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Careers in Tech 2020

How to make tech more LGBT-inclusive

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Kate Williams

Head of Private Sector Memberships, Stonewall

Tech companies are entering a new phase in their quest to better their diversity and inclusion practices. The time for window dressing has passed, it’s now time to talk about real change to make the industry inclusive.

People perform better when they can be themselves. Some might think that, since there’s been so much progress for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people over the past decade, that it’s simply: ‘job done!’

The upsetting reality is we know that’s not the case. Stonewall research shows us that more than a third of LGBT staff (35%) hide who they are at work. We also know that nearly a third of young LGBT people (30%) avoid careers in science, technology, engineering and maths because of negative stereotypes and fear of discrimination.

No one should ever feel unsafe or worried to be themselves at work. But these statistics show why LGBT inclusion is so important for the tech industry.

Where are we now?

In 2020, only three technology companies made it into the list of Britain’s Top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers. These were Fujitsu, ThoughtWorks and Atos. I want to see that number increase. Not least of all because tech companies play such a crucial role in creating the systems all of us use to navigate the world, but they’re often binary and made without thinking about the needs of diverse communities.

If we have a more open working environment it would mean the people responsible for the design and delivery of the tech we use everyday would better reflect the diversity of the world we live in. Creating an LGBT-inclusive tech industry won’t just be good for LGBT employees, it will have a hugely positive impact on the real lives of LGBT people everywhere.

Nearly a third of young LGBT people (30%) avoid careers in science, technology, engineering and maths because of negative stereotypes and fear of discrimination.

So where can tech companies start?

Diversity and inclusion require thoughtful action. It’s not a ‘tick box’ exercise, and cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach for the whole tech industry. Companies that are the most successful at this actively involve their LGBT staff. This can be done by creating a network group that meets to talk about and address the challenges they face.

LGBT staff can’t be expected to solve everything themselves; there needs be a collaborative approach between employers and employees.

One easy way to improve the workplace for LGBT employees and consumers is to show visible support for community events like Pride or LGBT History Month. You can also look at your internal HR systems and see whether you can update them to offer gender-neutral pronouns like Mx on titles.

Ultimately, whether you’re a senior leader, manager, colleague or new starter, we all have a part to play in making sure our workplace, industry and communities are places that accept and support LGBT people.

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