Inclusion starts within: 15 practices for a queer-friendly workplace

Today, October 11th 2019, is ‘World Coming Out Day’. A day to celebrate and encourage the freedom to express who you are and who you love. With your family, friends and colleagues.

However, the work environment often, unfortunately, comes with difficulties for queer employees to be themselves. The question arises: Can you truly be yourself at work? We firmly believe that working for a great place to work you should be. This kind of workplace is based on a culture of trust. Somewhere you can be yourself regardless of who you are, who you love and what identity you carry.

Anouk Minnes
Leestijd 6 min
11 oktober 2019, geüpdatet 16 januari 2024

We spoke with Stefan Zhu (he/ him), who studied inclusiveness experienced by queer employees in Dutch ''gay-friendly'' workplaces. In his study he used queer as the overall term for everybody within the LGBTQ+ community. One trigger to start his research is the commercialization of the Amsterdam Pride. A huge event in the Netherlands, which takes a lot of time and money for companies to participate. Within these companies he asked queer employees: how truly inclusive is your organization culture?

The first step to more understanding

How do you start a conversation about queer representation? To get you started, we've created a deck of cards with 35 open-ended questions themes like LGBTQIA+.

Order the free card game

Inclusion starts within

One of the interviewees mentioned that his/her organization participated in the pride, but that the queer employees were not actually invited to come along on the boat (since it is a day to celebrate who they are) but the managers of departments who funded the ''pride boat'' were instead. This is an example of using the ‘we are a gay friendly organization’ as a marketing tool. 

You can also take another approach. For example, an organization that has invited employees from other international offices to write a letter about why they were motivated to be on the company boat. This was not only focused on the queer community, but also on so called ‘allies’. Allies are people that themselves do not belong to do community but are supportive and helping in facilitating awareness. These people are very important to create a more inclusive culture.

Interaction between organization and individual

The inclusiveness of an organization and if somebody feels free to come out, depends greatly on the organizational policies and the individual at hand. The first factor is (HR) procedures and programs. For example, how inclusive are advertisements for vacancies? How inclusive are secondary employment conditions? And how inclusive are offered trainings, for instance on unconscious basis, inclusive recruiting or diversity management?

The second factor is the individual him/herself. An organization can be very inclusive as a whole, however 1 on 1– and team interactions have a huge effect on someone’s perceived emotional and psychological safety. In a non-diverse team, there is often one commonly shared opinion. In a diverse team there are more discussions and opinions at the table, so it is more common for people to stands out.  It also depends on the choice of the individual at hand if he or she wants to come out. The important thing is that this should not be depending on fear, nor on whether coming out will have a negative effect. It should purely be a personal choice.

What can companies do to be more inclusive, especially related to queer?

Based on interviews with employees of Dutch gay-friendly organizations and the HR representatives of Booking, Atos and Netflix, Stefan listed 15 practices that organizations can undertake to create a more inclusive culture:

To learn more about this topic please feel free to connect with Stefan Zhu

Anouk Minnes
Anouk werkte +10 jaar bij Great Place To Work. Met haar kennis van en ervaring met onze filosofie en dienstverlening was ze één van onze vaste blogauteurs.

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