How to identify an inclusive workplace.

When seeking employment with an organization, it is is important to assess (to the best of your ability) whether the organization is affirming toward LGBTQIA folks. These signs may also be helpful if you are considering coming out at an organization you already work for. (Even if an organization is not perfectly affirming – most aren’t – this can help you assess the culture and prioritize your safety.)

1. Are LGBTQIA+ topics mentioned on the organization’s website?

If not, that’s a red flag. If LGBTQIA+ folks are mentioned, pay attention to frequency and timing. Does the organization only post about LGBTQIA+ issues during Pride Month?

2. Pay attention to the physical workplace, if you are able to visit.

Unfortunately, this may not be possible due to COVID-19. Are spaces divided by gender? Notice how restrooms are assigned. Does anyone have LGBTQIA+ decor at their desk?

3. Research company policies.

Do policies explicitly protect people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity? According to the Corporate Equality Index created by the Human Rights Campaign in 2019, a company has LGBTQ-supportive policies if they meet three requirements: (1) clearly enumerated non-discrimination policies across the business that explicitly protect employees based sexual orientation and gender identity, (2) equitable benefits for LGBTQ workers and their families, and (3) programs that track and/or advance LGBTQ-inclusion. 

Although non-discrimination is now federal law (*for organizations larger than 15 employees), many organizations did not have LGBTQIA-inclusive policies prior to the June 2020 decision (and likely still do not). If an organization does not yet have an LGBTQIA-inclusive policy or very recently enacted one, the workplace culture may not yet be inclusive or may still be going through changes. Another indicator is whether or not trans folks (who may be seeking gender-affirming surgeries) are explicitly mentioned in language regarding health benefits.

4. Read the entire job posting.

Often, companies will state a commitment to inclusivity at the end of the posting. If a posting does not have this, it’s a huge red flag. If you are already employed, pay attention when jobs are posted.

5. Pay attention to conversation and language, especially during an interview.

Often, you will interview with a member of an organization’s senior leadership. Pay attention to what they talk about, and what they don’t. Are they articulate when they speak about inclusivity in the workplace? Do they fail to mention it at all? If LGBTQIA+ topics are mentioned, do they seem comfortable speaking about LGBTQIA+ folks or do they quickly move on?

If you are already employed, think about conversations you have had with coworkers or how topics are discussed during staff meetings. Do LGBTQIA+ topics come up? Do people explicitly avoid the topic? If possible, identify at least one person within the workplace who speaks positively and/or articulately about LGBTQIA+ topics. It is helpful to find one person in the workplace who you can confide in, or who can at least be a helpful ally.

6. Ask specific questions about workplace culture during your interview.

Whether or not the company seems inclusive, it is important to interrogate this further during your interview if it feels safe to do so. If you do not feel comfortable explicitly asking about LGBTQIA+ inclusivity, there are more vague questions you can ask that will not out you.

For example, you may ask questions about whether employees feel there is a sense of community, what kinds of training is provided to staff, or whether there is a corporate giving program. This can help you feel out how social issues are perceived within the organization and what the organization values. This may even reveal that the organization has an LGBTQIA+ affinity group, in the case of a larger organization. If you do not feel comfortable asking all of your questions in the interview or if additional questions arise, utilize the company’s website or follow-up with your interviewer via email.

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