“Equality is just good business, and it’s the right thing to do,” says Lloyd Blankfield, CEO of Goldman Sachs, when asked about his stance on Human Rights. And there has been a steady increase in the number of leaders who echo his thoughts. 85% of Fortune 500 companies now have policies that protect the rights of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community; up from 51% in 2000.
However, attitudes towards sexual orientation remain complicated. Personal prejudices are still strong. According to a recent survey, 52% of straight men think LGBT workers should “keep their lifestyle choices to themselves.” But, creating safe and inclusive workplaces for the LGBT community is not only a powerful step towards building a cohesive society, but also improving an organization’s business outcomes.
- When the state of North Carolina (NC) approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages, Former US President Bill Clinton protested, “It will weaken North Carolina’s ability to keep good businesses, attract new jobs, and keep talented entrepreneurs.” He was right. Workforces do comprise of people who identify as LGBT. But many of them are still closeted due to stigma. 42% of closeted employees report isolation at work, and suffer from anxiety around how they’ll be treated. Bans/ attitudes like the NC one only reinforce the fear, directly resulting in disengagement. And a Gallup survey shows that disengaged employees are estimated to cost the economy between $450 billion to $550 billion.
- Turnover. But, the buck does not stop with disengagement. When it comes to marginalized populations like the LGBT community, feeling detached at the workplace leads to an instant flight risk, sharply increasing a company’s attrition rates. Compared to their non-closeted counterparts, closeted LGBT employees when burdened with the stress of dual identities, are 73% more likely to leave their companies within three years.
According to Human Rights activist Nicole Raeburn, “Since people can pick and choose employers, there’s a high likelihood of a costly brain-drain among LGBT top talent, if the workplace culture isn’t tended to.” How costly? Anywhere between $70,000 to $250,000 per employee.
- Productivity. When people are managing challenging or demanding emotions, it impacts their productivity. Imagine dealing with anxiety, identity issues, fear, or isolation, daily. Erika Karp, Managing Director for UBS Investment Bank, shares, “From the time I came out, I became exponentially more productive and more energetic and more motivated.” Why? It’s a matter of being respected, appreciated and seen – values that millennials hold in high regard.
The LGBT community constitutes 10% of the work population. If you want a work culture that is diverse, successful and rich, it’s time to bring them in.