One of the most important business reasons for companies to embrace diversity and inclusion is to better understand and cater to increasingly diverse markets. We often talk about this benefit with respect to diverse racial and ethnic groups, i.e., it’s easier to understand and market to Latinx consumers when your staff includes Latinx team members who have a voice in those marketing decisions. But there are, of course, other elements of diversity as well, including age, gender, and sexual orientation.
Sexual Orientation Attitude Shifts
It’s this last element of diversity – sexual orientation – that companies should be paying especially close attention to, and it’s one that is influenced by age as well. Many Millennials and Gen Xers can still remember the conversations around LGBT issues in the mid-to-late 1990s, including the bombshell of Ellen coming out and the Clinton Administration’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy for military service.
Anti-homosexuality laws, for example those prohibiting sodomy, were still on the books in many U.S. states, and gay marriage wasn’t legal in any U.S. state, let alone the vast majority of the world. While homosexuality was becoming a more mainstream topic, it remained largely on the fringes.
Just 25 years later, attitudes towards homosexuality and related issues, such as gender identity, have changed remarkably. Same-sex marriage is legal across the United States, thanks to a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision, and in a growing number of jurisdictions around the world; LGBT characters are common in all forms of media; and one in six adult members of Generation Z identify as LGBT, according to a recent Gallup poll.
Inclusion—As We’ve Long Said—Is a Business Imperative
That last statistic should catch the attention of marketers and business leaders in general for a couple of reasons.
First, the significant increase in the proportion of young adults identifying as LGBT compared to previous generations means that the overall population of the United States is likely to have increasing numbers of LGBT members, if the current trend continues.
Additionally, Generation Z, continuing its steady march towards workplace dominance, may be a crucial demographic for employers to focus on as they seek to better understand their LGBT audience—consumers and staff.
Diversity has a wide array of parameters. All are important. All require a focus on inclusion, equity and belonging. Be inclusive!