There are a number of barriers that can stall the progression of women to leadership positions within organisations. Implementing clear pathways for progression such as having diverse candidate slates and development opportunities including mentoring, training and network groups are key in helping women advance to the top. However, do LBT+ women benefit from these policies too?
Within LGBT+ network groups, the lack of engagement of LB+ women is of increasing concern. Research from INvolve noted that 32 per cent of bisexual respondents did not feel that all aspects of their identity are embraced by the LGBT+ Network/ERG/BRG, compared to 23 per cent of gay/lesbian women. This evidence shows that bisexual women can feel left out within employee resource groups and feel as though wider LBGT+ policies are not always inclusive of them.
Furthermore, research suggests that 25 per cent of LB+ women agree that LGBT+ Networks do not have clear objectives, hindering the opportunities and support provided to LB+ women in these networks. It is critical that businesses support LB+ women, understand their experiences and create networks, and working environments that provide them with the opportunity to amplify their voice.
How can networks ensure they are inclusive of LBT+ women?
For businesses, pulling this group together under the LGBT+ umbrella can be helpful for discovering trends within the whole community, however it is essential to recognise and understand that experiences will be different for lesbians, gay women, bisexual women, transgender women pansexual women, polysexual women, asexual women and more. Additionally, experiences of trans LB+ women and cisgender LB+ women differ, and so will the difficulties faced by LB+ women from an ethnic minority background.
Homogenising LBT+ women can oversimplify complex issues, and erase identities. Instead, there are some key recommendations business leaders can take forward to improve visibility and access to LB+ women specifically.
- Make sure that your LGBT+ Network has coverage all year round, and not just around Pride Month. Although this date is important to the LGBT+ community, your workplace’s LB+ community needs support throughout the year.
- It is important the LGBT+ network represents LB+ identities and delves into the nuances between identities.
- Take steps to make your network is visible to LB+ women through social media, newsletters and posters. Make sure that all employees are made aware of the network upon joining.
- Events run by the network must be inclusive of LB+ women, with clear objectives working towards a fairer workplace more inclusive of LGBT+ people.
One of the most important drivers of business success is having an inclusive environment in which your team can thrive. This includes ensuring that LGBT+ networks within your business are inclusive of all members of the community.
According to INvolve’s research, 45 per cent of women who are part of an LGBT+ network also said they are part of a women’s network, thus it is important to take an intersectional approach when engaging LBT+ women, and broadly all minority groups, when putting in place policies and strategies to support their success.
Challenges can arise for LB+ women as LGBT+ networks do not fully embrace LB+ women and women’s networks do not provide LGBT+ women with the tools they need to navigate the workplace. Therefore, it’s important that all network groups work to be inclusive of everyone and look to advance their employees in a way that suits their many intersectional needs.
Ultimately, companies risk losing women in leadership – and future women leaders – derailing progress for gender diversity if they are not able to create networks that are inclusive of all women. It is with this in mind that leaders should note the importance of recognising that the experiences of LB+ women vary widely.
Encouraging inclusion in the workplace is something that should be everyone’s responsibility. What’s important here is that, particularly for resource groups and networks, it has a leadership mandate and is placed at the centre of the business. If this isn’t taken seriously then it won’t promote the long-term success of the company.
We know that there are some brilliant groups and networks out there, providing a platform for LB+ voices to be heard, as well as creating a safe and welcoming environment for the LGBT+ community as a whole. It’s important now that business leaders recognise and understand the different needs and experiences of the individuals in their teams to hear a range of different, valuable perspectives.