FOSTERING A CULTURE OF INCLUSION AND RESPECT
Moving to a new country is daunting enough for transferees. If they are from the LGBTIQ+ community, extra stress factors come into play, including navigating their assigned country’s cultural and legislative attitudes towards gender diverse communities.
Read further to find out how corporates can plan, prepare and support their LBQTIQ workforce.
Considerations such as partner employment or loss of dual-income, and the absence of family support can often contribute to a transferee not accepting an assignment – and this is further compounded if the transferee’s gender identity is either not legally recognised, or not accepted by certain communities in the host country.
This lack of recognition could likely result in myriad difficulties with partner visas, health insurance, superannuation/pension plan and tax complications, even schooling for the children of same-sex parents, so it is essential to have open and honest dialogue with your LGBTIQ+ transferee, highlighting the potential cultural and political pitfalls they may face in their new assignment.
Forewarned is forearmed
A ‘One Size Fits All’ staff policy cannot be expected to be effective across multiple regions with differing LGBTIQ+ laws and it is hence imperative that multinational organisations know local customs and attitudes as well as understand legislation which could affect their LGBTIQ+ transferees in each region.
Although, at last count, 28 countries including Australia, have high anti-discrimination laws, there remain close to 70 others where same-sex relationships are criminalized. The organisation Human Rights Watch have published an informative document on country profiles relating to sexual orientation and gender identity as well as a detailed document on the various global Anti-LGBT Laws.
The following Sexual Orientation Laws Map by the global ILGA World (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), a federation funded by governments, private foundations and donors, provides a helpful overview. You can download a copy of the PDF of this map here
A successful relocation
A successful international relocation is assured not only by the financial package offered and growth opportunities available but also on how comfortable, accepted, valued and supported that assignee feels in the new host country. This can be especially important for transferees from the LGBTIQ+ community.
So how best can you help these transferees?
Get the Workplace Culture Right
The following suggestions are a good start:
- Dress code requirements can be restrictive to the LGBTIQ+ community – ensure they are able to express their gender identity authentically
- Company forms/surveys/legislation need to be inclusive of a gender identity diverse community. For instance, is an option for “other” (or a blank field) provided, as well as “male” and “female”?
- Ensure there are gender-neutral toilets/change rooms
- What about Leave benefits? Be careful of unintentionally using “Paternity”, “Maternity” and “family” in non-exclusive ways
In our increasingly diverse global business community, having intentional non-discrimination policies in the workplace shows that the company is serious about diversity. Here are some ways to ensure your workplace is one of Respect and Inclusion:
- Make corporate and public statements against discrimination, publicizing, implementing and monitoring company equality policies.
- Foster respect, not judgement. Encourage your employees to identify people as individuals, and not by the group to which they belong.
- Your employees’ attitudes and vocabulary are based on their own expectations and experiences. Develop questionnaires that examine their beliefs and assumptions about gender to uncover any unconscious biases. Remember thoughts = feelings = actions/words. False assumptions only perpetuate stereotypes so build an inclusive workplace culture by choosing to reflect social diversity where everyone is valued, respected, included.
- Get HR on board. Keep track of LGBTQI+ trends in the workplace, communicate frequently about the importance of diversity and develop strategies to increase awareness and foster inclusion
- Tackle workplace bullying and harassment by reinforcing your anti-discrimination policy
Get the Language Right
Make sure your organisation is familiar with the respectful language used for LGBTIQ+ employees. The Victorian government have published an LGBTIQ Inclusive Language Guide that you can access here.
Non-inclusive language contributes to and perpetuates stereotyping so ensure you dismantle any bias by making your employees aware of their word choices and assumptions. Encourage them to ask, never assume. For instance,
- Respectfully ask what pronouns your transferee wishes to describe themselves – and use those terms. This could include ‘he/his’, ‘she/hers’, or ‘they/theirs’
- Accept and respect their gender definition
- Use “partner” or “parent” rather than “husband/wife” or “mother/father”
Every person has the right to feel comfortable to be themselves in the workplace. Having an inclusive workplace culture increases job satisfaction, ensures greater job commitment and drives productivity. Ensure these considerations are taken into account when relocating LGBTIQ+ employees – you’ll be winning all around.
Further reading and Resources
The countries around the world where same-sex marriage is illegal
Human Rights Watch Country Profiles: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Human Rights WatchType of Anti-LGBT Laws
ILGA State sponsored Homophobia Report 2019-11-14 https://ilga.org/downloads/ILGA_Sexual_Orientation_Laws_Map_2019.pdf
Supporting LGBT Inclusion: A How-to Guide for Organisations and Individuals
Victorian Government LGBTIQ Inclusive Language Guide