Creating diverse and inclusive workplaces

This blog is part of a series published on WEFLIVE from young leaders in the One Young World community who are addressing issues across the world relating to the World Economic Forum 2017 theme of 'Responsive and Responsible Leadership'.

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People, quite simply, perform better when they can be themselves. They can bring their whole selves to work, and they can lead authentically, without hiding part of who they are.

According to a survey by the not-for-profit LGBT network OUTstanding, over four-fifths (85%) of respondents thought closeted LGBT professionals waste energy pretending to be someone they’re not. It therefore makes good business sense to enable everyone to perform to their full potential.

On one hand, diversity of people around a table leads to diversity of thought, diversity of ideas, and diversity of creativity. However, diversity is only part of the story. Inclusivity goes beyond that and is about people being able to express themselves, to share the experiences, and to be valued for doing so. An organisation built on inclusion is fundamental to realising the value of diversity, though the pace of change is slow – changing deeply-rooted beliefs and perceptions takes time.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, 62% of generation Y LGBT+ graduates return into the closet upon taking their first job, so Millennials still have a perception of how they might be treated in the workplace. If they feel nervous about being themselves at work, how would they feel about bringing their fresh ideas to the table, and feeling empowered to innovate when they join an organisation?

One of the biggest challenges facing Millennials is complacency. Against a backdrop of legislative and cultural change across many countries, the world is still a scary place for those identifying as LGBT+, and as we’ve seen recently, it has become scarier closer to home in developed countries. From last years' shooting in Orlando, through to the increase in xenophobic discrimination and violence in the wake of political changes, the freedoms and liberties brought about by those who have gone before us, can easily be taken away from us.

For those of us fortunate to live in cultures where we can enjoy more freedoms that most, we have to consider our duty to those less fortunate. To many we may be their beacon of hope for legislative and cultural change, and leadership in the lobbying for change is within our gift, as individuals and as businesses.

This isn’t about shouting from the roof that you are LGBT+. It’s about being able to know that you can succeed not despite who you are, but because of who you are. Collectively, as an LGBT+ community, and through broader advocacy and allyship, we can make a huge difference for everyone now, and in the future.

Simon Rodgers is a One Young World Ambassador and the Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Aviva.