32 minutes | Oct 26, 2021

How To Create Equity for LGBTQ+ Employees? Be Brave

Lorraine Vargas Townsend is a people enablement veteran who’s good at “breaking HR” in order to fix it. In this episode, she shares her passion for creating safe and equitable workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees and, by extension, all employees. 

 

According to Lorraine, too many companies focus their DEI efforts on recruitment, but that’s missing the mark. Instead, she says: “Start with how you fire people.”  

“Audits are the sexiest work in my book,” she says, possibly representing the first-ever leader to say as much. But she has good reason. Through her career, separation audits are often the point at which employees’ experiences of bias and inequity emerge, giving her the data she needs to make change. 

That said, the onus is on leaders to begin the hard work before a separation of any kind. Lorraine urges leaders to regularly pulse check LGBTQ+ employees about their experience of equity, or lack thereof, in the workplace. 

“I get that it can be uncomfortable, especially if you don't want employees to feel like you're singling them out,” she says. “But at the same time, you want to know what their experience is. My biggest advice here is: Just be brave.” 

To start productive and safe conversations about inclusion for LGBTQ+ and all employees, Lorraine offers these and other prompts: 

  1. What supports or hinders your growth and prosperity at this company? 
  2. What gives you Sunday night dread? 
  3. And more.

 

“What I'm giving you are not ‘magical queer questions,’” she says. “These are just questions about building a culture of belonging. Whatever you uncover will make your workplace safer and more inclusive for every single employee.”

 

Episode Highlights:

  • 2020 was the most deadly year for transgender and gender non-conforming people since 2013, when the HRC Foundation began tracking known deaths 
  • Suggestions to start conversations with LGBTQ+ employees about equity 
  • Why the separation audit is a powerful place to uncover inequity
  • Understanding that LGBTQ+ employees must evaluate the implications of when, whether and to whom they come out, over and again (and “it never gets easier”)
  • The need to revise travel, bereavement and family policies with an eye to inclusion

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

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