OPINION: LGBT+ employees need mentors in careers

Image: medium.com

By Kim Langers 

The opportunity to be mentored into a leadership role when you are a young LGBT+ professional at the beginning of your career is almost nonexistent. Many young LGBT+ professionals, who work in the corporate world, tend to get discouraged when they do not see a reflection of themselves in the office, or when they have trouble finding a work environment that allows them to be their authentic selves.

Due to this lack of an inclusive space for LBGT+ professionals, many of them start to reassess their situation, and question whether they belong in the corporate world.

Creating professional development initiatives aimed at LGBT+ employees, such as networking sessions and management coaching sessions, will encourage employees to develop their professional careers in a safe space. These initiatives can and will be a critical tool for retaining talented employees. Targeted and thoughtful programs, for employee development and success, can help LGBT+ professionals build upon their skills, while providing an acknowledgment of their identity in the work environment.

High turnover is not the only reason for low retention rates among the younger generation of LGBT+ employees. Many companies simply are not adapting to today’s world fast enough.

The “Me Too” movement, and the realisation of social injustices toward Black, indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) have brought awareness to many of us, and helped us to understand it is not a fair playing field for everyone. Even so, corporate America is stuck in an antiquated culture that was designed to promote young, heterosexual white men.

We witness time and time again, heterosexual white men in their late twenties and early thirties receiving the proper mentorship and rapid promotion. Women, especially LGBT+ women, do not get the same opportunities until they are much older and later in their careers.

Some job seekers have turned down jobs or left companies due to the lack of diversity. It can be daunting and overwhelming for businesses trying to navigate the best authentic and genuine ways to speak about diversity, and the prospect of incorporating facility-wide improvements to build a more diverse workforce.

Companies must create goals, and put together a culture plan to help them better achieve the improvements they want to see.

Today’s LGBT+ population has experienced a profound, generational transformation, both in how it views itself and what it seeks from equality in the workplace. Today’s workforce is far more culturally diverse and more likely, particularly among younger generations, to include women, LGBT+, and individuals of more nuanced sexual orientations.

Yet we have not provided the structure or resources to allow these employees to grow into leadership positions.

The United States has hit a very serious inflection point regarding diversity and inclusion, but diversity and inclusion are two distinct topics that must go hand-in-hand to create an equal opportunity environment.

Suppose LGBT+ employees do not feel supported and included in the workplace, or do not have the support to speak about their workplace experiences. In that case, the company does not have a truly inclusive, diverse work environment.

As leaders, we need to create an environment where individuals from different races, sexual orientations, and genders can coexist, and more importantly, feel valued and included as crucial team members. They want people to see a representation of themselves in their business or organisation, which is why it is so important to have a diverse executive team. This creates a culture of trust when LGBT+ employees know and see that the decision-making process, that affects the company as a whole, represents their perspectives.

Creating this professional work culture will overflow into employees’ personal lives outside of work and positively impact our society.

By Kim Langers 

Chief operating officer at Rastegar Property Company, a Texas-based real estate investment firm 

 

All opinions are the writer’s own

[via Thomson Reuters Foundation]

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