issue should only be considered during Pride Month, because for members of the LGBTQ+ community, these issues will always be a part of their everyday lives.

Another important thing to remember is that it is the responsibility of all employees to make sure members of the team who identify as LGBTQ+ feel safe and supported in their work. It should not just be down to LGBTQ+ employees to address these issues themselves, and it is a team effort that will make sure progress is made, step by step.