Your Queer Career: “I Think My Company Is Homophobic!”

by | Mar 16, 2020 | QUEER RVA

In his new column, Dr. Steve Yacovelli, (a.k.a. “The Gay Leadership Dude”) shares his expertise on submitted workplace questions from members of the LGBTQ+ Community. Have a question for him? See below!

“Gay Leadership Dude,” I’m in trouble. I started at a new job about four months ago and was super excited. Once I got into the organization though, things seemed “off.” I think it’s not as inclusive to gay folks as I had initially thought. I asked around before I took the job, looked at HRC (they’re too small a company to do the Index thing). But little things lead me to think senior management isn’t so friendly. I think my boss would be cool, but honestly I’ve yet to come out to anyone in case I’m right. What should I do? Quit? I really wanted this job. ~ Blue in Pink

Hey B-I-P: Darn! Don’t you hate when you start seeing someone, go out on a few dates interviews, do your cyberstalking for info, and decide to dive in, only to find they’re just not that into you? Yeah: I can relate. So now it’s time for you to do your own “Nancy Drew-ing” (or “Riverdale-ing,” pick your favorite CW mystery show analogy) from the inside. Here’s a few places to start:

1. Leadership … What does your leadership look like? What do they do (and not just say) to promote inclusivity? Is their language truly inclusive, or is it more heterosexist? What’s the demographic makeup of the leadership team, and does it fairly represent the rest of your org?

2. Corporate Policies … Does your organization include policies referring to same-sex couples (married or otherwise)? Does it include health care specific for trans employees? What’s the company’s Nondiscrimination Policy: does it include sexual orientation and gender identity and gender expression?

3. The “Real” Corporate Values at Play … Using the criteria above, what are your organization’s real values, the ones on display every day? Are they the ones listed on your company’s website, or are they really different? Is there obvious alignment in what your organization says it does and what it promotes to the outside world?

4. Inclusion Support (HR, D&I, ERGs) … Is there a Head of Diversity & Inclusion in your business? What do they do? Is it their full-time gig? Does diversity to them really mean, “Let’s celebrate _____ month!” or does it go deeper? Does your organization have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) dedicated to LGBTQ+ employees and their allies?

5. External Efforts … Does your workplace market or communicate directly to the LGBTQ+ Community? When same-sex marriage became legal, what did your organization do to support or hinder its progress? When certain groups threaten the rights of LGBTQ+ people outside of the workplace (like at the state or federal level), does your business (and its leadership) stand up, or remain silent?  

Once you look at these five areas, make your decision about how “awesomely ally” or “horribly homophobic” your workplace is. And then you have to decide your next vocational move: should you stay or should you go? Finally, be a good LGBTQ+ Community member and “gay it forward” by sharing your perspective with others on sites like GlassDoor

Hi “Gay Leadership Dude.” I work at a Fortune 500 company that has a GLBT employee group (we call them “affinity groups” where I work). I’ve been a member of the group for a few years and frankly it doesn’t seem like it makes a difference. Sure, we do local pride stuff in June and some lunchtime education sessions, but aside from that, not a lot else. Do Affinity Groups really matter? ~ Disengaged Lesbian

Dear (on the) DL: I think the value of Affinity Groups depends on a few variables. First: why does an LGBTQ+ or Women’s or Asian-American Employee Resource Group (ERG)/Affinity Group/Business Resource Group (BRG) exist? Smart businesses do it for three reasons: (1) so similar-demographic peeps within the workplace can see one another and be visible to the rest of the company; (2) help broaden minds and bring about inclusion through visibility, education, and events; and (3) leverage internal expertise to be representative “eyes and ears” on market trends, customer issues, internal policies, and overall “watch” the business through a certain lens.

Sadly, I’ve seen some businesses have ERG’s simply for a check box mentality: “Sure! We’re inclusive! We have ______ Month!” Meh … not so much. Sounds like your biz, dear DL, may be in this last category. Welp: you have a few choices as an ERG:

1. Take You to Your Leader … Work with senior leaders within your workplace to help them see the additional value of an ERG outside of the check box mentality. It may take some convincing and “managing up,” but — using strategic open-ended questions — ask these execs where they see the value in ERGs, and show them that it can be so much more than a check box.

2. Insert Yourself … Strategically insert yourselves into the business to shape policy and provide feedback through your demographic lens. For example: approach folks like your sales and marketing peeps or HR friends to see what work they are doing on LGBTQ+ inclusion, and how you and your ERG members can help them see things through our pink lens.

3. The Power of Many … Leverage the other ERGs within your workplace (assuming there are more than you!). Find ways for all the “others” to partner together. A larger group of employees is a louder “squeak” than a small one. For bonus points: coordinate an all-ERG Resource Fair for your organization and invite those unenlightened execs to show them how all ERGs add deeper value to the business.

Employee Resource Groups are a great way to make friends, find like-minded co-workers, and foster an inclusive workplace overall. Just make sure yours doesn’t exist only for Pride Month or for that 100 Score on the HRC Equality Index!

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HAVE A QUESTION FOR “THE GAY LEADERSHIP DUDE”? Submit @ www.YourQueerCareer.com Please note the advice shared is for informational use only; it is not intended to replace or substitute any mental, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. Full disclosure can be found at the website listed above.

Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Dr. Steve Yacovelli

Dr. Steve Yacovelli (“The Gay Leadership Dude”) is Owner & Principal of TopDog Learning Group, LLC. His latest book, “Pride Leadership: Strategies for the LGBTQ+ Leader to be the King or Queen of their Jungle” “came out” June 2019. For more information, visit TopDogLearning.biz.



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