The Importance of a Gay & Lesbian Employee Network
By Darrell Schuurman Co-Founder, Canadian Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce | August 09, 2010
I think that if you ask any senior executive of almost any company today, "What's your most important asset", they'll say their employees. Especially within the tourism industry, employees play the most important role in the services that you deliver. But in today's competitive industry, good employees are hard to find, and equally hard to keep. I'm not going to profess to be an HR expert, but employers that want to attract and retain employees have to understand and diversify their employee base and provide incentives that are of value to them.
Having a diverse work force is extremely important for any business. A diverse work force is able to respond to your diverse clientele. They have a better understanding of your customers, while bringing new ideas and creativity to the workplace. Successful companies are also understanding that diversity must include lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-persons (LGBT) employees, and that programs, opportunities and incentives must be put into place and exist for them as well.
Incentives such as bonuses and wage increase are important, but more and more employees are looking for reasons that speak specifically to them, that are of personal value. What you're seeing now is the establishment of employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide a group of employees an opportunity to create an internal network based on common attributes. What these groups do is encourage and establish a sense of diversity within the workforce. Examples of common ERGs include Women, Latino, and African American groups. And now, you're starting to see a growth in groups for the LGBT employees, often referred to as Gay and Lesbian Employee Networks (GLEN).
More gay and lesbian employees are living openly gay lives, and demand to be fully open and accepted at work. Unfortunately, in some countries it is still legal to be fired for being gay, so companies that are seen as embracing and empowering their LGBT staff, and where everyone can be open without fear, are seen as progressive and inclusive companies. The establishment of a GLEN is one way for companies to achieve this, and in turn stand a better opportunity to attract both employees and customers.
According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), more and more big companies are creating gay and lesbian employee groups. From a survey of 400 large companies last year, 63% of them have a GLEN. Technology and financial-services companies have typically been quicker to introduce these groups, like IBM and Wells Fargo, but in the tourism industry there are also good examples like American Airline's GLEAM and Kimpton's K-GLEN.
So what is a GLEN?