It’s Pride Month! While our allyship with the LGBTQIA+ community is a year-round commitment, this month is a reminder to share best practices for how organizations can make their mobility processes as inclusive as possible, eliminating the most common barriers for diverse talent.
These changes often start with cultivating a company culture that prioritizes a sense of belonging for everyone, which – and we can’t stress this enough – feeds directly into a company’s long-term success. Because a diverse, equitable culture that encourages people to bring their authentic selves to work leads to a happier, engaged, more inspired workforce.
In this post, Melissa Gunshon, our Texas-based Business Travel Coordinator and passionate DE&I advocate, weighs in on the present state of mobility for employees in the LGBTQIA+ space, the notable challenges faced, and the questions that companies need to be addressing to level the playing field.
With Covid sufficiently in everyone’s rearview mirror, the global demand for qualified people to work internationally has increased. So, taking the steps to make mobility inclusive of all talent isn’t just a human issue, but it’s a way to tap into a valuable resource in the global talent pool.
At present, many countries are taking legal steps to ensure that, from an administrative perspective, same-sex couples are not presented with additional hurdles when it comes to travel or entry to the country. In certain countries where same-sex relationships were decriminalized as recently as 2009, companies with global mobility programs are taking the initiative to set up networks for their LGB employees based in those countries to help them navigate these new systems and to offer a social (and support) group upon their arrival. According to research, the experience of relocating LGB families within these countries has been overwhelmingly positive, with LGB expats sharing that their accompanying partners established their own interests and networks and have found the overall experience of global mobility as enriching to their lives and family.
But the journey remains challenging (and risky) for LGBTQIA+ expatriate workers offered assignments in countries in which same-sex relationships are punishable by death. Not only do these countries lack on-the-ground support systems, but these employees risk facing discrimination and prejudice, security and safety concerns, and reduced access to family benefits and entitlements automatically afforded to heterosexual colleagues. Whilst there is some intersectionality in these challenges with their heterosexual colleagues, the main difference is the serious consequences involved.
One of the key priorities of global mobility programs is to prioritize the safety and security of assignees. The Duty of Care protocol for an LGBTQIA+ expatriate may look a little different, and understanding these nuances is a critical part of providing inclusive support and a great employee experience.
Some critical questions that need to be addressed (as early as possible) are:
LGBTQIA+ employees will have vastly different experiences when it comes to international assignments; lean into learning from their experiences to understand what factors can influence the experience of your LGBTQIA+ talent, how your policies can offer more support to address these gaps, and how non-LGBTQIA+ staff can be better allies while working abroad.
Here are some of the top ways that you can eliminate the most common mobility barriers and challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ talent.
Revisit Hiring Practices
Diversity and inclusion are not mutually exclusive. DE&I objectives to the forefront of your hiring strategy – and ensuring that your hiring practices are free of biases or barriers for LGBTQIA+ talent – is a necessary first step to developing a diverse and inclusive mobility program.
The Freedom to Refuse
To develop a mobility program that is inclusive as possible, don’t neglect the refusal process. Employees who turn down an assignment should not fear that their decision will negatively impact their career. Alongside creating a workplace environment in which global mobility is encouraged, an employee should also feel comfortable declining an assignment without fear of damaging their career prospects or opportunities for promotion.
A thoughtful refusal process engages the employee in career mapping, guides them towards other up-skilling opportunities, and offers alternative avenues to advance (and thrive)!
Supportive Home Finding Solutions
Some assignment destinations pose a more significant risk for LGBTQIA+ families. So, when it comes to the home-finding process, ensure that the destination agent working with the LGBTQIA+ couple has a comprehensive understanding of any safety and security challenges, particularly in more conservative regions. Customized solutions are vital in these scenarios to ensure that the neighborhood and recommended housing options are suitable, secure, and meet the unique needs of the relocating family.
Consider the Assignee’s Homecoming
Global assignments should be viewed from a 360-degree lens. The hiring and relocation to a new country are important, but so is the employee’s experience upon their return home. How inclusive is your repatriation process? Some assignees will face similar talent issues rejoining the company, and country, upon return, so ensure that they are supported with the same resources and connections that they may have received in their host country.
Mind Your Language
Gendered language within policies can be a barrier for LGBTQIA+ mobile employees and their families. After all, not everyone’s family fits a standard definition, which can impact who can accompany the employee, the eligibility of benefits, and, ultimately, the employee experience.
Many of Weichert’s clients are moving to a neutral approach in policies, removing he/she, simply referring to the person as you and your, taking on a bias-free, friendly tone. Whatever language aligns with your company’s philosophy and culture, it’s always a good idea to include company legal and compliance resources in the final decision to ensure adherence to all applicable laws.
The fight for equality, inclusion, and visibility of the LGBTQIA+ community doesn’t end in June, nor should our allyship. Weichert Workforce Mobility is dedicated to listening, learning, and taking action towards making work happen for everyone, year-round. For more insight on how to look at your mobility program through a DE&I lens, reach out to our team. We’d love to chat.
McPhail, R., McNulty, Y., & Hutchings, K. (2016). Lesbian and gay expatriation: opportunities, barriers and challenges for global mobility. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27(3), 382–406. https://doi-org.lopes.idm.oclc.org/10.1080/09585192.2014.941903
PLEASE NOTE: The data and stories presented here are primarily from the LGB community (Lesbian, Gay and Bi), as there remains a lack of research reflecting the experience of those who identify in additional parts of the Queer community. Academic researchers continue to look for expat TQIAA+ members to present their stories on global mobility, and we hope to leverage this research soon to ensure their unique needs are addressed in the mobility process.