LGBTQ+ Knowledge for the HR Employee: A Conversation with #SHRM19 Speaker Tara Taylor


Tara Taylor, Education & Outreach Director for the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights and Program Director for the Maryland Equity & Inclusion Leadership Program, is presenting at the 2019 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition (#SHRM19). Her session, LGBTQ+ Knowledge for the HR Professional: Awareness, Etiquette and Best Practices, will help HR professionals develop effective ways to address questions and issues involving LGBTQ+ workers.

She was kind enough to talk with me recently about her upcoming session at #SHRM19:

On workplaces that work for everyone:

"Research shows that half of employees across all workplaces are hiding their true sexual orientation or identity at work and are often doing so out of fear of reprisal. That means you have a workforce that really doesn’t feel like they can come in and be their full, authentic selves, and the impact of that is pretty devastating."

It’s awkward to distinguish between micro and macro levels of exclusion because it’s all harmful - to both individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning + other identities) and to organizations who employ sexual minorities. So if you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community often times this shows up in small ways; where you're not invited to the lunch room for lunch conversation, you're not invited out for happy hour after work, your voice isn't brought into conversations in team meetings, people whisper in the hallways or ask very inappropriate questions of you, or start to make assumptions about what they think is your sexual orientation or identity and attach really harmful stereotypes to that.

On a macro level, things have really stepped up because hate crimes are on the rise across the country and one of the top groups that is being victimized is members of the LGBTQ+ community. So it happens in small ways at work, where people’s work is being sabotaged or they are excluded from decision making, but they are also victims of outright illegal employment discrimination by co-workers and employers. When you see hate crimes out in the community, the same people committing these crimes are in workplaces where hate and bias can show up as well.

So I think it’s understandable that close to 50 percent  of employees are fearful of sharing their true identity, and then in turn, the other impact is that people don’t feel like they can come to work and be comfortable sharing other parts of their life.

When that’s the case, how committed can people truly be to the mission of the organization? People will always be looking for another job; one where they can be accepted and included and they’re probably not going to be willing to go the extra mile for colleagues who don’t respect them. These things get magnified at the organizational level.”

Effects on the individual:

“Even though we’ve seen lots of strides out there in the media, for example Target has their Rainbow Campaign, Coca Cola’s got their signs, and everyone wants to wave their flag during Pride Month in June, what really happens is that individuals are still not treated in a respectful, inclusive manner.

Sometimes this happens with microaggressions and language in the workplace, for example, if someone’s being invited to the company picnic they may be told to feel free to bring their wife or husband, without thought given to the idea that not only may that person have a same gender partner, but also that up until very recently, same gender couples were not permitted to get married, and so they may not be married to their partner.

You have to go beyond what I think is more accepted in terms of lesbian-gay terminology. What if you have a person who identifies as gender nonconforming, non-binary, or bisexual, asexual, or trans? These are terms that have been out there a while, but the general public aren’t as familiar with them so it can seem confusing and daunting for workplaces to learn this inclusive terminology.  It’s also common for non-LGBTQ persons to want to know a LGBTQ person’s sexual proclivities, and even go so far as to feel it’s okay to ask them directly about that, when we don’t do that to heterosexual or cisgender folks. It’s just plain inappropriate.

There’s a notion from some that once you know someone identifies as LGBTQ, their private life is on display, and people are either mad at the person for not publicly sharing their identity, or mad at them for oversharing, even if it’s as simple as having a picture of their same sex partner on their desk. Either way people get offended, so I think for the individual worker, it becomes extremely stressful to connect with others in the workplace.”

Her session:

Ready to learn more? Be sure to attend her session! Here are the details:

LGBTQ+ Knowledge for the HR Professional: Awareness, Etiquette and Best Practices in LVCC N258-260. Monday, June 24 from 7:15 a.m.- 8:15 a.m.

Workplace application:

Learn proactive and responsive strategies for workplace scenarios involving LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer, other) employees.

Efforts have been made in recent years to advance equality for gender and sexual minorities, but there are still many instances where LGBTQ+ people find themselves excluded, unwelcome and uncomfortable in the workplace. According to the Human Rights Campaign, an average of 50 percent of employees report hiding their sexual orientation at work due to hostility, prejudice, discrimination and mistreatment. This interactive session helps attendees develop a greater understanding of the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals. Explore and discuss specific HR scenarios that involve LGBTQ+ workers, and learn to develop strategies to create more welcoming and inclusive workplaces.

Learning Objectives:

  • Become more familiar with LGBTQ+-inclusive terminology and language, including appropriate pronoun usage.
  • Learn the differences in the dimensions of biological sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
  • Hear statistical data on LGBTQ+ workers and workplace trends.
  • Develop effective ways to address questions and issues involving LGBTQ+ workers.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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