Year-round Pride: Building inclusive leadership and diversity in tech
To build an inclusive culture at work, you need inclusive leadership. Here's how can you continue to support your LGBTQ employees and foster belonging.
Aug 11, 2023 • 5 Minute Read
- Engineering Leadership
- Professional Development
- Team Development
If you’re looking to improve diversity in your tech team, Corey Weathers, Americas DevRel Lead at Okta, has a hot tip on hiring: “Culture fit is not it. Culture add is always it, but a lot of folks don’t acknowledge that.”
A biased hiring process is one of the first barriers to improving diversity and inclusion in tech. But it isn’t the only one. Once the hiring process ends, how can you continue to support your LGBTQ+ employees and foster belonging? To build an inclusive culture at work, you need inclusive leadership and practices.
Table of contents
The effects of not fostering diversity and inclusion in tech
Workplace discrimination, or the fear of workplace discrimination, can impact LGBTQ+ employees’ mental health, psychological safety, and career growth opportunities.
Discrimination isn’t always obvious or intentional, either. “I get called ‘man’ a lot, which kinda bothers me as a non-binary person,” says Christopher Stevenson, Business Development Representative with Pluralsight. “It’s hard to know how to express this to people because they aren't doing it to be disrespectful or hurtful. They don't know, but it still hurts because I feel like my reality, my truth, isn’t considered.”
If an organization doesn’t actively support all their employees, LGBTQ+ employees may suffer in silence or take their talent elsewhere.
Ways leaders can better support LGBTQ+ inclusion in tech
78% of tech managers say their organization invests time and resources into building diverse technology teams. But organizations need more than diversity—they also need inclusion and belonging.
Here are some ways you can foster inclusive leadership and create a supportive workplace for all of your employees.
Strengthen inclusive leadership
Inclusive leadership occurs when leaders actively create a workplace where everyone feels like they belong. People feel comfortable speaking up and being their full selves without fear of negative consequences.
Great leaders can’t immediately create a culture of inclusion and belonging. It takes time for them to build trusting relationships with their direct reports and understand how to best support them personally and professionally.
So, what are some things leaders can do today to build inclusivity in tech? Erica Cuttitta, Pluralsight’s VP of Software Engineering, shares some of her strategies.
Welcome everyone’s full self
First and foremost, allow people to bring their whole selves to work each day. “As a leader, this is something you should do as well,” says Erica. “Some days I struggle to show up emotionally, mentally, or otherwise.
“If I’m able to share my whole self and feel supported by my peers, leaders, and my teams, they feel more open to sharing themselves with me and others. That creates a sense of support and inclusion over time.”
Meeting team members one on one and scheduling skip levels is another way Erica gets to know her team and provide support on a more personal level.
Use inclusive language
Erica also notes the importance of inclusive language. “Using the word partner to describe my husband is more inclusive and normalizes the use of the word partner that might be more used in LGBTQ+ circles.”
Certain phrases, like “you guys,” can also make assumptions about gender identity. Using a gender-neutral term, like “folks” or “you all,” is a more inclusive alternative.
Get involved and be an ally
As a leader, you set an example for your team to follow. “Speaking up and using your powerful voice on LGBTQ+ or other important socially responsible topics can be a way to create inclusion,” shares Erica.
“People who align with those communities will know they have an ally in you, [while] others who may not align with that community will see how important it is to get involved and be supportive.”
Erica suggests giving team members time to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community (or any other community they may not be familiar with). If your organization hosts LGBTQ-specific events or resources, get involved and encourage your team to do the same.
“One of the most important things a leader can do is to just show up at an event [and listen] with an open mind,” says Erica. “Even if they don’t contribute ideas actively, just being in the room and hearing the conversation can be so meaningful to others around them.”
Create or sponsor an LBGTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG)
"Pride, to me, means being an active, fierce ally so others know they are loved and accepted, no matter who they love,” says Brittany Long, Sr. Manager of Professional Services with Pluralsight.
That allyship matters: 82% of LBGTQ+ employees believe that allyship helps them to be out at work. And 42% say that an ally-supported employee resource group is critical to helping them feel comfortable being out at work.
An ERG is an employee-led group that gives employees a safe space to share and celebrate their whole selves. They’re also a way to lend resources and support. An LGBTQ+ focused ERG gives LGBTQ+ employees (and allies) a place to come together and build a sense of belonging and community.
Offer inclusive training and resources
Inclusion often starts with understanding. Even if your organization isn’t required to provide training on sexual orientation and gender identity, doing so can help create a more inclusive workplace culture.
Consider providing inclusive training and educational resources on:
Coming out at work
Supporting transitioning employees
Understanding gender identity and sexual orientation
Benefits of workplace inclusion
Diversity and inclusion initiatives that focus on the LGBTQ+ community benefit everyone, not just LGBTQ+ employees. Some benefits of an inclusive culture at work include:
Attracting and retaining employees
Diverse organizations are more likely to attract new employees and retain their current talent.
One survey found that 76% of job seekers and employees believe a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating job opportunities and companies.
Diverse workforces bring together various backgrounds, experiences, and ideas. This blend drives innovation and unique ways of working. In fact, inclusive companies are 1.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders.
There’s a direct correlation between diverse companies and profitability. According to studies conducted by McKinsey & Company, diverse companies perform better financially. This makes diversity and inclusion a competitive differentiator between organizations in the same industry.
Inclusive leadership starts with education
75% of LGBTQ+ professionals want to work at an organization where they feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work.
There’s no one right way to support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace. Different approaches and support systems will work for different people and different organizations. “Inclusivity is hard to create,” says Erica. “There isn’t one specific thing that makes someone feel included or supported. It’s a lot of little things that create inclusivity on a team. ”
But it starts with inclusive leadership. You set the tone and expectations for the words, attitudes, and behaviors that are acceptable in your team. When you commit to diversity and inclusion, you commit to all your team members and support their safety—and their success.
Get the tools you need to strengthen diversity and inclusion in your workplace.