According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, gay and transgender employees comprise a significant portion of our workforce. Recent estimates suggest slightly more than 4% of municipal employees (585,000 workers) and slightly more than 8% of state employees (418,000 workers) are gay or transgender. By comparison, approximately 7 million private-sector workers (roughly 6.5%) are gay or transgender.
In today's healthcare workforce, with diversity increasing steadily, sexual orientation diversity is an important factor to understand. In addition to supporting an inclusive equal employment opportunity or non-discrimination workplace environment, employees should learn about sexual orientation and gender identity diversity in the modern healthcare setting.
In general, companies and employee teams should strive to create an environment where employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender are able to be themselves, without fear of discrimination. This allows everyone, despite their sexual orientation, to bring their full "selves" to their work, without the need to hide or conform. When an individual feels accepted at work, he or she is truly able to bring their maximum potential and energy to their job. Employers who actively work to diversify their workplace can provide the same quality of benefits and support given to family, domestic partners, and dependents of any employee, despite their sexual orientation.
In general, employees can consider a few helpful guidelines for increasing inclusion and supporting sexual orientation and gender identity diversity:
- Asking coworkers who are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender what terminology they prefer when you are referring to them or talking with them.
- When a coworker shares information with you about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, ask him or her whether or not this is information he or she wants you to keep private.
- Avoid making assumptions about people's sexual orientation or gender identity based on their appearance or conduct.
- Don't assume that a person’s spouse or partner is of the opposite sex.
These are just a few simple rules of thumb to remember when working in diverse employee teams, not an inclusive list. Remember: it is paramount to avoid making assumptions.