U.S. Government Sends Message to World Regarding LGBT Rights and Why Our Workforces Need to Do the Same

By | 2017-01-13T13:41:51+00:00 May 4th, 2015|Categories: Respectful Workplace|Tags: , , |1 Comment

The United States Department of State recently created a new position, U.S. Special Envoy for Human Rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons, the first such post ever created by a nation according to the State Department.

According to Secretary of State John Kerry, the role is to coordinate the State Department’s internal policies on LGBT employees and its programs and policies on the rights of LGBT people in other countries by working with “governments, civil society and businesses.”

The issue is a “strategic necessity because greater protections for human rights lead to greater stability and prosperity,” Kerry said when he announced the post in February.

While this is great news for the world stage and a good sign that progress is being made, we still need to be mindful that LGBT people here in the United States still face discrimination on a daily basis, especially in the workplace.

According to the findings of the largest LGBT research initiative, “LGBT2020,” one in every six respondents (16 percent) was harassed at work. To put that into perspective, America is home to an estimated 15 million LGBT people, with more than 10 million currently working full-time. That means that over 1.6 million LGBT Americans personally experienced harassment at work last year.

When asked to agree or disagree with the statement “This is a workplace entirely free from homophobia,” fewer than one in five (18 percent) agreed with the statement.

Almost one in two respondents (49 percent) saw or heard homophobic incidents last year.

When put into a business perspective, these results lead to increase turnover, greater difficulty recruiting top talent, lower employee engagement and decreases in productivity.

According to Paul Meshanko in his book, The Respect Effect, “While disrespect comes in many forms, it almost always damages performance. The primary reason is that it takes energy to respond and protect ourselves from disrespectful behaviors. Every time our brain has to divert its attention and energy to manage disrespectful elements within our environment, it represents a lost opportunity for the organization.”

LGBT employees who work for organizations that do not openly have policies and programs of inclusion for LGBT workers expend great deals of energy and effort trying to protect themselves from disrespectful behaviors; energy lost that could have been spent productively working.

So while the United States government has sent a strong message to the world on where we stand on LGBT human rights, we need to make sure that our own backyard is in order and that our US companies have inclusive policies and practices that support their LGBT employees.

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About the Author:

Fernando Serpa
Fernando Serpa is founder and president of Serpa & Associates, Diversity Solutions for a Changing World and a Senior Consultant with Legacy Business Cultures. With two decades of diversity and inclusion experience, Fernando draws on his in-depth experience across the public and private sector and excels at building dynamic, cross cultural diversity and inclusion strategies to influence systemic change across organizations.

One Comment

  1. Norman Jentner, Ph.D. May 12, 2015 at 8:30 pm

    Great points, Fernando. And thank you for your assertive call to action in regard to this topic.

    You write about serving a powerful constructive purpose that includes and goes far beyond simply the financial bottom-line.

    This has to do with listening with respect to those who may differ from us, by assertively and respectfully exercising intentionality with courage.

    You, again so cogently, assert with your personal story that such intentionality can be constructively helpful everywhere we set foot — yes, in our workplaces, plus in our homes and marketplaces.

    I have written elsewhere (at http://businessculturesolutions.com/are-there-gender-differences-generally-in-business-contributions/), with due respect about the repeating “King of the Mountain” phenomenon that re-occurs, generation after generation among many aspiring alpha males within many cultures, including here within the USA.

    Including EXPLICIT respect toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons — in our homes and workplaces — will help educate, through direct experience, the many new aspiring alpha males coming up, generation after generation, who can then include these important distinctions as they enthusiastically develop their aspiring alpha male “vision sets.”

    I am tentatively asserting here today, and am requesting constructive comments by others, that the very neuro-psycho-social “roots” of “homophobia” may be found in an admittedly simplistic, stereotypic understanding of the cardinal “alpha male motive” of ensuring personal dominance. If we include an “all inclusive” understanding of “stereotypic alpha male motives,” this includes the dynamic of sexuality.

    My own personal experiences of “homophobia,” as a heterosexual male, can be constructively grouped into two sets: (I) my experiences of others’ homophobia and (II) my experiences of my own homophobia.

    Let’s start briefly with (I) my personal experiences of others’ homophobia.

    In my own experience, the most strident homophobic opinions seem to be held, at the very least, by (i) aspiring alpha males, (ii) female companions of aspiring alpha males, and (iii) religious people pointing assertively to what they think their “holy book” tells them. Hhhmmm… Interesting, but what might this mean? Is this even a veridical set of personal perceptions?

    Now let’s go to (II) my own personal experiences of my own homophobia. I wonder if anyone can relate to what I share next.

    Chronologically, I started out with zero awareness of homosexuality, then a sense of startling “weirdness” about it, then a sense of fear.

    I eventually could define my having two types of fear: (A) fear of unwanted sexual imposition upon me (a very uncomfortable thought) and then (B) fear that I might be gay myself (uncomfortable for me due to the many lifestyle changes that I imagined would be required, amidst stark criticisms by at least some others whom I loved).

    I also experienced a powerful spiritual conversion during this time. And some people were telling me that God was not happy with homosexuals, that homosexuality was a sin against God.

    As I continued to grow older, I found myself interested in squarely facing the personal issue of taking clear personal responsibility for what I personally would think and believe.

    Would I choose to trust the fear inside of me concerning homosexuality? Wouldn’t this be good? Plus I could choose to believe what some other people authoritatively asserted to me was in their “Word of God” — in particular, not only that homosexuality is a “sin,” but also that I was “sinful by nature”). Rather than risk trusting my own respectful curiosities and sensibilities, perhaps I could most responsibly defer to a “God” outside of me, no? In fact, by doing so, I could also largely disregard the whole unpleasant idea of homosexuality, simply voicing my opposition here and there, couldn’t I? Then I could also directly move onto “more important” things, no?

    Or, on the other hand, would I choose to believe what I could legitimately discover — utilizing my entire mind when not gripped by fear, plus all informational resources available to me — yes, including “spiritual” guidance and ideas offered to me, and also upon my growing understanding of scientific information, plus my own personal experiences?

    I chose the latter. Out of personal respect for myself as a child of God.

    This required my choosing to learn different viewpoints, yes.

    It also required that I respectfully spend time with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

    So I did.

    “Respectfully” engage also meant for more than just a minute or two here and there, but for hours at a time, day after day, week after week, month after month, both working and playing.

    I learned:
    – that nobody was truly interested to sexually impose upon me, against my wishes
    – that I had zero personal interest in homosexual experiences
    – many new and interesting things for me
    – many new inspiring things, consistent with my own long-cherished values. This included my own greater respect for women and heterosexual men, alongside greater respect for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons.

    Imagine that!

    In the process I also gained many new colleagues and friends.

    I further gained incredible inspiration, by my reading my now more familiar “sacred texts,” now with a greater sense of historical context informed by STEM understandings of human performance. I now found these texts underscored the critical importance of my engaging with respect in my interactions with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, among others, who differ in some ways from me.

    When interacting with respect, I find we have many more important things in common in comparison to those few things where we clearly differ.

    I also have opportunity to clear up my own ignorance through direct experience and reflection.

    My respect for myself and others went up and continues to go up.

    It has been a win-win-win outcome.

    Thank you, Legacy Cultures, Paul and Fernando, for your strong and respectful leadership by example, with accountability amidst feedback, within our business community.

    I appreciate your inspiring support.

    Can anyone relate to what I share here?


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