Happy Pride Month! You’ve likely seen the rainbow avatars across social media, but what is your team doing on a deeper level to support LGBTQ+ candidates at every step of the journey? Much like our recent blog post about supporting disabled and neurodiverse candidates, we wanted to look at how you can better support LGBTQ+ candidates.
Being LGBTQ+ at Work
Recent estimates suggest that roughly 5.9% of the US workforce identifies as LGBTQ+. Still, it wasn’t until the 2020 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Title VII Civil Rights Act of 1964 for discrimination against LGBTQ+ workers solely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity to be prohibited. Previously, LGBTQ+ employees could be fired based on their sexual orientation. (Source) That means that it was only last year that LGBTQ+ workers were protected from discrimination.
Likely because of this lack of protection, the representation of LGBTQ+ leaders, much like other excluded communities, is notoriously low in senior management and higher roles.
Despite recently instated protections, including repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, legalizing spousal benefits through the legalization of same-sex marriage, etc., LGBTQ+ workers still face discrimination, bullying, unsafe work environments, and more. It’s important to remember that every time an LGBTQ+ person starts the job hunt again, they will question whether they will again experience the trauma they’ve experienced in the past. Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to support them and make a stressful time more manageable.
How to Support LGBTQ+ Candidates
Supporting LGBTQ+ candidates starts before someone is a candidate and continues long after they’ve been hired. So we’ve compiled five steps to take, some actionable today and some that will take some time to get right, to get you started on the right foot.
Build Support at All Levels of the Company
Whether through employee resource groups or other support, you must build a culture open to the LGBTQ+ community before hiring. Much like all diversity recruiting, the support must not just exist within the recruiting team. It must be a valued culture pillar from the leadership and down.
Make That Support Clear and Be a Champion for Candidates
When job seekers are looking to apply for a company, they are often looking beyond the position. Instead, they look to the company culture to understand whether they will be accepted and valued for their true self.
Tailor your employer branding and recruitment marketing strategy to make it clear that your company is a safe and welcoming workplace for LGBTQ+ people. For example, ask current LGBTQ+ employees to share their experiences in videos or blog posts so that incoming candidates can understand the company they’re entering. As Katrina Kibben wrote for ERE, “Instead of outlining benefits, let your team tell the story. Those quotes build trust in a way corporate communications can’t.”
You must also be willing to stand up for your LGBTQ+ candidates. How can you, as their recruiter, champion for their value with your hiring managers?
Use Gender-Neutral Language
If you’re looking for a change that you can make today, look no further. Utilizing gender-neutral language is one of the easiest ways to change your recruiting strategy to support LGBTQ+ candidates. One of the most common arguments against using “they/them” is that it’s grammatically incorrect. In fact, that’s not true. The APA recently approved the use of “they” as a singular pronoun, but in actuality, “they” has been used as a singular pronoun for centuries, tracing back to 1375.
So throw those gender-neutral pronouns into your job postings, descriptions, and more! It’s also vital to bring gender-neutral language beyond pronouns. Consider updating maternity leave policies to parental leave policies. When asking your team about their family, use words like “spouse,” “child,” and “parent” until you are confident of the terms they use.
Share Your Pronouns and Respect the Power of Pronouns
Another change you can make today is to add your pronouns publicly to social media profiles, email signatures, and more if you are comfortable. To cite Katrina Kibben once more, “I understand most of us have grown up in cultures where this language and non-binary pronouns haven’t been popular. So now it’s time for education. That means people need to see and hear pronouns more. That means cis-gendered, gender-conforming pronouns on profiles – not just featuring non-conforming pronouns.” They have taken the time to put together a tool to teach you how to add your pronouns to various places on their blog here.
Check people’s profiles to see if they have made their pronouns clear before you speak with them. If not, introduce yourself with yours. That should prompt them to share theirs. Remember that language matters: avoid calling them preferred pronouns, as it’s not a preference; it’s a fact.
If you misgender someone and you’re corrected, thank them for the correction. While it may seem appropriate to apologize, you could be putting them in an uncomfortable position to have to say, “It’s okay,” when in reality, it’s not. So instead, simply say, “Thank you for correcting me!” and move on.
Respect People’s Space and Experiences
Ultimately, everyone is an individual; how are you working with those individuals to give them what they need to succeed? While these tips are a good general overview, it’s important to remember that every individual has different needs and desires.
Have empathy in your interactions with candidates, listen and care about what they’re sharing. Finally, take time to continue to learn about the experiences of others and learn how you can best support them.
The best businesses are built with the best people. Ultimately, supporting LGBTQ+ candidates is not just good for your business values; it’s a critical part of being a welcoming and inclusive person.