Even after a historic victory in the U.S. Supreme Court, many LGBTQ+ employees say they continue to fear bringing their full selves to work.
More than 26% of LGBTQ+ employees expressed that view in a recent survey by Oklahomans for Equality, one of the oldest and largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations in the U.S., despite the Court's ruling that sexual orientation and gender identity are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
"Most LGBTQ+ people are very aware of what their company's position is on sexual orientation and gender identity," said Toby Jenkins, the group's executive director. "Things really begin to improve when companies engage in greater discussions around diversity and inclusion."
Jenkins' presentation, "Defining LGBTQ+," was part of a Pride Month panel discussion hosted in June by the Practicing Inclusion community of practice at BOK Financial. A panel of BOK Financial employees representing the LGBTQ+ community—individuals, family members and allies—shared personal observations, emotional stories and lessons learned from their personal experiences.
“Each of us as individuals are kind of small, broken pieces of glass. We're all unique and different and we're beautiful individually, but when you put us together, it creates a masterpiece. Like a mosaic, no one element is more important than the other; rather, they all work together to make the piece unique and beautiful.”- Lesli Autry, securities services operations specialist, BOK Financial®
Courageous conversations in the workplace help to foster a culture of inclusion and understanding, said Janet Huber, diversity and inclusion director at BOK Financial. "These conversations help us understand the needs of others, and they enable us all to become more comfortable opening up about the things that make us truly unique and special."
The events started a workplace dialogue focused on topics like coming out, bringing your whole self to work and how allies can lend support.
Steve Wyett, chief investment strategist at BOK Financial, introduced himself to the panel as "straight, white, male, ally." He went on to share that he is also a friend, coworker, brother and a dad. "I want my daughter to have a life that she loves. She loves herself, she loves somebody else who loves her. Who that is, what it looks like, that doesn't matter."
The discussions also served as a reminder of the work to be done before everyone feels like they can live their authentic lives—both in the personal and work realms. "I want and need the people I work with to know who I am and to consider the language they use," said Lynn Lovat, policy and risk assessment officer at BOK Financial. "People at work always ask, ‘Are you married?' Yes. ‘What does your husband do?' It's important to think about word choices. Words matter."
People who are happy and fulfilled are going to do a better job, said Wyett. "And so there is a business reason for us to make sure that we are sensitive and caring about the entire person who is working for us—with us—as we try to move the organization forward."