It’s easy for a company to craft an inclusion statement or amass stock photos of diverse employees, but how can you tell whether a company is really LGBTQ-friendly? Are there steps you can take to assess whether a prospective workplace is truly inclusive or simply skilled at employer branding?
In honor of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender) History Month in the United States, I wanted to share the following strategies you can deploy to tell whether a company is LGBTQ-friendly:
Approach your research with a healthy dose of skepticism.
There are countless online lists that market the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” and similar workplace honors. When reviewing these best employer lists, you’ll want to pay special attention to the criteria used, if any, to compile them. Oftentimes, these listicles are based on self-reported employer data, rather than the true experiences of workers who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Consequently, you’ll need to be scrupulous with your research and consider a variety of sources to decide whether you’ll feel welcomed and enjoy a sense of belonging at a company.
Leverage crowdsourcing to learn more about company culture and LGBTQ-friendliness.
Speaking of which, one quality source of information as you conduct your research is online career communities that allow workers to anonymously share their experiences with companies. As a tech career coach, I’m partial to Blind, since it specializes in the startup and tech space. While not traditionally used as an employee review community, Reddit is also a great platform for learning more about company culture. You can also check out job boards and Facebook groups that cater to the LGBTQ+ community, but be sure your research extends beyond the search engine, as the barrier to entry for inclusion on these job boards is typically quite low.
Speak with LGBTQ+ employees to learn more about the company’s practices.
Beyond online communities, it’s also worth talking one-on-one with current and former employees to glean an insider’s perspective on the company culture. As a LinkedIn Top Voice, I’m partial to using that platform to identify and contact people to set up informational interviews; however, coaching clients have also had success reaching out to people on Instagram, Discord, and Reddit, among other social networks. If you need some inspiration, you can build off this template when reaching out. Once you set up a call, here are some questions worth considering:
- How would you describe [Company]’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community?
- What was your experience like working at [Company]?
- Was there anything you wish you would have known before you joined the company?
Conduct your due diligence during the interview to assess LGBTQ-friendliness.
Importantly, your company research shouldn’t stop once you land an interview at a company of interest. Instead, you want to ask targeted questions during the interview to learn whether this is a company that aligns with your values, will be welcoming, and is truly inclusive. I recommend asking open-ended questions that require the interviewer to provide specific examples of the company’s commitment to LGBTQ inclusion, rather than close-ended questions that can be answered with a yes/no response that can be easier for them to fake. Here are some sample questions worth considering:
- How does [Company] support its LGBTQ+ employees?
- What does LGBTQ+ diversity training look like at [Company]?
- What is the makeup of the leadership team and board at [Company]?
Trust your intuition when assessing a potential employer’s LGBTQ-friendliness.
Lastly, listen to your gut when researching companies, speaking with current and former employees, and navigating the interview process. If you have an off feeling about the employer and their commitment to LGBTQ-friendliness, proceed with caution, ask yourself whether you can really imagine yourself working there, and don’t be afraid to conduct additional research into the company. And on a final note, please know that there is an LGBTQ-friendly employer out there that will respect and value the whole you. You’ve got this!