Two members of the LGBTQ community holdings hands

Reimagining Your Workplace in Rainbow

A Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion for HR, People, and DEI Leaders 🌈

From policies to benefits to workplace culture, this guide provides a first-of-its-kind exploration of leading practices that will revolutionize workplaces by putting LGBTQ2+ considerations front and centre.

The Future is Fluid and In Colour

With greater visibility and awareness around sexual and gender diversity alongside meaningful cultural change and civil rights victories, many companies are now asking the vital question of how they can best support their LGBTQ2+ employees.

There is growing recognition that workplaces must integrate queer-inclusivity across their everyday business operations and company policies to stay competitive and profitable and attract top talent.

Of course, an even more critical impetus for these transformations beyond the standard “business case” is the desire to create safe and affirming work environments that actively contribute to a more just world while successfully generating revenue.

As more and more studies and surveys illustrate, LGBTQ2+ inclusion should be a priority for any business. Unfortunately, queer employees are reluctant to disclose their identity or actively take measures to downplay it. This significantly impacts their productivity, psychological safety, and future decisions about remaining within an organization.

LGBTQ2+ professionals report countless incidents of discrimination, bias, bullying, and offensive language. In addition, unemployment rates are higher for the LGBTQ2+ community than the general population, and these numbers are even more worrying for transgender people, especially trans people of colour.

A sizeable majority of people report being more likely to support or take a job at a business that has anti-discrimination measures in place for sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Finally, Generation Z composes more and more of the global workforce each year and is the queerest cohort yet. One-third of Generation Z describes their sexuality as not exclusively heterosexual and 35% have stated that they know someone who uses gender neutral pronouns. In addition, people in their twenties are nearly twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ2+ than the generation prior.

This resource, at its core, is an effort to create a comprehensive overview of leading policies and practices relating to LGBTQ2+ workplace inclusion. It can serve as a reference and potential launching point for Human Resources (HR), People, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) leaders, departments, and advocates. 

From LGBTQ2+ Self-ID programs to your company strategy around sharing pronouns, this document provides key considerations to keep at the forefront in fostering LGBTQ2+ inclusion throughout your policies, benefits, and company culture

Each section provides additional articles and thought leadership for anyone interested in delving deeper into the various topics and areas covered. This resource serves to centre queer needs and experiences in your HR and People operations, keeping your company at the cutting-edge of inclusion and better equipping your organization to promote a sense of fairness and belonging in your future workforce.

Too often, unjust politicization and sensationalism relegate sexual and gender diversity to the shadows of office initiatives. Our sexual and gender identities are fundamental parts of who we are - company policies and procedures should be designed not only to accommodate but to celebrate them. 

As a global strategy firm in the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Feminuity wants to ensure through this publication that sexual orientation and gender identity/expression remain critical intersections that professionals advocate for, educate about, and align their operations around.

About the Author

Keith Plummer, MSc, BA, SHRM-CP

Director of Research & Learning

(They, Them, Theirs) 

Keith comes to Feminuity after education in Gender & Sexuality Studies, Sociology, and Social Policy at the College of the Holy Cross & the University of Oxford. At Holy Cross, Keith ushered in policy changes making it one of the first Catholic universities in the US to provide gender inclusive housing accommodations. Keith's undergraduate research focused on the historical evolution of queer identities over the long 20th century, while their Master's thesis explored the recognition of 'chosen family' across select US jurisdictions in workplace leaves and care entitlements.

Keith is a certified Human Resources professional with a deep passion for LGBTQ2+ inclusion. Keith conducted international outreach and research at the Digital Transgender Archive, the first online repository of transgender history, and worked toward global LGBTQ2+ workplace inclusion at Out & Equal, a non-profit based in the Bay Area of California. 

As a queer activist, professional, and scholar, one of Keith’s major goals is to replace reductive and binary thinking with the empathy and complexity embodied in the human experience.

If you wish to reference this work, please use the following citation:

Plummer, K. (2020). A Guide to LGBTQ2+ Inclusion for HR, People, & DEI Leaders: Reimagining Your Workplace in a Rainbow. Feminuity.

Building a Shared Language: Glossary of Terms

Disclaimer: This list is by no means comprehensive. Language is constantly evolving and words concerning identity hold a specific importance for those that embrace a particular label. We encourage you to listen to and prioritize a person’s self-understanding over standard definitions that often sacrifice complexity to be more concise.


An identity term for people who either do not feel sexual attraction or do not feel desire for a sexual partner or partners. Unlike celibacy, which is a choice to abstain from sexual activity, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who asexual people are, just like other sexual orientations. Some asexual individuals may still have romantic attractions.


A term referring to a person who has the capacity to form enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attractions to those of the same gender and those of different genders. People may experience this attraction in differing ways and degrees over their lifetime. People often abbreviate bisexual to bi.


An umbrella term encompassing the many different identities that refer to an experience of attraction to more than one gender or non-monosexuality: bisexual, pansexual, fluid, queer, polysexual, omnisexual, “no labels,” and others. Though not the same, these identities face similar struggles and are vulnerable to biphobia.


The irrational hatred or fear of people who identify as being attracted to more than one gender, such as bisexual, pansexual, queer, or fluid communities.


Referring to a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth. Often abbreviated as cis.


The system of oppression that values cisgender people, upholds the gender binary, and marginalizes, oppresses, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of transgender and non-binary people.


This is when someone intentionally behaves or dresses in a manner that conceals or downplays their identity as a member of the LGBTQ2+ community or another marginalized community. This is often done out of the fear that being authentic will affect their reputation and treatment with colleagues and inhibit their career opportunities. People are less likely to cover in situations where they feel safe, affirmed, and valued.


Referring to a person who only experiences sexual attraction after an emotional bond is formed.


Term referring to people whose enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction is to people of the same gender (e.g., gay man, gay people). Sometimes lesbian is the preferred term for women. This is the preferred term to homosexual.


Socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine. This social construct is often linked to and confused with the biological construct of sex.

Gender Binary

A social construction of gender in which there are two distinct and opposite genders determined by biological sex: male/masculine/men and female/feminine/women. The gender binary erases the experiences of intersex and non-binary people.

Gender Expression

A person’s presentation of their gender. These outward expressions of gender can be intentional or unintentional, and involve one’s mannerisms, hair, speech, clothing, and activities (and more). Gender expression is generally made sense of on scales of masculinity and femininity, which vary historically and by culture.

Gender Identity

A person’s deeply felt and innate sense of their own gender: being a man, a woman, a girl, a boy, non-binary, fluid, in between, or outside of the gender binary. This may or may not correspond to the gender they were assigned at birth.

Gender Neutral Pronouns

A gender neutral or gender inclusive pronoun is a pronoun that does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. The most common gender neutral pronouns in the English language are They, Them, Theirs, but different people embrace other gender neutral pronouns such as Ze, Hir, Hirs.


An identity term for a person who may not identify with and/or express themselves within the gender binary.


The individual, societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices that favour heterosexuality and assume that heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, or acceptable sexual orientation.


The irrational fear, hatred, and intolerance of people who identify as or are perceived as gay or lesbian.


An intersectional approach recognizes that identities (e.g., “queer” and “immigrant”) do not exist independently of each other and that each informs the others. Intersectionality recognizes that people have overlapping identities and lived experiences which complicates their experiences of prejudice and oppression.


Intersex is an umbrella term referring to people who carry variations in their reproductive and sexual anatomy that differ from what is traditionally considered “male” or “female.” These differences can be relating to external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, chromosomes, hormones, and other secondary sex characteristics that develop later in life. This is the preferred term to hermaphrodite.


An identity term for women who are attracted to other women. Some lesbians may prefer to identify as gay or as gay women.


Mx., pronounced as “mix” or “miks,” is an honorific (i.e., Mr., Ms., Mrs., etc.) that is gender neutral. It is often the title of choice for folks who do not identify within the gender binary. E.g., Mx. Jefferson is a great teacher.


Term referring to people who experience their gender identity and/or gender expression as falling outside the categories of man and woman. There are several other terms used to describe gender identities outside of the man/woman binary such as genderqueer, non-conforming, gender expansive, agender, bigender, and more. Non-binary people may or may not identify as transgender.


Out refers to a state of being after someone has publicly disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity. This process is usually known as “coming out.” Coming out is an ongoing process for LGBTQ2+ people who will make decisions throughout their life regarding which circles and spaces they feel comfortable sharing their identity in. “Outing” someone is when a group or individual shares the queer identity of another person without their consent which is a violation of their privacy and can open them up to stigma, prejudice, and discrimination.


Describes a person who experiences enduring physical, romantic, and/or emotional attraction to members of all gender identities/expressions: men, women, non-binary people, transgender individuals, and genderqueer folx.


A term for individuals whose gender identity/expression and/or sexual orientation does not conform to societal norms. This reclaimed term is increasingly being used as an inclusive umbrella term for the LGBTQ2IA+ community.


The process of exploring and discerning one’s own gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation. Some people may also use this term to name their identity within the LGBTQ2IA+ community.

Sex Assigned at Birth

The sex originally listed on someone’s birth certificate that is typically assigned at birth based on a medical examination of the body. Usually classified as either male or female. This designation often determines the gender a child will be raised as.

Sexual Orientation

A person’s sexual and emotional attractions, not necessarily dependent on behaviour. Terms associated with sexual orientation include gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, asexual, and more!


Umbrella term referring to persons who identify with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth. Often abbreviated to trans.


Transitioning is the process of taking steps to live as one’s true gender identity. Transitioning is different for each individual, is not necessarily binary, and may or may not involve medical interventions like taking hormones or having surgery.


The irrational fear, hatred, or intolerance of transgender people.


Umbrella term proposed in 1990 that bridges Indigenous and Western understandings of gender and sexuality. Two-Spirit refers to another gender role that is common among most North American Indigenous peoples, one that has a proper and respected position in most Native societies. Each nation’s understanding of sexual and gender diversity varies widely and is grounded in different spiritual beliefs.

Learn More

Asexuality Visibility & Education Network

Bisexual Resource Center

What ‘Cisgender' Means | NBC Out (Jacob Tobia)

4 Demisexual People Explain What "Demisexuality" Means To Them (Tinder)

InterAct: Advocates for Intersex Youth

Let's Talk About Intersex

What Is Intersectionality? | Queer 101 (The Advocate)

What is the Q? (Out & Equal)

It’s Time to Add 'Mx.' into the Daily Mix of Titles (USA Today)

Welcome Aboard, Mx. (United Airlines)

This Is What Gender-Nonbinary People Look Like (them.)

5 Non-Binary People Explain What “Non-Binary” Means to Them (Tinder)

What Does Pansexual Mean? (Time)

Why Respecting Pronouns Is So Important (NowThis)

Gender Unicorn (Trans Student Education Resources, TSER)

A Map of Gender-Diverse Cultures (PBS)

Global Terms (Digital Transgender Archive)

Non-Binary Gender Identities: A Diverse Global History (Out & Equal)

Transgender, Third Gender, No Gender (Human Rights Watch)

What Does "Two-Spirit" Mean? (InQueery | them.)

BESE Explains Two-Spirit

Supporting Two-Spirit People (Center for American Progress)

Comprehensive* List of LGBTQ+ Vocabulary Definitions

LGBTQ Terminology (Out & Equal)

LGBTQIA Resource Center Glossary (UC Davis)

Leading Policy Practices

Human Resources Information System (HRIS) & Forms

There are a multitude of ways that you can customize your Human Resources Information System (HRIS) & Forms to collect important information for legal compliance, reporting, and employee metrics, while honouring the gender and sexual diversity of your current and incoming workforce.

Key Considerations

Choose an HRIS that includes gender designations beyond the binary and allows you to customize fields. Workday is one example of a platform that models this sort of gender inclusivity.


When collecting data on prefixes and titles for HR documentation, your sales/marketing database, or any sort of event registration, make sure to include the gender neutral honorific Mx.


Incorporate fields for employees to voluntarily list their pronouns on their HRIS profile. Do not use “he/she” in forms, your employee handbook, written policies, or your HRIS -instead use the singular “they” or rephrase to avoid any indication of gender.


Incorporate fields for employees to voluntarily list their chosen name on their HRIS profile, and prioritize this name wherever legally permissible such as on company emails, name badges, website, etc.

Legal Compliance

If for reasons of legal compliance, you are required to collect binary gender information, you should:

  1. Be explicit as to why you must do so.
  2. Include additional fields for employees to list their gender identity and chosen name.

Implementation Recommendations


Express your disappointment through formalized feedback if you are currently on an HRIS that does not allow for the inclusion of non-binary gender identities or any customization of these fields. In the long-term, consider migrating to a new HRIS or moving the process in-house.

Government Agencies 

Reach out to government agencies that require reporting around gender to see what the best way would be to report the gender of non-binary employees.

Legal Implications 

In contexts such as legal contracts, where using the singular “they” might open you to liability due to its ambiguity, do not use he/she. In consultation with a lawyer, consider gender neutral language such as “the applicant,” “the employee” “the individual,” or “the person.”

Be aware that many countries and US states already allow legal non-binary gender registration including Denmark, India, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, California, and others. So, in some instances, omitting non-binary gender designations does not align with prevailing legal nomenclature.

Only including “other” in conjunction with “man” and “woman” categories is not inclusive. Be sure to include “non-binary,” self-report, and “prefer not to answer” fields.

HRIS Form Examples

By UX Collective

HRIS Form Examples show a spot for "preferred name" and a spot to add gender information.

Learn More

Designing Forms for Gender Diversity and Inclusion

Don't Just Add 'Other': How to Make Employment Forms Inclusive (HR Dive)

EEOC Provides Guidance on EEO-1 Filing for Non-Binary Employees

Non-Binary Gender Registration Models in Europe (ILGA - Europe)

How Inclusive Is Your Data? (Journal of AHIMA)


LGBTQ2+ Self-ID refers to the collection of employee information regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (Abbreviated as SOGIE data). Collecting data on the LGBTQ2+ community in your workplace is a crucial first step in understanding the needs and challenges of queer* employees at your company. It also signals to LGBTQ2+ employees that you care about their experiences and outcomes.

Key Considerations


Must be voluntary and confidential. LGBTQ2+ employees must be able to decide whether they want to share their personal data. The utmost care should be taken in making sure the data is secure and remains private.

Data privacy regulations in some countries prohibit employers from collecting SOGIE information from employees; in other countries, there are specific restrictions around asking about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Data should only be shared in an aggregated form that prevents the identification of individuals.

Employees should give explicit permission before their names can be shared for professional development opportunities in a way that would identify their membership in the LGBTQ2+ community.

Businesses should expect significant underreporting when piloting their Self-ID program as it will take time to build confidence that SOGI data will remain private and for employees to trust the goals of the effort.

*Throughout this resource we will occasionally use the word “queer” as an umbrella term for the LGBTQ2+ community as a whole. This is in acknowledgment of the reclamation of the term by the LGBTQ2+ community in the contemporary world, but we want to emphasize that we do not seek to erase the word’s complicated history. For more information, please check out What is the Q? by Out & Equal.

Implementation Recommendations


Assure employees that if they participate in the Self-ID program that this information will not be shared with their teams, managers, or peers.


Audit data privacy regulations and compliance procedures for each jurisdiction/country in which you conduct business.


After launching a Self-ID program, continue to educate employees about the Self-ID option and benefits through internal company communications such as blogs, reminders during pride, and video campaigns.

Consider consulting with an experienced third-party to help with the initial set-up of your Self-ID program.

Additional Context

Self-ID is possible in most regions. IBM makes it possible for employees in 40 countries (covering 87% of the IBM workforce) to record their sexual orientation and gender identity on their HR record.

Self-ID data gives metrics for the recruitment, retention, promotion, and promotion of LGBTQ2+ team members. These are vital in identifying growth areas for your workplace and understanding how LGBTQ2+ employees are faring at different levels of your company. Having this data allows HR, People, & DEI leaders to set tangible goals and obtain concrete numbers that they can use to advocate to leadership.

Ideally, voluntary self-identification options for sexual orientation, gender identity, and transgender status should be available in the following places

  1. Applications
  2. HR profiles
  3. Engagement/climate surveys

Structuring Self-ID Questions

  • Include a variety of gender identities beyond the binary and a breadth of sexual identities beyond “heterosexual” and “gay” / “lesbian.”
  • Keep questions relating to sexual orientation and gender identity separate. Gender identity is who you are, and sexual orientation is who you may be attracted to - do not conflate or mix the two.
  • Do not include categories like “trans man” or “trans woman.” Instead, add a separate question asking if the respondent identifies as transgender. Separating “trans man” from “man” and “trans woman” from “woman” furthers the idea that trans men aren’t really men and trans women aren’t really women.
  • Allow for the selection of multiple sexual or gender identities and an option to self-report an identity that is not listed.
  • Consider defining gender identity and sexual orientation below the survey questions to increase clarity.

Self-ID Gender Identity Question Example

How would you describe your gender identity? Gender identity describes a person’s internal sense of gender, whether as a man, a woman, or something beyond the gender binary.

Select all that apply.

  • Agender (Agender individuals do not identify themselves as having a particular gender)
  • Bigender
  • Transfeminine
  • Genderfluid 
  • Gender Non-Conforming
  • Genderqueer
  • Man
  • Transmasculine
  • Non-Binary
  • Questioning 
  • Third Gender
  • Woman
  • Prefer not to answer
  • Another gender identity. Please specify __________

Do you or have you ever identified as transgender? Transgender is an umbrella term used to describe people whose gender identity or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Select from the following.

  • Yes
  • No 
  • Prefer not to answer 

Self-ID Sexual Orientation Question Example

How would you describe your sexual orientation?

This describes a person’s physical, romantic, or emotional attraction to other people in the world.

Select all that apply.

  • Asexual (An identity term for people who either do not feel sexual attraction or do not feel desire for a sexual partner or partners.)
  • Bisexual
  • Demisexual
  • Fluid
  • Gay
  • Heterosexual
  • Lesbian
  • Pansexual
  • Queer
  • Questioning 
  • Prefer not to answer
  • Another sexual identity. Please specify ___________

Learn More

Visibility Counts: Corporate Guidelines for LGBT+ Self-ID (Out Leadership) 

Collecting LGBT+ Data for Diversity: Initiating Self-ID at IBM (Case Study)

Do Ask, Do Tell: Capturing Data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Globally (Stonewall)

Principles for Building a Solid Foundation for Self-ID Data Collection: Expertise from Gretchen Ruck, AlixPartners, LLP

Celebrate Pride Month! ADP Promotes Diversity and Inclusion with LGBTQ Employee 


Gender Inclusive Restrooms & Facilities

Too often, restroom policies and infrastructure are unintentionally discriminatory or overly politicized. Through thoughtful design and inclusive policy-writing, you can create a workplace where everyone feels safe and supported in using the most appropriate and affirming restroom or facility.

Key Considerations


Policy should be explicit that all employees are entitled to use the restroom and facilities that align with their gender identity.

Companies should include bathroom locations on building maps with all-gender facilities clearly labelled.

In choosing conference and event spaces as well as partners for benefits like gym memberships, companies should take restroom infrastructure and policy into account and whether these are gender inclusive.

Invest In Your Values

Any single-stall restroom should be converted to an all-gender facility and not be designated for any one gender to be inclusive of non-binary and gender non-conforming employees.

Depending on available infrastructure and budget, companies should create all-gender multi-stall restrooms and changing facilities in addition to single-gender restrooms and changing facilities, prioritizing individual privacy in their designs.

It is a myth that single-gender spaces are safe by default and free from harassment. LGBTQ2+ people especially know this to be true. The most effective way to mitigate liability and promote security is to embed individual privacy into restroom design. 

Cost-effective strategies for implementing introducing gender inclusive restrooms include:

Restroom and Facility Signage

Use This

All gender washroom sign

  • Use legally compliant signage that adheres to directives around accessibility and does not imply any exclusive messages about gender.
  • Use signage that clearly communicates that the restroom is inclusive of all genders and avoid images that depict people altogether.

Instead of This

Gender neutral bathroom sign

  • This sign implies that non-binary people are half-man/woman, whereas many non-binary people think of their gender identity as fluid or beyond the man/woman framework.
  • It is also ableist in that all the persons depicted are physically non-disabled and sizeist because all persons depicted reflect only one type of shape/size of body.

Learn More

Stalled! Inclusive Restroom Design

Transgender People & Bathroom Access (National Center for Transgender Equality)

Good Practices: Inclusive Restrooms and Signage (University of Maryland)

Why We Need Gender-Neutral Bathrooms (Ivan Coyote)

A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers (OSHA)

Leading Practices for Restroom Access (Out & Equal)

Gender Inclusive Dress Codes

Written into many company dress codes are discriminatory and bias-laden professional expectations that inhibit LGBTQ2+ employees from bringing their whole selves to work. Dress codes should never stigmatize or discipline an employee for who they are.

Key Considerations

Try to empower employees to manage their own appearance in accordance with professional expectations and ensure that professional expectations are never gendered.

  • Establish dress code rules as they relate to articles of clothing, not gender.
  • Do not use gendered pronouns in the policy.
  • Make sure that any grooming guidelines could apply to anyone.
  • For example, General Motors, replaced their 10-page dress code with two words: "Dress appropriately."
  • For casual workplaces, companies can simply ban clothing with hate speech, profanity, or exclusionary language.

Learn More

Why Workplaces Should Have Gender Neutral Dress Codes (Power To Fly)

Why I’m Genderqueer, Professional and Unafraid

5 Crucial Components for Creating an Inclusive Dress Code

3 Tips to Keep Discrimination Out of Your Dress Code Policy

Gender Transition/Affirmation Policy

Gender transition/affirmation can be an incredibly vulnerable time in a transgender or non-binary person’s life. This courageous and joyful journey toward authenticity can be hampered due to anxieties around job security, fears of adverse workplace treatment, and confusion around how to communicate or even begin transition in an office environment. It is the duty of employers to have processes and policies in place that will give their transgender employees peace of mind and facilitate a workplace transition that is customized to their desires and comfort levels.

Key Considerations

There is no singular moment where a transgender person ceases to live as one gender and begins to live in their authentic gender. Transition is also not always binary. A transgender or non-binary person should always be treated as the gender they identify as regardless of legal documents, medical transition, or their sex assigned at birth.


Policy should require employees to treat transitioning employees with dignity and respect, referring to them by their chosen name and appropriate pronouns, regardless of religious beliefs or political affiliations.


It should be the sole right of the transgender person to decide whether to share their gender identity and, if so, how they want this information communicated to their teams.


Trans inclusion should be part of the education and training of management and other employees, so there is a baseline knowledge of gender diversity and leading practices to foster gender inclusion.

Implementation Recommendations


Have a process in place for changing official records both in the case of legal transition and social transition. Any record that does not require a legal name should be easily amended to an employee’s chosen name.


Establish a process for transitioning employees to work with management and HR staff to create an individually-tailored plan for their workplace transition and have support throughout their transition.


Be ready to change any photography or web information to reflect an employee’s gender identity most accurately.


Accessibly feature your gender transition policy so transitioning employees know who their initial point of contact should be and how a plan can be devised in accordance with their personal circumstances and wishes.

Learn More

Model Transgender Employment Policy (Transgender Law Center)

Gender Transition Guidelines (Human Rights Campaign)

Workplace Gender Identity & Transition Guidelines (Out & Equal)

Creating a Trans-Inclusive Workplace (Harvard Business Review)

Managing Gender Transition in the Workplace (SHRM)

Transitioning Employers: Survey of Policies & Practices (Gender and The Economy)

International Assignments

While a global mindset is vital in today’s business world, and many employees will excitedly take a career opportunity abroad - these decisions are much more fraught for LGBTQ2+ employees. It's important to consider the varying levels of severity in LGBTQ2+ struggles worldwide, especially in areas where you conduct business.

Key Considerations

The level of outness of LGBTQ2+ professionals vary significantly from country to country.


We know that in some countries queer relationships are still criminalized, heavily stigmatized, and more likely to invite violence and prejudice.

Legal Documents

Trans people’s legal documents might not align with their gender identity/presentation making travel and immigration more difficult if offered an international assignment.


Having to cover or conceal your LGBTQ2+ identity can drastically decrease your quality of life, cause psychological distress, and impede productivity.

Global Statistics

According to the Coqual (Formerly the Center for Talent Innovation), 80% of LGBTQ2+ professionals in Russia are not out, 72% in Singapore, 70% in China, and 67% in India--a lot of these countries are key markets for many companies.

Implementation Recommendations


Communicate that LGBTQ2+ employees will not face any career detriment if they decline an international post.


Ensure that any LGBTQ2+ inclusive healthcare (Ex: Hormone Replacement Therapy) is available or can be continued on an international assignment and help to fill in those gaps wherever possible.


Consider the legal and cultural climate of a region for the LGBTQ2+ community in risk assessments for international posts.

Anticipate & Support

Provide LGBTQ2+ employees and their families with active immigration support. Some countries might not recognize the spouses or children of LGBTQ2+ people, causing immigration headaches and making an international assignment not feasible or requiring some form of family separation.

If an LGBTQ2+ employee takes an international post where they must be separated from family, provide additional travel funds for them to return home periodically.


Compensate for tax breaks that same-gender couples might not be eligible to receive. 

Learn More

Infographic: What Is Covering? (Catalyst)

Out in the World (Coqual, Formerly Center for Talent Innovation)

Extending LGBTQ Policies & Benefits Globally (Diversity Best Practices)

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association - World

Rainbow Europe (International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association)

A New Global Acceptance Index for LGBT People

Trans Legal Mapping Report (ILGA - World)

OutRight Action International 

LGBTQ2+ Inclusiveness: Toolkit for Inclusive Municipalities (UNESCO)

Free & Equal (United Nations)

Kaleidoscope International Trust

Designing LGBTQ2+ Inclusive Benefits

Domestic Partnerships

To be truly inclusive of LGBTQ2+ households, companies should have benefits available to the domestic partners of employees. Making company benefits that are only accessible through marriage will adversely impact queer and heterosexual couples alike.

Key Considerations

  • Marriage equality is not a global reality. Moreover, not all LGBTQ2+ people or even heterosexual couples want to participate in an institution that has a history of exclusion and specific legal obligations.
  • Restricting benefits to spouses essentially coerces employees to make a very personal decision that might not align with their values or puts them in danger.
  • Public marriage records can “out” LGBTQ2+ people leaving them open to discrimination.

Implementation Recommendations

Ensure all benefits afforded to spouses (ex: health insurance, workplace leaves, retirement, etc.) are equivalent for domestic partners.

Learn More

Human Rights Campaign Encourages Business Community to Maintain Domestic Partnership Benefits

Benefits for Domestic Partners (University of California)

6 Misconceptions in Companies that Offer Domestic Partner Benefits

Domestic Partnership Benefits (GLAD)

Chosen Family

Workplaces should recognize the diversity of family arrangements within the LGBTQ2+ community and contemporary society. LGBTQ2+ individuals are less likely to forge families through the same biological or legal routes as others.

Key Considerations

What are chosen families?

Chosen families or families of choice are families that are deliberately chosen for mutual love and support that fall outside the dominant nuclear family model. Chosen families may include close friends that are considered the equivalent of family, partners, extended kin, in-laws, housemates, close neighbours, and unrelated persons in someone’s care among others.

Why do they exist?

The LGBTQ2+ community still faces disproportionate rates of family rejection, and, as a result, youth homelessness and reliance on personalized networks of kinship.

Why are they important?

LGBTQ2+ people might feel distant from their immediate family because they cannot be their authentic selves around them. Chosen families have also been found to be an important layer of social protection for people with disabilities, immigrants, single parents, and other marginalized communities.

Implementation Recommendations

  • Establish family leave policies (parental, sick, safe, bereavement, etc.) and benefits that are inclusive of domestic partnerships and chosen family, and not restricted to spouses and legal guardians.
  • Include non-birth fathers, non-birth mothers, and adoptive / foster parents in parental leave policies.
  • Allow employees to define who their “loved ones” are beyond blood relatives and marriage.

Learn More

How Has the Definition of Family Evolved? Who’s In, and Who’s Trusted? MassMutual Takes a Pulse Across Generations

MassMutual Significantly Expands Suite of Employee Benefits

Employers are Expanding Parental Leave and Other PTO Benefits (SHRM)

A Mutual Benefit: Letting Employees Define their Families (Pride Source)

Family Matters: Guide to Defining Family Inclusively in Workplace Leave Laws and Policies

Making Paid Leave Work for Every Family (Center for American Progress)

Chosen Family Law Center

Trans-Inclusive Healthcare

Not all health insurance plans will cover gender affirming medicines for trans or non-binary employees. It is up to the employer to make trans-inclusivity a crucial consideration on par with other criteria when selecting which healthcare plan(s) to offer in benefits packages.

Key Considerations

Healthcare Plans

Employers should make sure that at least one of the healthcare plans they offer to employees is trans-inclusive and covers a variety of gender affirming treatments, therapies, and surgical procedures.


Where certain trans-inclusive procedures or coverage are contested as medically necessary such as facial feminization/masculinization surgery, tracheal shave, electrolysis, laser hair removal, voice therapy/surgery, breast augmentation, mastectomy, chest contouring, phalloplasty, scrotoplasty, vaginoplasty, hormones, breastfeeding/chest feeding support, body feminization/masculinization, etc., employers should make the necessary arrangements to ensure that these costs are affordable and do not fall solely on the employee. 

Learn More

More Employers are Covering Transgender Health Benefits

An In-Depth Look at LGBTQ+ Benefits

Health Insurance Coverage for Gender-Affirming Care of Transgender Patients (American Medical Association)

Transgender Health Benefits: Negotiating for Inclusive Coverage (Transgender Law Center)

Fertility Benefits 

Many fertility benefits are only offered after infertility has been diagnosed through a doctor’s examination and invasive testing. These benefits are also often unavailable to LGBTQ2+ professionals who are disqualified from them since they cannot biologically reproduce with their partner.

Key Considerations

Nuanced Coverage

Fertility benefits should cover “social infertility” or infertility that is shaped by a person’s relationships and circumstances rather than a purely physiological diagnosis.

The Ability to Plan

Fertility benefits should cover fertility preservation for transgender individuals prior to any gender affirming therapies or procedures such as freezing eggs, sperm, or embryos.

Comprehensive Coverage

Fertility benefits should cover queer-specific procedures such as reciprocal IVF or when one person’s egg is fertilized and implanted into their partner’s uterus.

Non-Gendered Healthcare

Fertility benefits should not be gender specific. A transgender man should still be able to freeze his egg cells or have access to intra-uterine insemination (IUI) treatments for example.

Additional Context

In 2019, J.P. Morgan expanded fertility benefits so that employees in the US without a medical diagnosis of infertility can have up to $30,000 worth of treatments including in vitro fertilization and reimbursement for costs related to surrogacy.

Learn More

Progyny LGBTQ+ Fertility Infographic On The Rise: Infertility Coverage For LGBTQ J.P. Morgan is Expanding Fertility Benefits to Help LGBTQ Employees Have Families

The Labels of Infertility (WINFertility)

LGBTQ Family Building Survey (Family Equality Council)

On The Rise: Infertility Coverage for LGBTQ Employees

Co-Creating a Culture of Inclusion

Embracing Intersectionality

We must strive for intersectionality in LGBTQ2+ inclusion efforts so that we do not disproportionately prioritize a certain segment of the community and neglect those most at the margins. LGBTQ2+ pride symbolism has evolved to reflect this need for intersectionality.

Key Considerations

The original rainbow flag was supposed to represent the whole queer community, but activists found that the struggles and voices of LGBTQ2+ people of colour were left unaddressed and even exacerbated by other members of the community.

standard rainbow flag

The ‘More Color, More Pride’ flag incorporates black and brown stripes as reminders of BlPOC LGBTQ2+ folx and their unique experiences.

more colour more pride flag

The ‘Progress’ Pride flag created by Daniel Quasar builds on this initiative to also spotlight the transgender community by adding the blue, pink, and white stripes of the transgender flag.

progress flag

Implementation Recommendations

  • Recognize the importance of intersectionality in how you support employees, develop programming, create DEI initiatives, and market your brand.
  • Adopt the Progress Pride flag as your official rainbow-related symbolism to signal your company’s commitment to promoting greater inclusion in LGBTQ2+ communities and the overlapping identities of your queer employees.
  • Take an intersectional approach to analyzing employee survey data and other metrics that considers people with overlapping marginalized identities without compromising their privacy or anonymity.

Learn More

A Broken Bargain for LGBTQ Workers of Color (Movement Advancement Project)

Broken Bargain for Transgender Workers (Movement Advancement Project)

Beyond the Rainbow: Your Complete Guide to Pride Flags

LGBT People with Disabilities (Movement Advancement Project)

Bisexual People Deserve Respect at Their Workplaces

Coming Out: Living Authentically as Black LGBTQ People (Human Rights Campaign)

Why It’s Impossible to be Pro-LGBTQ Without Being Anti-Racist

75 LGBT+ Groups Join Coalition in Support of Black Lives Matter

Public Attitudes Toward Aging Sexual and Gender Minorities Around the World (SAGE)

Serving LGBTQ Immigrants and Building Welcoming Communities (Center For American Progress)

Climate Surveys

Employee surveys are an important tool to analyze workplace disparities affecting different demographics, departments, and levels of leadership at your organization. Beyond the recruitment, retention, and promotion figures that you will get from Self-ID programs for HR records--these surveys can provide a more colourful and textured picture relating to the experiences, attitudes, and struggles of your LGBTQ2+ workforce.

Key Considerations

Reach Out

Organization-wide climate surveys can show specific questions regarding LGBTQ2+ experiences at work depending on what demographics are checked in the survey.

Seek to Support

Consider questions that get at the level of “outness” of your workforce, what respondents believe would help them succeed or feel included at work, and the degree to which people have witnessed or experienced bias or discrimination relating to sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.

Respect Privacy 

It is essential that data is properly anonymized if it would effectively disclose the identity of a respondent. For example, one Indigenous pansexual person in the sales department.

Be Intersectional

Try to capture data on how specific members of the LGBTQ2+ community are doing and be intentional in taking an intersectional approach to data collection and analysis. For example, the experience of a Latinx trans woman will be different than a white cis gay man.

Implementation Recommendations


Include demographic questions around sexual orientation and gender identity on surveys in countries where it is legal to do so.


Include a mix of Likert scale questions, open-ended questions, and fixed answer questions. This will give you tangible numbers to assess alongside more rich qualitative data around LGBTQ2+ workplace experiences.


Integrate insights from periodic climate surveys into your company’s DEI strategy and programming.

Learn More

Getting LGBT+ Inclusion Right in Employee Surveys (IBM)

A Workplace Divided: Understanding the Climate for LGBTQ Workers Nationwide The Indian LGBT Workplace Climate Survey 2016

Respectful Collection of Demographic Data

Getting the Truth into Workplace Surveys (Harvard Business Review)

Managing Employee Surveys (SHRM)

Sharing Pronouns

Behind every pronoun is a person. Using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show them dignity and respect. When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, or even suicidal. There are several ways that you can normalize sharing and honouring pronouns in your office environment.

Key Considerations


Remember the gravity and the power of using the correct pronoun. If you have trouble with someone’s pronouns, practice them on your own time

Gender neutral pronouns have existed for centuries, are endorsed by leading style and grammar authorities, and, regardless, are a non-negotiable way to respect your colleagues that embrace them.

You probably already use the singular “they” in your everyday speech and don’t give it a second thought. While this use has been commonplace when referring to someone who’s gender is unknown, the singular “they” to affirm non-binary gender identities is relatively new.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Remember that you cannot know someone’s pronouns just from looking at them. Do not assume someone’s pronouns until they have been shared with you. Someone’s outward appearance and gender expression is not enough to tell us how they truly feel inside.

It is not uncommon for folks to have multiple sets of pronouns that resonate with them. When encountering people who embrace pronouns like She/They, He/They, and the like, be affirming and respectful.

"Behind every pronoun is a person."

Implementation Recommendations


Encourage leaders and employees to include their pronouns in introductions, email signatures, videoconferencing usernames, nametags, and company bios in solidarity with your trans coworkers. Be sure to model this behaviour yourself.


Commit to correcting your colleagues when they misgender someone. Take intentional misgendering or apathy toward correct pronoun usage seriously and create policy that requires disciplinary action.

Autonomy & Respect

Do not make sharing pronouns mandatory. Embrace reciprocity—share your own pronouns to proactively create space for others if they feel comfortable sharing too. Some trans people may not be ready to disclose their gender identity or might fear discrimination if they do so. Focus your efforts on creating a culture where stating one’s pronouns is welcome, common, and visible across departments and leadership.

Names Matter

Before you know someone's pronouns, one of the safest actions you can take is to just use the person's chosen name. Some trans people might want to forgo pronouns altogether and prefer colleagues only refer to them with their chosen name.

Pronoun Sharing Examples

Here is an example of how you can proactively share pronouns to eliminate confusion, prevent misgendering, and signal to employees that you are an LGBTQ2+ inclusive work environment.

Tania updated Zoom screen name to include pronouns

Global Context

There are many efforts to create and promote gender neutral language in different languages. Some languages are more gendered than others and require a greater shift from traditional speech.

  • If you conduct your business in multiple languages, we encourage you to research how to use gender neutral language accordingly.
  • Understand that LGBTQ2+ language and culture is different around the world, and Western conceptions are not always universal or welcome.

Pronouns Around The World

Learn More

What’s Your Pronoun? Strategies for Inclusion in the Workplace (Out & Equal)

Minus18 Pronoun Practice Application

Why Pronoun-Sharing is Important but Must Remain Optional

Incorporating Gender Neutral Pronouns in UX Design Across Languages

A Guide to How Gender-Neutral Language is Developing Around the World

Gender Neutral Pronouns in French

Why You Should Not Say 'Preferred Pronouns'

Inclusive Language

Language shapes our world and is a fundamental aspect of communicating and elating to one another. Adopting new and more affirming terminology may take some practice and feel unnatural at first, but you never know who you might be signalling to that you care and are committed to making space for them. Inclusive language does ask something of us. It asks us to change longstanding habits and consider lived experiences distinct from our own.

Learn More

Inclusive Language 101 (Feminuity)

Inclusive Language (LGBTQ Equity Center, University of Maryland)

Language & Inclusion: An Analysis Across Industries (Feminuity)

Inclusive Language Guide 

An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language

70 Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter (Part 1)

70 Language Principles That Will Make You A More Successful Recruiter (Part 2)

Non-Binary Inclusion

Refer to a theoretical person with “they” or use passive voice

  • Use This: “Their responsibilities include”
  • Instead of This: “His or her responsibilities include”

Include non-binary honorifics

  • Use This: Mr., Ms., Mrs., & Mx.
  • Instead of This: Mr., Ms., Mrs.

Avoid phrases that uphold gender as binary

  • Use This: All Genders, Distinguished/Esteemed Guests, Friends & Colleagues, Everyone, You all
  • Instead of This: Men & Women, Both Genders/Sexes, Opposite Gender/Sex, Ladies & Gentlemen

Use gender inclusive language when referencing family and loved ones

  • Use This: Parents (referring to others), Partner, Significant Other
  • Instead of This: Mom & Dad, Mother & Father, Boyfriend/Husband, Girlfriend/Wife

Note: Someone’s pronouns are not preferred. Try: “Their pronouns are…”

Transgender Inclusion

Emphasize gender as socially constructed

  • Use This: Assigned male/female at birth
  • Instead of This: Biological or Genetic Man/Woman, Born a Man/Born a Woman

Learn the best way to refer to someone who is trans

  • Use This: Transgender or Trans, "He is a transgender person.”
  • Instead of This: Transgendered or Transsexual, “He is transgendered.”

If asked to discuss medical changes avoid binaries

  • Use This: Transition(ing), Gender Affirming Surgeries/Processes, “They are transitioning”
  • Instead of This: Sex Change/Sex Reassignment, “They had a sex change”

Don’t describe someone using a previous identity

  • Use This: “Thanks to Dr. Cyril Brown, an amazing scientist…”
  • Instead of This: “Thanks to Dr. Cyril Brown, formerly Jessica Brown...”

Note: Disclosing someone else's identity unless they are out is an invasion of privacy. When discussing other people’s identities, make sure they are okay with that knowledge being shared.

Sexual Orientation Inclusion

Use the categories that communities have self-identified.

  • Use This: LGBQ or be specific
  • Instead of This: Homosexual

Avoid using phrases that de-legitimize someone’s identity

  • Use This: “They are gay…” “They are queer…”
  • Instead of This: “The gay lifestyle...” “Their sexual preference is…” “It is just a phase.”

Using sexual orientations as metaphors contributes to stigma

  • Use This: “That is so uncool”
  • Instead of This: “That’s so gay”

Avoid bias-laden language

  • Use This: Heterosexual
  • Instead of This: Straight (this assumes heterosexuality as the default or norm)

Note: If only discussing sexual orientation, remove “T” from the acronym. Being transgender is not a sexual orientation.

LGBTQ2+ Recruitment

There are some steps that your company can take to appeal to queer job seekers and intentionally incorporate LGBTQ2+ diversity into your recruitment pipelines. If LGBTQ2+ employees never get in the door, your workplace culture will never have the opportunity to learn and grow from their perspectives and unique contributions.

Key Considerations


Gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, intersex status, and sex characteristics should be explicitly mentioned in your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies.

You want to feature your commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion prominently on your careers page and explicitly mention LGBTQ2+ diversity.

Ensure there is queer representation in both your internal and external marketing communications to promote positive brand reputation and employee word-of-mouth.

Use gender neutral language in job postings and be sure to incorporate an inclusivity statement that lists gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in all job postings.


Use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that is gender inclusive and incorporates fields for chosen names and pronouns as well as spaces for voluntary self-identification.


Partner with LGBTQ2+ professional organizations and request tables at their conferences. 

Build relationships with LGBTQ2+ student organizations at key universities part of your talent pipelines and host on-campus recruitment events for queer students.


Compensate LGBTQ2+ leaders at your company to attend your general recruiting events that can speak to your company culture and demonstrate the different types of people welcomed at your organization.

Recruit at All Levels

Seek to address recruitment, hiring, and promotional disparities for LGBTQ2+ team members at all levels of your organization from junior level roles to senior leadership positions and Board seats. 

Implementation Recommendations

Include LGBTQ2+ diversity in:

  • Company-specific professional development opportunities and conferences.
  • The education and training of all employees especially executives, middle and senior managers, recruiters, and HR professionals.
  • Supplier diversity programs.
  • Employee referral bonuses for recommending candidates from underrepresented communities.
  • Internship or hiring programs for underrepresented communities.
  • Interview panels and hiring committees. 

Learn More

20 Steps to an Out & Equal Workplace

How to Promote LGBTQ Equality in Your Recruitment Process (ERE)

How to Be a Company that Attracts LGBTQ Professionals (Monster)

5 Ways Recruiters Can Be an LGBTQ+ Career Ally (EPM Scientific)

Amazing Companies That Champion LGBTQ Equality Hiring Now (Glassdoor)

Is Your Recruitment Process & Workplace LGBTQ2+ Inclusive? (VSource)

Hiring Across All Spectrums (Pride At Work Canada)

Maximizing ERG Impact 

Employee Resource Groups are voluntary, employee-led groups whose aim is to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with the organizations they serve. They should be led by and participated in by employees from specific groups, such as members of the LGBTQ2+ community. ERGs can be amazing spaces for queer employees to share struggles in the workplace, find community, discover mentors, professionally develop, acclimate to a new office, and catalyze inclusive policy and culture changes at a company.

Key Considerations

First Steps

If you haven’t established an ERG for your LGBTQ2+ employees, this should be your first step. When starting the ERG, you should make sure it has an executive sponsor. An executive sponsor is an influential and respected leader who can be designated to mentor and advocate on behalf of the ERG to the executive team.

If you are finding gaps in representation in your LGBTQ2+ ERG, host targeted programming geared toward specific communities so they can see themselves in your content and know that they are welcome.

Full-Scale Integration

Beyond being a vital community resource for LGBTQ2+ employees, ERGs can collaborate with marketing teams to produce queer-inclusive content, forge strategic partnerships to help create LGBTQ2+ talent pipelines, and become civically engaged.

Implementation Recommendations

Collaborate with other company ERGs to create intersectional programming.

If you want allies at ERG events *be explicit* and express that they can join. You can even appoint an “Ally Ambassador” position. Leveraging allies can amplify your message of inclusion by giving your ERG energized advocates across your organization.

Conversely, if you are hosting an event that is supposed to be an intentionally safer/braver space for LGBTQ2+ people, be explicit about that too.

Establish mentorship programs for members of your ERG and reverse-mentoring programs to help educate leadership in your organization.

Learn More

A New LGBTQ Workforce Has Arrived—Inclusive Cultures Must Follow

Five Fundamentals of Equitable ERGs (Feminuity)

ERG 100: Getting Started and Getting Going (SAP)

Leveraging Intersectionality: 5 Ways to Drive ERG Participation (Whirlpool)

LGBTQ ERG’s (Diversity Best Practices)

What Are Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)?

LGBTQ2+ Advocacy

Companies have tremendous power to create an LGBTQ2+ inclusive workplace and translate these values into broader society. Leverage your organization’s voice to create meaningful change for queer communities and send a clear message that you are an ally in creating a world that celebrates sexual and gender diversity.

Implementation Recommendations

  • Participate in annual pride celebrations and other LGBTQ2+ cultural events.
  • Support LGBTQ2+ advocacy organizations by including them in company donation-match programs, corporate social responsibility initiatives, philanthropic giving, and company volunteer initiatives.
  • Stand up for LGBTQ2+ rights domestically and in other international areas of operation.
  • Be vocal on your platforms about LGBTQ2+ issues year-round.

Learn More

Supporting Sexual and Gender Diversity in the Workplace (Feminuity)

Standards of Conduct for Business on Tackling Discrimination against LGBTI People (United Nations)

Building Effective Corporate Engagement on LGBTQ Rights (MIT)

Business Coalition for the Equality Act (Human Rights Campaign)

Additional Resources

How HR & People Leaders Can Create an LGBTQ2+ Inclusive Workplace Culture (Feminuity x Worktango)

Best Practices for Non-Binary Inclusion in the Workplace (Out & Equal)

2020 HRC Corporate Equality Index

Ally Up: Ally Is a Verb (Out Leadership)

LGBTQ Employees and the COVID-19 Pandemic (Out & Equal)

Working Beyond the Gender Binary (Gender & The Economy)

Workforce 2020: LGBTQ (Guardian)

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Workplace Issues: Quick Take (Catalyst)

The Business Case for Pride in Diversity

Accelerating Acceptance 2017 (GLAAD)

How the LGBTQ+ Community Fares in the Workplace (McKinsey)

2019 Workplace Equality Fact Sheet (Out & Equal)

2015 US Transgender Survey

Trans Student Education Resources (TSER)

Building Trans-Inclusive Workplaces (Public Service Alliance of Canada)

Beyond Diversity: An LGBT Best Practice Guide (Pride at Work Canada)

Supporting Intersex Inclusion in the Workplace (Out & Equal)

This resource reflects a particular moment in time, North America in 2021, and like most things in life, will eventually need updates. Everything changes - from technologies and innovations to social norms, cultures, and languages. As such, this resource is not meant to be a static guide, but rather a compilation and reflection of our learnings to date.

Please feel free to reach out to us at if you have any thoughts, questions, or comments.

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