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October 26, 2021

A guide to address intersectionality at work for LGBTQI+ women*

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Women* members of the LGBTQI+** community share what they want and need from employers in order to feel supported and respected in the workplace. Share this guide to ignite the conversation about intersectionality at your organization. 

Cupcakes are cute, stickers are cool, but having a positive impact on women’s careers requires more, especially for those individuals who may feel under-represented on multiple fronts – whether as a result of their gender, age, race, gender conformity or sexual orientation, to name a few.

Read on to find out what you or your company can do to apply an intersectional lens to your workplace initiatives and help women and non-binary individuals thrive.

1. Be open to making changes!

Asking the LGBTQI+ community for help is the first step to being a champion of change. Be open to starting a conversation around how to make your company more inclusive. It’s OK if you don’t know how to approach the conversation.

Ceci Williams – (She/Her) | Customer Service Specialist, Melbourne, CommBank

2. Create allies in the workplace

Providing training to sensitize employees at all levels on inclusive language and how to be an ally to enable LGBTQI+ identifying employees to thrive in their careers is one of the ways to have an inclusive work environment.

Sneha Sobti – (She/Her) | Electrical Design Engineer, Alstom

3. Make safe spaces to combat the injustices employees see

Make safe spaces for members of the LGBTQI+ community to be curious, be vulnerable, and be connected with like-minded people. Give employees a voice to combat the injustices they see, and support a place where everyone can be loud, proud, and honest.

Narissa Khan – (She/Her) | Administrative Assistant in CX AMER, TTG organization, Cisco

4. Educate the staff

Breaking the stereotype by educating the staff, would work to combat the unconscious bias that occurs towards the LGBTQI+ community. Fostering a free of prejudice-inclusive environment to help LGBTQI+ community members not only feel accepted, but also feel more comfortable and thrive as their authentic selves.

Joanne Finney – (She/Her) | Experienced Operator/Labourer, Downer Utilities – Water Services South, Downer

5. Foster strong connections between LGBTQI+ employees

Facilitate strong networks of LGBTQI+ members, with strong sponsorship from allies, particularly where there is an absence of LGBTQI+ leaders. It can feel isolating being “the only” in a team, which minority groups often are. 

Franki G.C. – (They/Them) | Associate consultant, Bain & Company

Helping us thrive implies that first we are allowed to get to a point where we can just exist without worrying about the day-to-day differences that come from being something other than the assumed default person.

Ellie Tomkins – (They/Them) | Senior Consultant Developer, Thoughtworks Australia

6. Respect how people refer to themselves

HR systems can be frustrating barriers for trans and nonbinary folks, which can get in the way of being fully accepted at work if those systems don’t accurately reflect someone’s identity. Updating HR systems to allow folks to accurately reflect nonbinary genders and titles, and allowing gendered data to change over the course of someone’s employment, are simple but significant ways to offer respect. 

Zoey Hewll – (She/Her, They/Them) | Graduate Software Engineer, Thales

7. Nurture the culture at the leadership level

Ensuring leaders not only align with your diversity and inclusivity values but understand and demonstrate them on a day-to-day basis. This sets the tone and expectation of leadership to be a key driver of empowering staff and developing the culture. Nurturing a culture from a leadership level can foster a real sense of belonging in your teams, and take strength from their intersectionality, which can support anyone to thrive in their careers.

Tate Stuchbery – (She/Her) | Senior Consultant, People Advisory Services, EY

8. Endorse the difference

Celebrate employee differences by creating safe and respectful environments for people to express themselves. And to best support the LGBTQI+ community members, offer diversity and unconscious bias training.

Lauren McGregor – (She/Her) | Renewals Sales Representative, Splunk

9. Ensure representation for rewards and recognition

Companies could do more to highlight people from minority groups that have succeeded into senior roles, or indeed succeeded in any role. Everyone needs to see someone that’s like them in a senior position so they can think to themselves, “I can do that.” LGBTQI+ people could feel discouraged to progress when they don’t see role models at senior levels within companies.

Maureen Dominey | Deputy Joint Head of Performance, Southeastern Railway

10. Don’t be afraid of making a stance

Stop sitting on the fence and really come out in support of these issues. Corporations standing up against injustice, and going on the record for queer folks has made a big difference in some countries.

There’re opportunities for more organizations to come out and make these public statements of support because the livelihoods of many underrepresented minorities are constantly being threatened.

Sarah Smith – (She/Her) | Lead Consultant, Thoughtworks Australia

Top tip to find a workplace that will support you

Find out more about the benefits, policies, and initiatives that the employers endorsed by WORK180 offer to support LGBTQI+ employees, from gender-neutral parental leave to Employee Resource Networks and Groups for underrepresented communities.

View and compare employers

11. Use referral programs to attract individuals from underrepresented communities

Support referral programs so your company can reach underrepresented communities in technology. You will realize that your staff from non-traditional backgrounds usually join through a referral program. 

Lilith La Rose – (She/Her) | Consultant Developer, Thoughtworks Australia

12. Understand the difference between ‘equality’ and ‘equity’

Be aware that “equal opportunity” doesn’t mean just giving the same support to everyone. Helping the LGBTQI+ community members thrive implies that first they are allowed to get to a point where they can just exist without worrying about the day-to-day differences that come from being something other than the assumed default person. 

Ellie Tomkins – (They/Them) | Senior Consultant Developer, Thoughtworks Australia

13. Update your company imagery

Make a concerted effort to represent a diverse set of LGBTQI+ people and families in the imagery. Sometimes it’s the smaller symbols of inclusion that can have the greatest impact in terms of making intersectional employees feel welcome and accepted at work. 

Rachel Power – (She/Her) | Senior Analyst in Financial Advisory, Deloitte

14. Recruit for culture add, not just culture fit

Always look for people to add to your culture. Bring diversity that aligns with your values, but that also adds to your culture. Reinforce to your diverse talent that they won’t just be accepted – they will thrive because of who they are. This changes the mindset of managers and businesses and allows communities to grow and support each other in an impactful and constructive way. 

Sabrina Carmona – (She/Her) | Head of Farm Heroes Saga, King

15. Introduce or ensure orientation-inclusive language

Make LGBTQI+ people feel seen and heard. One way to do that is to ensure there is explicit and visible inclusion wherever possible. This could be applied by using gender-neutral language in communications and in formal policies and practices, such as parental leave regardless of gender and the gender’s partner. 

Rachel Rowe – (She/Her) | Management Consulting Manager, Accenture

Updating HR systems to allow folks to accurately reflect nonbinary genders and titles, and allowing gendered data to change over the course of someone’s employment, are simple but significant ways to offer respect.  

Zoey Hewll – (She/Her, They/Them) | Graduate Software Engineer, Thales

16. Create clear and supportive anti-discriminatory policies

Find a good balance of elements such as supportive policies and guidance, ‘tone at the top’ to support and celebrate diversity and inclusion, education and awareness initiatives, and actively calling out (and appropriately dealing with) poor behaviour. It’s important companies actually live and breathe diversity and inclusion.

Sarah Roberts – (She/Her) | Senior Manager Fraud Prevention, Bank of Queensland

17. Lead from the top, and lead by example

Companies should identify senior LGBTQI+ role models within their firm who are willing to act as visible leaders for the LGBTQI+ equity and inclusion agenda, helping to drive initiatives, mentor junior LGBTQI+ talent, and engage the support and allyship of other senior leaders across the firm. Lead from the top, and lead by example. 

Chris Mossiah – (They/Them) | Associate, Data Acquisition, Corporate Technology, J.P. Morgan

18. Celebrate and sponsor company events

Events such as Pride and other LGBTQI+ days are a great way to educate and create inclusion. Whilst some people may not realize the importance of this, it makes a huge difference if you part of the LGBTQI+ community. However, if you are going to celebrate these days, make it genuine and meaningful and not a tick box exercise.

Anna Philbrick – (She/Her) | People Director, Octopus

19. Measure meaningful metrics for inclusion

Create opportunities for LGBTQI+ leaders, role models and allies to be visible internally within the organization and externally. They can foster a more inclusive environment for LGBTQI+ colleagues by providing a platform for Employee Resource Groups and by measuring inclusion within their organization and acting on the findings. They can also collaborate with other organizations to run conferences, provide coaching, networking and support for the community.

Nikki Symmons – (She/Her) | STRIPES Global (LGBTQIA ERG) Head of Programs & Events, Philip Morris International

20. Prevent and tackle discrimination and harassment

Organizations must have and commit to enforcing strong anti-harassment policies. It is key that said policies and processes are entirely transparent, and perpetrators of harassing behaviors are held accountable. 

And in countries or jurisdictions where the LGBTQI+ community employees don’t have protections in the eyes of the law or are criminalized, have detailed travel policies that support them. 

Dr. Alfredo Carpineti – (He/Him) | Chair and Founder, Pride in STEM

The fact that I have the opportunity to be a part of this campaign through AARNet is an example of what companies can do to help support LGBTQI+ members. With the right support, people from all backgrounds will strive to be better, do better.  

Jodie Van Boxtel – (She/Her) | Project Supervisor, AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network)

Does your workplace have a gender-neutral parental leave policy?

A company’s parental leave policy sets out what the support they provide to their employees as they adapt to the arrival of a new child. Traditionally, this policy offers varying support for the mother or father of a child (known as ‘maternity leave’ and ‘paternity leave’, respectively).

These policies have often assumed women* as the primary caregiver, failing to include and/or meet the needs of many employees. In contrast, a gender-neutral parental leave policy offers parental leave support to the primary caregiver — regardless of gender.

The best practice even extends equal support to both primary and secondary carers. And ‘neutral parental leave policies’ extend this support to all parents, such as families that adopt, foster, de facto parents, and surrogacy arrangements. The most progressive policies also recognize kinship and former spouses and extend the policy to those who experience stillbirth.

Read more about how WORK180 Endorsed Employers are embracing gender-neutral parental leave policies.

*by women, we mean all who identify and/or experience oppression as a woman (including cis, trans, intersex, non-binary or gender non-conforming individuals).

**You may have noticed we use the LGBTQI+* acronym throughout the article. We acknowledge LGBTQIA+ is also used in the UK and Australia. Check out our Diversity and Inclusion Glossary to understand the variations and definitions of these acronyms. 

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About the Author

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.