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Pride and Prejudice: How Unconscious Bias Can Impact LGBTQ+ Employees

In a world where judgements are made on an ever increasing frequent basis, unconscious bias is a phenomena which impacts each and every one of us. Despite the hefty strides made in promoting DEI, unconscious bias remains a significant barrier, particularly for LGBTQ+ employees. Unless we are conscious in understanding and educating one another in how those around us can be affected by unconscious bias, as a society, we will never be able to create a world where each individual is given equal opportunity and treated in the same manner. 

Understanding Unconscious Bias 

Unconscious bias is defined as the attitudes and stereotypes we display when interacting with others- attitudes and stereotypes which often affect our actions, understanding and decisions, despite their unconscious nature. These biases are ingrained in us through societal norms, media portrayals, and personal experiences. Often our behaviour is changed by these biases, sometimes in such minor ways it is impossible for us to notice, but sometimes our preconceived ideas can end up creating large unintended consequences. For instance, when evaluating a job candidate, a manager may select a candidate with a background similar to themselves, or similar interests, neglecting other, perhaps better suited, individuals, simply because they have less in common. 

LGBTQ+ Workplace Challenges 

Discrimination, microaggressions, and a lack of representation are common issues that can create a hostile or unwelcoming environment, and it is often found that these impact employees who identify as being LGBTQ+. Often, as a result of these unpleasant phenomena, LGBTQ+ individuals do not feel comfortable to openly reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity, showing us that the industry, and society as a whole, have much to do in order to create a place where everyone feels comfortable to express themselves.  

Intersectionality and Bias 

Intersectionality is a concept which allows us to understand that it is more than just one aspect that makes up a person’s experience of discrimination and privilege. Sexuality, socio-economic status, gender and race all make up part of a person’s unique identity. For LGBTQ+ employees who also belong to other marginalized groups, the impact of unconscious bias can be compounded. For example, a queer person of colour might face racial biases in addition to biases related to their sexual orientation, resulting in a more complex and challenging work experience. 

Effects of Unconscious Bias on LGBTQ+ Employees 

Unconscious bias can manifest in many ways, affecting LGBTQ+ employees' experiences and opportunities: 

  • Hiring and Promotion: Biases often affect promotions and hiring within a business, with certain roles perceived to be better suited to a ‘certain kind’ of individual, often excluding those from a LGBTQ+ background. 
  • Team Dynamics: Stereotypes and assumptions about LGBTQ+ individuals can affect team dynamics and collaboration. Certain tasks may be perceived being better performed by specific groups, and LGBTQ+ individuals may be looked over and neglected. 
  • Psychological Impact: Navigating a workplace where unconscious bias is prevalent can take a psychological toll. LGBTQ+ employees may feel the need to hide their true selves, leading to stress, burnout, and a diminished sense of belonging. 

Strategies for Mitigating Unconscious Bias 

Addressing unconscious bias requires intentional and sustained efforts at both individual and organizational levels. Here are some strategies to consider: 

  • Diverse Hiring Practices: Develop and implement hiring practices that promote diversity. This could include using AI to assess candidates’ first interviews, minimising human bias. It could also include removing photographs and names from the recruitment process, allowing recruiters to judge candidates based solely on their skills and attributes.   
  • Training and Education: Implement training programs that raise awareness about unconscious bias and its impact. Workshops and seminars can help shed light on common unconscious biases, and as a result individuals may notice and correct assumptions they have. 
  • Safe Spaces and Open Dialogue: Create safe spaces where employees can openly discuss their experiences and challenges. Encouraging open dialogue fosters understanding and empathy among colleagues. 
  • Inclusive Policies: Review and update company policies to ensure they are inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ employees. This includes anti-discrimination policies, benefits for same-sex partners, and support for transitioning employees. 

Conclusion 

Unconscious bias is a pervasive issue that can significantly impact the experiences of everyone, but specifically LGBTQ+ employees. By recognizing and addressing these biases, we can create workplaces where everyone feels valued, respected, and empowered to bring their authentic selves to work. Promoting diversity, equality, and inclusion is not just the right thing to do—it’s essential for fostering innovation, collaboration, and success in today's diverse world. 

Visit dayonework.com to see what we are doing to combat unconscious bias in the workplace and beyond.