Timely for the Pride season: Drivers for LGBT success

More and more companies are marching along the Pride parades, some even colouring their brand logos in rainbow colours. However, research on LGBT D&I management has been scarce. A summary of two studies that were largely overlooked to date and an outlook on the future of LGBT practice.

Before Diversity Management was introduced as an umbrella framework, LGBT used to be an area of largely isolated grass-roots initiatives. Research from 2007 and 2017 has repeatedly confirmed the impact that D&I management has on the perception of an LGBT inclusive workplace that allows employees of different sexual orientations to be themselves – out, engaged and productive. But what are some of the context factors that drive companies to develop, improve and mature their policies in order to excel in LGBT ratings or to be able to provide smooth transition support for transgendered persons?

Laws, women and peer pressure are helping to advance the LGBT agenda

In their research, Everly et al. considered a number of both external and internal factors that may or may not influence the adoption of LGBT-related policies in a sample of US Fortune 1,000 firms. They positioned the Corporate Equality Index as the variable of main interest and uncovered that the number of women serving on the respective firm’s board of directors, the general gay rights climate in the respective state and whether or not other companies in the same industry already had adopted LGBT-friendly policies as positive influences.

Interestingly enough, the estimated share of gay employees in a given industry (approximated through survey info on same-sex couples) does not show a significant relationship of any magnitude. The researchers hypothesized that a certain isomorphism effect would take place – that companies in the same industry would, over time, become more and more similar to one another due to LGBT D&I efforts. This ‘mimic’ effect was observed in every year (except one) and led to an average increase on the Corporate Equality Index of 8 points. Overall, the research shows that a sufficiently advanced political climate, gender-mixed boards and pioneering peers drive lagging companies to follow the benchmark in improving their LGBT policies.

However, the study still shows some limitation, both in its design and statistical prowess. “It is remarkable, though, that the study did not investigate the potential influence of business-related factors including LGBT consumer potential, the need for innovation or talent shortage”, commented Diversity expert, Michael Stuber, the research design. Additionally, from a data science standpoint, the analysis fails to make optimal use of its longitudinal data structure and did not explore the risk of causal inference (i.e. reverse causality).

This article describes additional results of relevant LGBT research

How thorough expertise – and some external push – is required to deal with Trans issues

Researchers from the United Kingdom interviewed fourteen self-identifying transgender employees over a span of two and a half years. They verified, once more, that copy-and-paste D&I Management will not deliver best results. The trans* employees interviewed made it clear that experiences of discrimination are largely occupation- and industry-specific, with traditionally gendered work contexts being particularly unfriendly. This observation was particularly strong during the gender transformation process. Hence, the employees wished to receive more organisational support while the lack of expertise in HR became obvious. It seems, once again, that while there is robust engagement in LG and maybe B issues, the T and let alone I or Q are much less covered. The research identified three interlinked themes in the experiences of trans* employees: A deep representation gap in gender identity diversity, a resulting choice of non-disclosure in the work place and an unsupportive climate during transition. The remedy to this, in the eyes of the interviewees, is manifold:

  • Concerted policy efforts in the area of employment non-discrimination
  • Industry norms and practices (communication)
  • Involvement of leadership and HR (awareness and education)

This article describes a practical guide to manage trans diversity.

Critical Questions for the Future of LGBT Diversity

LGBT Diversity & Inclusion has come a long way – in the Western world – since its grass-root beginnings. For many, it serves as a test case for the inclusiveness and credibility of D&I programmes. Others use their LGBT group as a proof that ‘they not only do gender, but Diversity’. The straight allies paradigm has added a key dimension to the previously largely secluded LGBT initiatives. And yet, the overwhelming staff that is present at network meetings, platforms or special-interest events is gay, lesbian, transsexual or * (other).

On the other hand, many corporate LGBT activities do not include the strategic business component nor profound change character like gender, age or cultural initiatives do. In a way, the labels reflect this: We have moved from women to gender, from old/young to age and from disability to mixed abilities. In the area of sexual orientation and identity, we have moved to an LGBTIQ* paradigm (plus straight allies). Given the above considerations, the future of LGBTIQ* D&I should ideally be

  • Truly inclusive, so that straight people see a benefit for them (like men should see in gender diversity, etc.)
  • A more strategic and business-focused approach that is not mainly driven (as research suggests) by external push factors
  • A pledge for cultural (or systemic) change similar to other D&I strands that encourages less heteronormativity and hence more active inclusiveness for all


The study on predictors for the adoption of LGBTQI* policies was published in Human Resource Management


The qualitative study on UK transgender employees was published in The International Journal for Human Resource Management