How can organisations improve LGBTQ+ representation in leadership positions? 1 Jun 2021

In the past few decades, the need for diversity in organisations has shifted to the top of the agenda. There is now an expectation from candidates, competitors, the public, media and politicians that institutions place diversity and inclusion at the heart of everything they do, and this is something that all organisations, no matter their size or sector, need to be constantly improving.  

From non-profits to research institutions, many organisations have made great strides towards equality, but there is still much more that can – and must – be done to improve LGBTQ+ representation. So, what practical steps can organisations take to increase diversity in leadership positions?  

Think about the candidates’ journey

When working with potential candidates, it is important that organisations think about LGBTQ+ people from the outset. From the language and photographs in recruitment materials, to phrases and idioms used in interviews, organisations must be mindful of how they interact with people with different backgrounds.

It is important that hiring panels make no assumptions about sexuality or gender identification, ensuring that they do not bring bias into their decisions. At Perrett Laver, we recognise this important need, which is why we are implementing bias and inclusion training for board members and clients around the world, and develop relationships based on trust with our clients so that we can challenge them appropriately and constructively.   

Fostering an inclusive environment

Not feeling comfortable to share one’s identity at work can take a huge toll on wellbeing, and so it is absolutely essential that organisations foster an inclusive and welcoming environment – from the recruitment process through to the policies that are implemented. Without these important considerations, many talented people may be discouraged from applying or working at the chosen organisation, limiting the chance of increasing LGBTQ+ representation and the immense benefits that a diverse workforce brings.

A recent study by McKinsey found that LGBTQ+ women are also more than twice as likely as straight women to feel as though they cannot talk about themselves or their life outside work—and more likely than straight women or LGBTQ+ men to report they feel that they need to provide more evidence of their competence. This example speaks to the need for supportive and inclusive workplace policies in order that all colleagues feel valued and respected.

Reconsider leadership trajectory

When making hiring decisions, it is also vital that organisations evaluate and place emphasis on leadership potential, rather than solely proven experience. By opening minds to the value of transferrable skills and experience, organisations will be able to become more inclusive and learn from those with other relevant experience even if it might be less “traditional” and a breadth of perspective across organisations can foster genuine and open debate and ensure that institutions realise their full potential for impact.

If organisations do bring in those with different experiences, it is critical that there are measures put in place to set these individuals up for success, for example with mentoring programmes that will support them to succeed.   

By improving LGBTQ+ representation, organisations around the world stand to gain so much. New voices and different perspectives can transform organisations, taking them down routes that they would never have considered before or attracting diverse talent that identifies with a more representative leadership team.

We support our clients to find extraordinary leaders who can have profound impacts on our society, which is why diverse leadership is so essential. The legacy of education, for example, can stay with people for a lifetime, and so ensuring that these institutions are inclusive and open is critical for inspiring and enabling the next generation.

Encouragingly, our clients want to hold themselves more accountable, and by working together we are making great progress to ensure that the recruitment process is more open to LGBTQ+candidates. Ultimately, we are aiming to work with organisations to find diverse leaders who can transform our societies and make them more reflective of the world we live in.


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