Difest Speaker Series

Headshot of Vanessa Sheridan

Equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees – Vanessa Sheridan

National Transgender Workplace Expert, Vanessa Sheridan & Associates, (USA)

What do CEO’s need to do to create equal opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees? 

  • Make sure your organization is completely inclusive for all LGBTQ+ people, not just some. If you’re aren’t fully inclusive, then it’s not really inclusion at all. 
  • Assess where you are currently, then resolve to make improvements on an ongoing basis. Invest in long-term, gradual improvements that will add lasting value. Never think that you’ve arrived and no longer need to work at improving anymore. 
  • Actively demonstrate that your organization sees, respects, and values LGBTQ+ culture. 
  • When LGBTQ+ employees speak out about workplace problems, issues, or concerns, listen and then act. Don’t ignore those people, and don’t sweep things under the rug. 
  • Create and support affinity/employee resource groups.  
  • Add diversity and inclusion metrics into performance evaluations. 
  • Ensure that company benefits and opportunities are LGBTQ+-inclusive. From health insurance to family leave to promotions and all other areas of organizational interest, be sure not to discriminate. 

Is there a recent DEI activity that you championed? What were some of the challenges along the way? How did you overcome them? 

  • I recently did a training for the Chicago office of a large international pharmaceutical corporation. One of their employees—a staff attorney–transitioned from male to female, and I was asked to provide trans awareness training to the staff.  
  • Almost always in such cases, the biggest challenge is overcoming ignorance and the fears/misunderstandings that accompany it.  
  • The antidote to ignorance and fear is education. Once people become aware of the facts, the fear tends to dissipate. That was exactly what happened in this situation, and the transgender employee’s work situation is going very well.