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LGBTQ+ Challenges + Strategies in Hiring, Recruitment

LGBTQ Untapped Talent

June 29, 2020

Did you know that 20% of LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination when applying for jobs? Or that nearly one in 10 LGBTQ employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming?

The Greater Des Moines Partnership recently held the “Untapped Talent — LGBTQ+” webinar featuring guest speakers to discuss business hiring and retainment issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Dr. Erin Lain, Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) at Drake University and Partnership Inclusion Council member, and Greg Lin, assessment coordinator at Drake University and Partnership inclusion council member, lead the webinar. Panelists include:

Why Inclusion Matters

Currently, millennials (those under 35) are driving the increasing percentage of adults in the U.S. who identify as LGBTQ+. Employers need to pay attention to this population and become proactive in providing policies to protect their workforce.

Challenges in Hiring

Reyes shares the barriers for the LGBTQ+ community surrounding hiring. From deciding when to ‘come out’ in the hiring process, as well as understanding any negative consequences that could come from ‘coming out’, the fear of how LGBTQ+ employees may be treated in the workplace is very real, even after Iowa’s 2007 ruling protecting civil rights of sexual orientation and gender identification. Employers need to know up front where companies stand in protecting the LGBTQ+ community.

Daniels says for the trans community, there are the additional needs for those who have yet to transition, surrounding issues such as medical resources, insurance policies and, for some, name change. For those who have already transitioned, will the hiring person find their previous name in old records? Safety is the number one thought for a potential LGBTQ+ potential employee.

Reyes-Snyder highlights safety as well. In working with the Greater Des Moines (DSM) community, she says that if someone chooses not to work with her because of her orientation, she must consider whether her workplace will stand with her in support?

Strategies/Policies to Meet Challenges

Reyes-Snyder says that accountability is most important when it comes to safety and inclusion strategies. One way organizations can ensure accountability is to have a zero tolerance policy and a plan of consequence for perpetrators. By stating in the employee handbook that employees making derogatory remarks and creating hostile environment will face disciplinary action including firing will send a strong message to employees on accountability while providing protection to the victim.

Reyes touches on the inclusivity of job applications. Does the application affirm the potential hire as a human being? Review your hiring and recruitment documents. Consider removing the option of “Other” and adding in more specific options that show inclusivity is understood at your company.

When it comes to transitioning employees, you want to already have a plan in place for how to offer assistance during that time. Transitioning is very personal. It’s important to support what the transitioning employee is comfortable with. Consider:

  • What’s the timeline?
  • Is there a name change? Pronoun change?
  • How should info be released to other employees?
  • Are they comfortable with answering questions about the transition or not?

Daniels says that while policies are important, companies need to concentrate on culture and have both in place to be inclusive.

Reyes explains what One Iowa can do when they come into a place of employment, from training to policy changes and more. Panelists also comment on workplace challenges that make LGBTQ+ employees leave the company and how hiring managers should approach an interview when it comes to assuming pronouns.

Watch the entire webinar below:


You can find more information in The Partnership’s Untapped Talent Toolkit.

Job opportunities and career resources are abundant in Greater Des Moines (DSM). Whether you're looking to find an internship, a job, develop professionally or grow as a student, we have the resources to help you thrive.

Sanjita Pradhan

Sanjita Pradhan is the director of diversity and inclusion at the Greater Des Moines Partnership where she leads our internal and external DEI strategies to ensure DSM USA is welcoming and inclusive to all individuals.