Updated: Aug 30
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). Are you familiar with the term DEI? Did you know that DEI plays a significant role in the work environment? Does your organization implement DEI? To what extent is DEI being practised at your workplace? Alright, enough with the questions. Let's take a step back and focus on what is DEI in the first place?
(D): Well, having people across various races, ages, genders, nationalities and sexual orientations under an organisation is simply referred to as diversity.
(E): As an employer, providing all their employees with fair opportunities to attain their full potential is called equity. Making an intentional and thoughtful process or effort that seeks to understand the specific needs and individual backgrounds is what equity is all about.
(I): And finally, ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity to contribute and influence every part and level in the workplace is called inclusion. A working environment that has everyone involved, developed and empowered is a great example of an organization that has successfully recognised and incorporated different groups of people's contributions, presence, and opinions into a setting. This would also encourage a sense of belonging in employees.
The Malaysian Workforce, DEI Practice, And LGBT+ Community
Okay, so now that we have an idea of what DEI at the workplace looks like, let's have a look at how LGBT+ employees are doing in the workplace. Did you know? Most LGBT+ employees are actually STRUGGLING at work:
These statistics are distressing to say the least. As an individual, are we supposed to live in denial, turn a blind eye and pretend that they don’t exist? This is even more apparent in conservative countries where religions and politics restrict and play a strong hand in public reception. Take Malaysia for example. Given that Malaysia was among the top ten most morally conservative countries in the world, non-heterosexuality is usually perceived as unnatural and morally unacceptable.
Haven't we come far and evolved enough to accept the fact that the LGBT+ community is among us? Love is love. Individuals who identify as Lesbians, Gays, or Transgenders... are humans too!
But The Question Is, How Do We Move Forward From Here?
By simply joining forces to create and foster a safer place for these minorities...
First, Take Discrimination Seriously!
In order to take discrimination seriously, organizations must establish a strong anti-discrimination policy. Secondly, organizations (especially the HR department), must ensure that all their employees understand what kind of behaviours are not tolerated in the workplace.
In addition to the anti-discrimination policy, Harvard Business School also recommends several steps in managing change in an organization. This consists of Prepare, Plan, Action, Align, and Review. However, change management initiatives can be tricky, so why not reach out to our consultants for more guidance!
Next, Foster A Gender-Neutral Environment
Gender-neutral environment? Yes, that's right. According to Baker McKenzie, an MNC law firm based in London, making minor changes to your surroundings creates a gender-neutral environment. For instance, having gender-neutral bathrooms. Offices that have gender-neutral bathrooms foster an inclusive environment which demonstrates that the company cares about diversity and embraces employees’ differences. This also helps the company to communicate its culture and value to their employees and clients. It’s amazing to see how these little things can make such a big difference right?
Another way of building a gender-neutral environment is by switching up the language we use. As Lera Boroditsky, a cognitive scientist, psychologist and professor explained, language shapes thought; “Even what might be deemed frivolous aspects of language can have far-reaching subconscious effects on how we see the world.” As simple as using the term folks or people instead of guys, you’ve made some measures in creating a gender-neutral workplace!
Okay, now that we have created a safe space at the workplace, what's the next step?
Creating a safe environment isn't the ultimate resolution for this issue. Creating a safe environment is merely the first step. In order to tackle this issue entirely, we need to practice and maintain the safe space that we have created. So, how do we do this?
By Empowering Leaders To Lead The Initiatives
When it comes to implementing change, it is very important for leaders to exhibit behaviours that align with the initiatives and goals. Being a role model in the workplace, showing genuine allyship in what you say and do would encourage other employees to do the same.
Hence, leaders could start by taking the anti-discrimination policy seriously. Any employee (even if they are from the upper management) who violates the policy should be given a warning or be terminated after a certain number of reminders. Remember, it only takes ONE toxic employee to undo all the work you’ve put into creating a great company culture.
Sometimes doing a little homework on your own like getting to know what is LGBT+ can be one evolution towards the community. You could even go the extra mile to make friends or become an ally of the LGBT+ community to gain a more in-depth and personal understanding of this community. Who knows if you might find something interesting about the LGBT+ community? Learning is always the first step to understanding.
Sticking Up For Them
If you hear a co-worker misgender a trans person or call them the wrong name outside of that person’s presence, CORRECT THEM. If you hear someone tell homophobic jokes, don’t be afraid to VOICE OUT your opinion to that person. It's as simple as that. You don’t have to make a big, grand gesture to be an ally. Anyone can be an ally and leverage their place of privilege. Anyone can serve as a voice for those who don't have a voice.
So, what's the takeaway from all this?
Keep in mind that being LGBT+ is more than just the bedroom. Hence, EVERYONE should be kind and respectful to one another equally in order to have an organization that truly administers (DEI) practices among its employees. It is definitely going to be laborious to establish something new and even harder to sustain it. Nevertheless, when organizations begin to truly invest in educating their employees on DEI, developing a strong DEI strategy that is invincible and most importantly agreed upon by everyone we are likely to see a positive change in the workforce. As Andres Tapia, a global diversity and inclusion strategist once said:
“Diversity is the mix. Inclusion is making the mix work.”
Bring your DEI strategies to life by consulting with one of our experts today! Let’s make the world a better place for you, for me, and for them.