OPINION: LGBT+ employees need mentors to progress their careers

by Kim Langers | Rastegar Property Company
Wednesday, 25 November 2020 15:01 GMT

FILE PHOTO: Customers speak with bank tellers at a branch of Toronto-Dominion (TD) Canada Trust adorned in colours of the Pride rainbow flag symbolizing gay rights, in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada June 13, 2017. Picture taken June 13, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Business leaders need to create an environment where individuals from different races, sexual orientations, and genders can coexist, and more importantly, feel valued

Kim Langers is the chief operating officer at Rastegar Property Company, a Texas-based real estate investment firm 

The opportunity to be mentored into a leadership role when you are a young LGBT+ professional at the beginning of your career is almost nonexistent. Many young LGBT+ professionals who work in the corporate world tend to get discouraged when they do not see a reflection of themselves in the office or when they have trouble finding a work environment that allows them to be their authentic selves.

Due to this lack of an inclusive space for LBGT+ professionals, many of them start to reassess their situation and question whether they belong in the corporate world.

Creating professional development initiatives aimed at LGBT+ employees, such as networking sessions and management coaching sessions, will encourage employees to develop their professional careers in a safe space. These initiatives can and will be a critical tool for retaining talented employees. Targeted and thoughtful programs for employee development and success can help LGBT+ professionals build upon their skills while providing an acknowledgment of their identity in the work environment. 

High turnover is not the only reason for low retention rates among the younger generation of LGBT+ employees. Many companies simply are not adapting to today's world fast enough.

The "Me Too" movement and the realization of social injustices toward Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have brought awareness to many of us and helped us to understand it is not a fair playing field for everyone. Even so, corporate America is stuck in an antiquated culture that was designed to promote young, heterosexual white men.

We witness time and time again, where heterosexual white men in their late twenties and early thirties receiving the proper mentorship and rapid promotion. Women, especially LGBT+ women, do not get the same opportunities until they are much older and later in their careers. 

Some job seekers have turned down jobs or left companies due to the lack of diversity. It can be daunting and overwhelming for businesses trying to navigate the best authentic and genuine ways to speak about diversity and the prospect of incorporating facility-wide improvements to build a more diverse workforce.

Companies must create goals and put together a culture plan to help them better achieve the improvements they want to see. 

Today's LGBT+ population has experienced a profound, generational transformation, both in how it views itself and what it seeks from equality in the workplace. Today's workforce is far more culturally diverse and more likely, particularly among younger generations, to include women, LGBT+, and individuals of more nuanced sexual orientations.

Yet we have not provided the structure or resources to allow these employees to grow into leadership positions. 

The United States has hit a very serious inflection point regarding diversity and inclusion, but diversity and inclusion are two distinct topics that must go hand-in-hand to create an equal opportunity environment.

Suppose LGBT+ employees do not feel supported and included in the workplace, or do not have the support to speak about their workplace experiences. In that case, the company does not have a truly inclusive, diverse work environment. 

As leaders, we need to create an environment where individuals from different races, sexual orientations, and genders can coexist, and more importantly, feel valued and included as crucial team members. They want people to see a representation of themselves in their business or organization, which is why it is so important to have a diverse executive team. This creates a culture of trust when LGBT+ employees know and see that the decision-making process that affects the company as a whole represents their perspectives. 

Creating this professional work culture will overflow into employees' personal lives outside of work and positively impact our society.

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