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Image / Editorial

Hanging a rainbow flag is not enough to support LGBTI+ employees


By Colette Sexton
14th Oct 2019
Hanging a rainbow flag is not enough to support LGBTI+ employees

Research indicates many gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and non-binary people still do not feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work in Ireland.


Companies have come under criticism in recent years for jumping on the LGBTI+ pride bandwagon when it suits them – hanging a rainbow flag, sharing messages in support of LGBTI+ employees on social media, and so on – without actually implementing anything that could truly make a difference to their employees.

Monionne Griffith, chief executive of BeLonG To Youth Services, a national organisation offering supports for LGBTI+ young people, said: “It was really positive to see so many workplaces supporting their LGBTI+ staff and joining in Pride this year.

“However, flying a rainbow flag for one week is not enough. Nor is implementing inclusive LGBTI+ policies with no training, implementation plans or monitoring of KPI’s.”

Pink washing

Some companies engage in pink washing, and this is “obvious to those in the LGBTI+ community and not helpful for brand credibility”, she said. For example, putting up rainbow flags but not changing policies and practices within a company to ensure that employees and clients feel welcome and included.

Things are improving for LGBTI+ people in workplaces in Ireland, she said. 

“Research indicates that many gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and non-binary people still do not feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work in Ireland.”

“We have seen real improvements in recent years. Companies implementing inclusivity policies has become the norm and corporations flying the rainbow flag and celebrating during pride month is commonplace.”

“However, despite these positive developments, there are still some concerning trends in relation to workplaces and LGBTI+ people.”

She explained that research indicates that many gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and non-binary people still do not feel comfortable being ‘out’ at work in Ireland and 41% of LGBTI+ people go back into the closet in their first job after college.

In research with over 3,000 LGBTI+ people in Ireland in 2016, post marriage equality, the third most important issue identified by respondents that still needed to be addressed was achieving equality for LGBTI+ people at work.

While it is important to ensure client or public facing messaging represents diversity,  companies must take care to avoid pink washing.

However, with well-considered efforts, companies can ensure that their corporate environment is one that is supportive of LGBTI+ employees, according to Moninne.

She said: “Not only is this the fair, ethical, and moral thing to do, but research shows these efforts generally increase employee engagement, employee satisfaction, and the improve market value of the company. In short, its better for the bottom line.”

Gender diversity

One way companies can support LGBTI+ employees is by developing an anti-discrimination and diversity policy and crucially, an implementation plan, Moninne said. She also recommends conducting training to mitigate biases and develop cultural competency.

While it is important to ensure client or public facing messaging represents diversity, Monionne said companies must take care to avoid pink washing.

But how can companies ensure that anything they introduce is actually effective? “Measure your success against identified KPIs”, Monionne advised.

She also suggests reviewing your recruitment and promotion strategies. She said: “Are these strategies unconsciously biased and preventing minorities from being hired or progressing diversity and inclusion?” 

Other positive initiatives would include implementing structural changes to support gender diversity and collaborating with and funding local LGBTI+ groups uplifting the voices of the community.


Read more: Everyone’s journey is differentt