Diversity has become increasingly prominent on the media and cultural agendaand, whilst there have been great strides made to promote and celebrate diversity in workforces across the world, there is still work to be done.
That’s one of the reasons International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) was created. It aims to highlight the discrimination and persecution still experienced by the LGBT+ community.While huge improvements have been made in the advancement of LGBT+ rights, it is important to remember the distance left to cover. When almost 1 in 3 LGBT+ police officers and 1 in 4 teachers in the UK still feel the need to hide their sexualities, the need to promote tolerance at work across all industries is as important now as ever.
Sadly there is evidence of a lack of adequate support networks in many workplaces, with 1 in 8 lesbian, gay and bi employees not confident in reporting homophobic bullying. We believe that everyone has the right to be treated fairly, and that a diverse workforce is a better workforce that leads to more creative and innovative thinking within teams. Rather than drawing from selective life experiences, diverse and happy co-workers are able to challenge each other to think and work differently.
The LGBT+ community still faces many challenges in the workplace, even in relatively tolerant countries such as the UK. Those who identify as LGBT+ are far more at risk of discrimination and intimidation at work, with many refusing to reveal their sexual orientations to colleagues for fear of the reaction. Even amongst LGBT+ positive employers, only 56% of LGBT+ employees feel comfortable coming out at work, highlighting the ongoing importance of supporting diversity.
More than just lending our voice in support of IDAHOT, IKEA is committed to ensuring that every co-worker has the same rights regardless of their sexual orientation, this includes the same paternity/maternity leaveand also a days’ annual leave for a co-worker’s wedding or civil union day. Our active policies of inclusion have had positive impacts on our co-workers. A co-worker from Dublin was guarded around his sexuality when he joined IKEA, having had negative experiences in the past. However, now he feels comfortable in allowing his “husband to be part of [his] story”, which in turn has allowed him to be “more comfortable working within [his] team as [he] wasn't hiding [his] true self.”
Diversity in the workplace is about providing equal opportunities to all people – regardless of age, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, or any other dimension of their identity. And it is not just beneficial to our co-workers. With 1 in 2 young people saying they are not 100% heterosexual, a culture of inclusion can greatly improve the experience of our customers. The diverse nature of our co-workers represents the customers visiting our stores every day.
We would encourage employers to embrace workers from different backgrounds and for them to be themselves and work together, utilising their similarities and differences, to create a better work environment that will benefit not only the individual, but society at large. The uniqueness of every individual can only serve to make the world a better place, and that is reflected in our wonderful and diverse team. It should be every employer’s task to bring the best out of their employees, and we believe that the perfect place to start is by simply letting people be who they are.