After celebrating a jubilant Pride parade this past weekend after a three-year hiatus and seeing the enthusiastic crowds that showed their support, I began to wonder if the LGBTQ+ community feels that same support at work?

In 2020, McKinsey quarterly surveyed 2000 employees worldwide. They focused on employees who were LGBTQ+ to find out how inclusive their workplace was for them.

The findings in 2020 were surprising. Despite some workplaces having policies that overtly supported their community, more than one in four LGBTQ+ employees were not out at work openly. Coming out is even more challenging if you identify as female, BIPOC or are a junior employee. There were significant barriers to advancement, and the LGBTQ+ were more likely to be working in entry-level positions. Most employees who were out at work were at the senior levels. Many chose not to come out in entry-level positions for fear of stalling their careers. Many LGBTQ+ employees also felt they must be extra competent to advance if they were out.

Deloitte also surveyed 600 employees in February 2022 who identified as LGBTQ+ and who worked in one of twelve countries, including Canada. Despite 80% of employers introducing inclusive initiatives or policies, 42% percent of these workers still reported non-inclusive actions at work, such as unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted physical contact or shunning.

So what can we do to ensure that our LGBTQ+ coworkers and employees don't face discriminatory behaviour?

Both the McKinsey and Deloitte study have some key suggestions.

All employees, especially leaders, must seek to fully understand the LGBTQ+ work experience. 

Policies and procedures are just one part of the diversity and inclusion mix. You’ve got to execute, and you’ve got to live it,” says Al Ramsay, Associate Vice president, Sales and Strategy, and head of LGBTQ+ business development, TD Wealth.

LGBTQ+ employees can still endure a lot of extra emotional labour, even if they are out at work. Coming out can be a repeated process. In 2020, nearly 50% of LGBTQ+ respondents came out at work at least once a week in the past month.

Employers should also look at company policies on parental leave and spousal benefits, and even ensuring the workplace has gender-neutral bathrooms can make things easier for LGBTQ+ workers. According to the data, including diversity and inclusion in workplace strategic plans makes the workplace feel 1.6 times more inclusive. Training programs and recruiting diverse employees make the workplace feel 1.4 times more inclusive.

We are moving in the right direction. In the 2022 Deloitte survey versus the 2020 one, 95% of LGBTQ+ reported that there were positive workplace changes. Here at SFU, the University has committed to equity diversity and inclusion, hiring its first vice president and executive director of equity, diversity and inclusion; we hope this commitment continues to bring positive changes for the LGBTQ+ community at SFU and where the University intersects with the broader community.