Companies & Industries

LGBT employees find work less welcoming than their straight colleagues think

Two-thirds of respondents feel more could be done to make LGBT employees feel welcome in Canadian companies

Toronto may be hosting World Pride next week, but Canadian businesses need to improve their diversity practices, according to a new survey by food services and facilities management firm Sodexo Canada.

Two-thirds of respondents said Canadian businesses need to do more to make LGBT employees feel welcome, with 48% believing their own employer needed to make an increased effort. Those numbers were notably higher for LGBT respondents, with 81% seeking increased action from employers generally and 59% suggesting improvements were possible at their own place of work.

Chart showing perceptions of workplace diversity by heterosexual and LGBT employees

While LGBT inclusion has been a winning stance for companies from a marketing standpoint—several major companies made a public showing of support for LGBT rights during the Sochi Olympics earlier this year—the survey results suggest that companies have some work to do to make employees feel welcomed within their workplaces.

The attitude of senior leadership is key to promoting more inclusive workplace environments, according to Dean Johnson, President and CEO of Sodexo Canada. He suggested that organizations could emulate Sodexo’s network groups that promote diversity and inclusiveness, including Pride for LGBT issues and a Native American and Aboriginal Council.

“Diversity is natural, it’s what Mother Nature does. Inclusion is a choice, and I think it’s upon organizations to choose to be inclusive,” Johnson says. “I think the survey overall showed that progress is being made around LGBT issues specifically, and I think it showed there are still more opportunities for organizations to be inclusive.”

The Sodexo Workplace Diversity Survey also indicated that Canadians think an inclusive work environment leads to better results. Companies that treat employees equally regardless of sexual orientation, race, culture or religion were rated more likely to be successful by 87% of those surveyed.

Johnson says the study, conducted by Leger, will be repeated in future years, with 2014 serving as a benchmark.