Every workplace should strive to be diverse and inclusive for all employees, regardless of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability. Fostering an inclusive workplace culture can help the sector to attract and retain top talent, as well as improve employee engagement, productivity and customer relations.
As Pride Month draws to a close, we look at how the banking and finance sector has made substantial progress in supporting its LGBTQ+ workforce and discuss how things can be further improved moving forward.
LGBTQ+ experiences in the workplace
Despite progress being made towards LGBTQ+ inclusivity, many individuals in the community continue to face challenges in the workplace. Research by CIPD in 2021 found that 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees and 55% of transgender employees have experienced conflict and harassment in the workplace, in comparison to 29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees.
16% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual employees also reported feeling psychologically unsafe, compared to 10% of their heterosexual counterparts. This increases to 18% among transgender employees.
The figures suggest that organisations need to put strategies in place to better support their LGBTQ+ employees.
Making the workplace more inclusive
Firms can ensure they are supporting LGBTQ+ staff by making a conscious effort to create safe and inclusive spaces where employees feel valued and accepted, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Establishing clear non-discrimination diversity policies that explicitly include LGBTQ+ individuals can promote a culture that encourages open dialogue and respect for all. This can be aided by providing regular training sessions to educate employees on LGBTQ+ issues, aimed at fostering better understanding and empathy within the workplace.
Whilst there has been significant progress in the use of gender neutral and non-heteronormative language in workplace literature, it is important that this remains consistent across all communications. This is particularly relevant when it comes to job adverts, as inclusive language can attract a more diverse group of potential employees. This, in turn, can bring in fresh perspectives and more innovative ideas.
In 2020, McKinsey found that employees’ stress levels increase when they’re the only person of a certain ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender in a group. Banks and financial services firms can combat this by establishing networks and resource groups, specifically dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees. These groups can provide a platform for sharing experiences, networking, and mentorship, creating a sense of community within the organisation.
LGBTQ+ diversity in banking and finance
The good news is that the banking and finance industry has several initiatives in place to support LGBTQ+ employees.
The Interbank LGBT Forum is an LGBT network for employees working in banking and financial services, which aims to create a safe space to address any obstacles LGBTQ+ employees face in the workplace.
Formed in 2002, it also tackles issues such as recruitment, talent retention, and career development of LGBTQ employees in the sector. Several big banks are heavily involved in this initiative, such as HSBC, Lloyd’s Banking Group and Barclays.
Every year, Stonewall also publishes a Top 100 Employers List, which acknowledges the efforts and accomplishments of organisations that have created an inclusive work environment for their LGBTQ+ employees. In recent years, the list has included several prominent banks and financial services. This year, for example, it included as HSBC, Santander UK, Bank of America, and Barclays.
So, while culture can take time to change, there are positive signs that progress is being made.
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