LGBTI+ inclusion in the spotlight
Why should your sexuality or gender identity be relevant at work? This is the question that Jojanneke van der Toorn, Professor by special appointment of LGBT workplace inclusion at Leiden University, addressed in her keynote at the annual Workplace Pride Conference on Friday 23 June 2017 in Brussels.
‘We know from what little research there is that there is a lot of work to be done to promote the workplace inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people,’ said Jojanneke van der Toorn. Van der Toorn was one of the main speakers at the annual conference on workplace pride in Brussels. This is an important subject: according to statistics from the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), 20% of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees in the Netherlands suffer from burnout symptoms, compared to 12% of heterosexual employees.
There are also significant differences if we look at workplace harassment, Van der Toorn explained. ‘Interestingly, new research has shown that LGB employees who are not out at work experience more harassment than those who are. This might seem counter-intuitive, but could indicate that hiding your sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression could create barriers and obstacles that negatively impact how you are perceived by others in the workplace.’
Impact on work
Van der Toorn continued: ‘Being out affects other aspects of your work. Many people relate being out to sexual behaviour and are therefore dismissive of the importance of LGBTI+ workplace inclusion – “I don’t talk about my sexual experiences at work, so why should they?” But being out goes much further than sharing one’s sexual preferences. We unconsciously share a lot about ourselves at work. This builds trust, strengthens working relationships and increases satisfaction. Not being out at work means we cannot, for example, share interests or activities that include our partner. This directly impacts how we feel and function at work.’
LGBTI+ inclusion at Leiden University
On behalf of Leiden University Jasper Bitter (Policy Adviser at Student Support Services) and Pauline Vincenten (co-organiser of the LGBTI+ core team that is in the making) attended the conference. Jasper Bitter: ‘Leiden University already has a strong student network, Leiden University Pride, and staff are also welcome to attend its events. But we would like to create an active LGBTI+ core team to increase the visibility and inclusion of LGBTI+ employees at the University and connect to other networks.’ Bitter and Vincenten found the conference very inspiring. ‘It provided us with many practical tools that will help us set up and maintain an LGBTI network. Our aim for now is to find ambassadors who are enthusiastic about diversity and LGBTI+ inclusion.’
Alongside the formation of an LGBTI+ core team, there is another noteworthy development: Leiden University Pride will launch an LGBTI+ peer support programme at the Leiden University Meeting Point in September. The aim of the programme is to provide students with an easily accessible opportunity to talk about their sexual orientation, gender identity and related topics with a peer.
Want to brainstorm about how to make Leiden University more inclusive? Want to be an LGBTI+ role model for our students? Want to strengthen the University’s ties with its pink allies? Join the LGBTI+ brainstorming session in September! Send an email to Jasper Bitter for more information.
Are you a student and do you need support? If so, please contact the University’s Student Support Services. Alternatively, you can contact COC Leiden. More information about the Leiden University Pride peer support programme will follow soon.