LGBT people exist in every community and society. We are your customers and your staff. Over the past few decades, we’ve seen some incredible progress towards equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. So much so, that some people might think: ‘job done’!
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Stonewall research reveals that more than a third of LGBT staff have hidden who they are at work for fear of discrimination, while one in five have been the target of negative comments from colleagues or customers.
Businesses like supermarkets can be at the forefront of driving equality in society, creating spaces where customers, employees and the wider LGBT community can be accepted. This year, Sainsbury’s is the only supermarket to claim a place in the UK’s top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers list, at number 71.
At such an intensely competitive time for UK grocery, there’s a huge business opportunity for grocers to set themselves apart. Having an open and diverse working environment leads to higher levels of motivation, creativity, and productivity. What grocer wouldn’t want this? It’s good for employees, the business, and customers.
Whether you’re in the head office or the manager of a store, there’s always more you can do to be more LGBT-inclusive.
One easy way to improve the workplace for LGBT employees and consumers is to show visible support for community events. Whether it’s Pride, Trans Day of Visibility, LGBT History Month, or Bi Visibility Day, it can be incredibly powerful to see supermarkets coming out for LGBT events. Not only are they a chance for you to highlight LGBT role models in your business, but you also get to send out a clear message that you value diversity and inclusion.
Supermarkets can also update HR systems to offer gender-neutral pronouns like Mx and provide gender-neutral facilities. As part of basic training for staff, they can also outline zero-tolerance policies on homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, as well as developing policies to help employees feel confident in identifying and reporting such incidents. Just think how much this could help a trans customer who faces uncertainty and fear of discrimination each time they want to use a bathroom.
The best way to make change is to ask those directly affected. Listen to the needs of your LGBT employees and address the challenges they face. This means creating safe spaces for staff to come together, discuss issues and offer potential solutions.
Leaders in the business should also be involved and engaged in conversation with groups like LGBT staff networks. One way to do this is to introduce reverse mentoring schemes, where junior LGBT staff can speak and mentor senior leaders. Not only does this help increase understanding of the issues happening, it also gives LGBT staff an invaluable career development opportunity.
We spend most of our lives at work and plenty of time in supermarkets, so inclusion here would make a world of difference to many people. So let’s make 2020 the year all supermarkets come out for LGBT equality and embed inclusion year-round.