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Creating Visibility and Positive Recognition – LGBTQ+ Inclusion in the Workplace

Authors: Lauren Costello and Marie Froehlicher

Published: June 29, 2022

Highlights

Diversity, equity and inclusion are high on the agenda for many companies. More than a quarter of companies actively participating in the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) 2021 identified diversity and/or inclusion among their top three material issues.

However, less than 2% of companies assessed through the CSA 2021 publicly report the number of employees who identify as LGBTQI+. More data collection would help measure LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace.

Pride Month is central in raising awareness on LGBTQ+ rights, but companies can take steps to create visibility for their LGBTQ+ employees and allies all year round.


With the rapid rise of the environmental, social and governance or ESG movement in the corporate world, we have seen a corresponding growth in the emphasis on another acronym: DEI, or diversity, equity and inclusion. DEI falls squarely in the ‘S’ bucket of ESG and has been a topic of growing focus for companies, investors, customers, regulators and other stakeholders. This focus began largely with a focus on gender but in recent years, amid the coronavirus pandemic and corresponding social equity movements, we have seen that focus expand to include other forms of diversity such as race and ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The month of June is symbolic for the LGBTQ+ community and allies, as civil society and companies around the world come together to celebrate Pride Month, aiming to uplift LGBTQ+ voices, celebrate LGBTQ+ culture and raise awareness around LGBTQ+ rights. June marks the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, a landmark event triggered by police violence against the LGBTQ+ community in New York on June 28, 1969. This led to protests and riots in the city and helped to spark the fight for equality around the world. 

Some jurisdictions have taken steps to promote equality for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2020, the European Union adopted the LGBTIQ Equality Strategy 2020-2025, stating that everybody in the European Union should be safe and free to be themselves.

But globally, the LGBTQ+ community faces continued discrimination. 71 countries still criminalize LGBTQ+ acts. LGBT youth are particularly at risk, being twice as likely as non-LGBT youth to being verbally harassed at school and disproportionately impacted by homelessness and self-harm, as shown in a U.S. youth survey.

Scope of this research 

In this research, we analyze data from the S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). The CSA is an annual evaluation of companies’ sustainability practices that covers over 10,000 companies from around the world. In 2021, we introduced new questions looking at DEI beyond gender, to better understand whether companies provide equal opportunities to employees of all races, ethnicities, nationalities, abilities, sexual orientations, gender identities and ages.  

In addition to seeking to understand the policies companies have in place, we also wanted to understand the lived experience of LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. To obtain some of this on-the-ground perspective for this research,  we surveyed S&P Global employees who are part of the company’s  Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group. The group aims to build leadership competencies and increase opportunities for personal, professional, company and community success and create a positive impact for LGBTQ+ employees and their allies. We received 104 responses that have greatly contributed to the development of this research and the input will be reflected throughout the article. 

This combination of quantitative and qualitative research aims to provide a better understanding of the current state of LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace and to offer ideas on how companies can achieve holistic DEI.  

Clarification of terms 

LGBTQ+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and more, and is used as the main term in this article. At times, the terms LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTIQ or LGBTQI will be found when referring to external literature, to ensure consistency with the term used by the research cited.  

There are a vast array of identities or labels those in the LGBTQ+ community may choose to use, if they wish to use one at all. Although it may seem insensitive to only list out the more common labels, and use a broad bucket to classify people, the use of the “+” ensures that the LGBTQ+ community is not restricted to the five common terms, and the potentially infinite numbers of additional identities are acknowledged.  

To avoid simplifying people’s experiences, we have decided not to systematically include the “I” in this article. Being intersex (“I”) is not a sexual orientation nor a gender identity, and therefore cannot be automatically associated with issues affecting LGBTQ+ people. Vice versa, being intersex often raises unique challenges that need to be considered even if not affecting the wider LGBTQ+ community.

What is the state of play? 

When we examine the picture globally, we find that public disclosure is lacking, with only very few companies assessed through the CSA able to provide the percentage of their employees who identify as LGBTQI+1. Across regions, companies in Latin America were most able to disclose this data, with on average 4% of companies disclosing the figures in the public domain.  

 1 The question asked to companies in the CSA is “Does your company publicly disclose on the breakdown of its workforce based on the diversity indicators provided below?”. The 3 indicators are disability, LGBTQI+ status and age groups.


Figure 1
 - Around the world, very few companies disclose employee LGBTQI+ status

Data as of November 2021.
LGBTQI+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and further sexual and/or gender identities.
Mexico is included in the Latin American region for the purpose of this analysis. African companies assessed were only based in South Africa and Egypt.
Based on 5,080 companies assessed in the 2021 S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).
Source: S&P Global Sustainable1

Furthermore, when compared with other metrics such as age or disability, as shown in Figure 2, we find that the disclosure rate of LGBTQI+ employees is substantially lower. 


Figure 2 - 
It is much more common for companies to disclose workforce age or disability than LGBTQI+ status



Data as of November 2021.
LGBTQI+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and further sexual and/or gender identities.
Mexico is included in the Latin American region for the purpose of this analysis. African companies assessed were only based in South Africa and Egypt.
Based on 5,080 companies assessed in the 2021 S&P Global Corporate Sustainability Assessment.
Source: S&P Global Sustainable1


There are benefits to knowing the make-up and diversity of your workforce. This information can help companies set strategies and track progress. At the same time, there are limitations on what can be asked and collected. The absence of data is linked to the lack of awareness around LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace, but also to other barriers that can prevent well-intentioned companies from accessing this information. Both data privacy and labor laws limit what information can be requested from employees, and this varies by jurisdiction. When data can be collected, there is no globally consistent categorization for individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. For instance, some companies only collect data on sexual orientation, while other companies also consider non-binary gender identities.  

In some cases, employees may not be comfortable sharing this information—something our survey respondents highlighted. A large barrier to data being collected is linked to company cultures and local environments, in which employees might not feel safe to disclose their LGBTQ+ identity. Building trust is central to data collection, which should be based on voluntary disclosure with ensured anonymity. Survey respondents also expressed the importance of clearly explaining why such information is being collected and what it is needed for.  

“Creating more inclusive attitudes in the wider company could reduce the fear associated with sharing this information. Educating employees on the benefits of visibility could also encourage participation in the collection of this data. Making clear that any discrimination based on this information will not be tolerated is also important.” 

– Response from survey of S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group 

Despite the challenges of data collection, 79% of our survey respondents still believe it that it is very or somewhat relevant to collect this information. 


Figure 3 - 
Employee survey: How relevant do you believe it is to collect data on the percentage of employees identifying as LGBTQI+?




Data as of May 2022.
LGBTQI+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and further sexual and/or gender identities.
Based on 104 responses to a survey sent to members of the S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group.
Source: S&P Global internal survey of members of the S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group

What actions are companies taking? 

Figure 4 - Share of companies with the following aspects covered in their public anti-discrimination & harassment policies (%)



Data as of November 2021.
Results based on the responses from 5,091 companies in the 2021 Corporate Sustainability Assessment.
Source: S&P Global Sustainable1


Better data collection should ideally lead to more effective policies and more inclusive cultures. As found in the CSA 2021, 62% of companies have a public policy on zero tolerance for discrimination. However, only 34% publicly acknowledge having a defined escalation process, and 21% offer trainings on anti-discrimination and harassment. 

This could suggest a disconnect and area for continued improvement in company policies. A September 2021 report from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law examined LGBT people’s experiences of workplace discrimination and harassment. It found that 46% of LGBT workers in the U.S. reported receiving unfair treatment at some point in their careers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity — including being passed over for a job, harassed at work, denied a promotion or raise, excluded from company events, denied additional hours or fired; 38% reported experiencing harassment at work; and 34% of LGBT employees in the U.S. said they left a job due to treatment by their employer. These numbers show the importance of anti-discrimination and harassment policies and the need for concrete measures to ensure the implementation of those policies. 

S&P Global’s 2021 Impact Report
Learn more



Beyond anti-discrimination policies, other workplace initiatives can be taken to promote inclusivity. For example, at S&P Global, we work to integrate DEI into everything we do, starting with our workforce and workplace and extending far beyond company walls, deep into our marketplace and our local communities. DEI is rooted in three key areas - people, customers and community. We are an anti-racist organization, focused on doing the work it takes to drive systemic equity in all our processes, policies and practices. Some example include:

  • Nine different People Resource Groups (PRGs).
  • In 2021, we increased financial investment in our PRGs. New PRG chapters were launched and strategies expanded globally, including additional programming such as Courageous Conversations speaker series.
  • Launching Eskalera, a new learning platform that empowers employees to build awareness, maximize potential and elevate decision-making to drive a better culture, promote inclusivity, engagement and productivity. Expanded our definition of diversity to enable greater opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Enhancing policies to offer 26-week minimum parental leave for all parents of all genders, through birth, adoption,surrogacy or foster.
  • Introducing sections for pronouns on the intranet and in corporate email signatures.



What further steps are needed? 

Some further effective and impactful measures can be taken to strive towards better inclusion of LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. Importantly, there is no single recipe for success and often the best solutions will come from listening to each company’s employees.  

In their open-text comments, respondents to our survey said that support for the LGBTQ+ community needs to come from management and senior leadership to illustrate a company’s strong commitment to DEI. When possible, executives and leaders feeling free to disclose their identification as LGBTQ+ would demonstrate trust in the process, but also that there are leadership positions and opportunities for members of this community. Inclusive language, such as using “they” instead of “he/she” or “partner(s)” instead of “wife/husband,” can also play a large role in creating inclusivity.  

“As long as the LGBTQI+ people are the only ones working for LGBTQI+ rights and equity within a company no changes will be made. Senior leadership and management must involve itself with training and active anti-discrimination day to day work.”  

– Response from survey of S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group

Going forward, stakeholders are likely to expect companies to adopt more inclusive care leave and parental leave policies. For example, the exposure draft (currently undergoing open consultation) published by the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) includes a reporting requirement not only on maternity/paternity leave, but also on parental and carer leave, which are more inclusive of non-heteronormative family models. In time, these developments might lead to the traditional maternity/paternity distinction being dropped in favor of a more universal version of parental/caregiver leave. In doing this, companies could also reflect on the possibility of providing different types of global fertility and health care benefits, as well as family planning services. This could benefit employees well beyond the LGBTQ+ community and help companies attract and retain talent

“As companies increase this focus, the amount of LGBTQI+ employees that feel comfortable being who they are at work increases too — which creates a better work environment for everyone. I also think increased focus on health care issues specific to the LGBTQI+ community has improved (for example, expanded parental leave policies regardless of gender and more companies covering gender-affirming health care).” 

– Response from survey of S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group 

Creating inclusivity also involves looking beyond direct employees with greater expectations being placed on companies to advocate for DEI across all parts of their value chain. This could mean ensuring that suppliers and contractors are supportive of LGBTQ+ rights or in countries where this is relevant, only making political and philanthropic donations to candidates and organizations that fully align with a company’s values. 

Intersectionality and awareness 

While this article focuses on the LGBTQ+ identity, we recognize that people do not live single-issue lives and that all their identities come to intersect with their LGBTQ+ status in unique ways. People may face additional discrimination due, for example, to disability, gender, race, ethnicity or religion. In our survey, 80% of respondents said there is “some awareness” about the diversity of identities and experiences for the LGBTQ+ community within companies, but only 10% believe that there is “a lot” of awareness. 

Figure 5 - Employee survey: How much awareness do you think there is on the diversity of identities and experiences for the LGBTQI+ community within companies?



Data as of May 2022.
LGBTQI+ refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and further sexual and/or gender identities.
Based on 104 responses to a survey sent to members of the S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group.
Source: S&P Global Internal Survey of members of the S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group


While we refer to the LGBTQ+ community throughout the article, is it also important to recognize people’s unique challenges and experiences within that community. For example, in some contexts, attention and acceptance of people who identify as gay or lesbian might be greater than that of people who identify as transgender or queer. Again, it is central to listen to employees to identify where additional efforts are needed. 

“Trans and non-binary folks are some of the most vulnerable in our community, especially if they are black, indigenous, or people of color. When we celebrate pride and talk about the community, it cannot just be about cis-gendered, white gay or lesbian people. Supporting trans and non-binary people, and spreading positive awareness about those communities, is extremely important, even in spaces where there are not any trans or non-binary employees yet.” 

– Response from survey of S&P Global Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group 

Conclusion 

Encouragingly, we found that more than a quarter of participating companies in the CSA 2021 have identified diversity or/and inclusion as one of their top three material issues. When looking at employee perspectives, we found that 42% of survey respondents believe there has been a lot more focus on LGBTQ+ in the workplace in the past five years and 48% believe there has been some focus. 

Nonetheless, there is still a lack of data collection and disclosure from companies when it comes to specific protected characteristics. There are numerous reasons for this, including potential stigma, fear of retaliation and methodological difficulties. One of the first steps a company can take to achieve meaningful progress is to create a culture where everyone feels comfortable, confident and welcome in being themselves at work and ensure that inappropriate behavior is prevented and addressed if it occurs. This would help to create a climate of trust and lead to greater transparency.  

Raising awareness about LGBTQ+ rights should not only happen during Pride Month, notes Emily Jasper, Global President of S&P Global’s Pride LGBTQ+ & Friends People Resource Group. 

“Companies can take a lot of the credit when institutionalizing benefits and programs for LGBTQ+ employees, but they must also lift up those employee voices who helped drive those initiatives all year around,” Jasper says. "Celebrate the program manager who volunteered for the employee resource group, highlight allies across the globe, reward employees who made a difference in their community. Pride Month might be once a year, but creating visibility and positive recognition should be done every day.” 

Pride Month gives companies and employees the chance to raise awareness about gender norms and constructions that confine people well beyond the LGBTQ+ community. In the fast-growing ESG movement, social issues like diversity, equity and inclusion are a growing focus for variety of stakeholders beyond employees, including investors, policymakers and customers. As companies work to recruit, train and retain a diverse pool of talent, they would be wise to not only create policies that foster an inclusive culture for the LGBTQ+ community but to take tangible action to create an inclusive working environment. 

Appendix 

Survey questions: 

  • Do you think there has been more focus on LGBTQI+ in the workplace during the past five years? (Answer options: Unsure, No focus, Some focus, A lot of focus) 

  • How do you think this focus has improved working conditions for people who identify as LGBTQI+? If you answered no focus or unsure for number 2, why do you think there has not been focus? (Open text) 

  • Based on the CSA data collected last year, we observe that companies are still struggling to disclose data on the percentage of employees identifying as LGBTQI+. How relevant do you believe it is to collect this data? (Answer options: Not relevant, Unsure, Somewhat relevant, Very relevant) 

  • What do you think could be done to enable more employees to share this information? (Open text) 

  • How much awareness do you think there is on the diversity of identities and experiences for the LGBTQI+ community within companies? (Answer options: Unsure, No awareness, Some awareness, A lot of awareness) 

  • What do you think companies could do to improve this awareness? (Open text) 

  • Is there anything else you would like to share that you think could be relevant when considering LGBTQI+ inclusion in the workplace? (Open text) 

To learn about diversity in the tech sector, listen to this Pride Month episode of the Next in Tech podcast
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