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Columns/Blogs Diversity & Inclusion
Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice. Kindness is the key.

June 20, 2023
By Katherine Dudtschak and Julie Cafley, Ph.D.

Photo: Adobe Stock

The start of Pride month is a reminder that we must continue to ensure society accepts all individuals — especially our young people. Central to this is moving from flags to fulfillment of workplace inclusion for the more than one million Canadians identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ+).

While we’ve made progress in Canada, there is more to do.

Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are twice as likely as straight employees to have experienced inappropriate workplace behaviours.  Approximately half are not out to their supervisors, and one-quarter are not out to anyone at work.

Being out at work links closely to privilege, as comfortability with coming out can differ by gender and rankEighty per cent of men are more likely to be out to most of their colleagues than women at 58 per cent. And eighty per cent of senior leaders who identify as LGBTQ+ are out at work, compared to 32 per cent of junior employees.


Research also shows that LGBTQ+ employees use “covering,” meaning they change their behaviour at work to avoid or minimize attention to stigmatized traits. About 41 per cent of people who identify as LGBTQ+ employees practice “covering” at their current jobs to avoid harassment or discrimination. Doing so can be a source of stress that negatively impacts their health and well-being. The cost of this avoidance is employee retention; around one-third of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ employees report leaving a job because they do not feel accepted.

The benefits of embracing diversity to create a truly inclusive world are abundantly clear. Diversity is the key to unlocking human potential at all levels at a time when competition, growth, innovation and transformation are paramount. So where do we start?

With kindness and curiosity.

Being genuinely kind and curious opens the door to appreciating different points of view and lived experiences. It reduces the fear and uncertainty many of us carry, resulting in belonging and psychological safety. Psychological safety creates the space to tap into greater levels of creativity, impact and engagement of each leader and each employee.

As in society, improving workplaces for people who identify as LGBTQ2+ is continuous work, so to make cultural change, we need to:

We have an opportunity to know and understand the people we work with as human beings. What are their intrinsic motivators and the experiences that shape them and their skills, abilities and passions?

Diversity is a visible and invisible dimension of human uniqueness but only yields benefits with inclusivity. Inclusivity creates belonging and psychological safety, empowering people to speak up and share their abilities and potential more fully at work and in society. When we do, the people around us thrive in ways that build a better world.

Katherine Dudtschak is a woman with gender-affirming experience and a recipient of a 2022 Catalyst Honours award. Julie Cafley, Ph.D., is a cis-gender woman and LGBTQ+ ally. She is the Executive Director of Catalyst Canada, an organization that builds more inclusive workplaces.

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