Leaders and organisations often have the right talk when it comes to high-level commitments to support their people’s self-expression. But is this rhetoric embedded in the everyday culture of their companies?
Dr Aneeta Rattan, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour, and Dr Aharon Cohen-Mohliver, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship, LBS, argue that creating an environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging, regardless of their social identities, requires deliberate communication cues that say your social identity is accepted.
“We know that to establish a sense of belonging, people look to their surroundings for cues that will either lower or raise uncertainty about the acceptance of their social identity,” they say.
“There are several ways leaders can ensure those positive signals are communicated to their people: by improving representation, removing stereotyping cues, and highlighting their belief that potential is widespread.”
Positive social relations focused on creating change offer another powerful way for leaders of organisations to help foster belonging among underrepresented groups.
Dr Rattan and co-author Dr Nalini Ambady studied what straight people said when they wanted to communicate their support for LGBTQ+ individuals. Most straight people communicated about social connections – sharing how much they care about and support LGBTQ+ individuals. While social connection messages were valuable, it was even more effective when heterosexuals shared their belief in social change – highlighting the progress still to be made.
Expressing support for your LGBTQ+ colleagues is a good thing. But leaders who want to be more effective should talk about what they – and the organisation – are concretely doing to change the status quo, the authors say.
At London Business School, this includes supporting the professional growth of LGBTQ+ leaders.
Susie Balch, Executive Sponsor of Proud@LBS, the School’s LGBTQ+ and allies staff network and Associate Dean, Advancement, says: “We’re committed to creating a School where everyone can be proud of their identity, belong, and thrive. Our mission is to guarantee an inclusive workplace for all regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, and we invite the whole community – LGBTQ+ and allies – to join us on that journey and to start making a difference today.”
Like social connection messages, representation is fundamental. But on its own, it’s not enough.
Matt Foster is Proud@LBS Co-chair and a business analyst at LBS who last month addressed the Graduate Management Admissions Council’s annual conference as part of panel to discuss ‘Moving beyond the diversity business case – how to create an inclusive culture’. Foster and co-chair Peter Johnson add: “You need to go further. Amplify the voices of the diverse communities in your ecosystem.”
The LBS network they chair is passionate about the need to tell our stories and this month the School, which last year was named one of the world’s top ten MBAs for LGBTQ+ students (FindMBA), is marking Pride 2021 with news, views, and events from its community of 5,171 students, staff and faculty and more than 45,000 alumni worldwide.
François Ortalo-Magné, Dean, LBS, says: “We celebrate Pride Month to acknowledge the discrimination and exclusion against the LGBTQ+ community, celebrate the spirit of inclusion and acceptance that the LGBTQ+ community role-models for us all, and to honour the achievements of LGBTQ+ individuals around the world.
“As an LBS community, we transform our logo with the Pride flag every June and work year-round to support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. I could not be more proud of our community members who fight for the full inclusion and equal treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in business. In fostering and growing the pipeline of LGBTQ+ leaders globally, we also transform the world’s understanding of who belongs in business.”
The LBS student community is incredibly active, inspiring diversity and inclusion in the professional world and beyond. LBS's Out in Business club (OiB) which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year has more than 900 members, provides social and professional support for LGBTQ+ students and is sponsored by some of the world's top employers. The club runs EUROUT, Europe's leading LGBTQ+ conference for graduate students, MBAs, PhDs and alumni from top business schools. It also partners with Pride in London, a wider LGBTQ+ network in the capital.
Aaron Cho, MBA2022 and incoming OiB President, on OiB’s history and the importance of creating an inclusive and welcoming environment
“We know leaders have a positive role to play in fostering the belonging needed to allow authentic self-expression. They can adapt their language, expand their networks, and empower their LGBTQ+ people. At London Business School, we teach this as active inclusion,” says Dr Rattan, whose research focuses on communicating mindsets to improve intergroup relations by addressing stereotyping, prejudice, and inequity.
Too many organisations are taking too long to address the underrepresentation of LGBTQ+ leaders, Dr Cohen-Moliver warns.
“Leaders and organizations must proactively accelerate the pipeline into top leadership, creating the change everyone wishes to see. This means reaching out to all levels of your leadership and proactively offering them resources and opportunities for their development and inclusion as leaders.”
And these insights need to be embedded into the culture and DNA of your organisation not only during Pride, but always, they remind us. Because fostering the equal belonging and authentic self-expression of your people matters every month.
Celebrate, and accelerate, Pride Month with Drs Randall Peterson, Aharon Cohen Moliver, and Aneeta Rattan, and Mx Pips Bunce as they join in a discussion of evidence- and experience-based insights into what true LGBTQ+ allyship and advocacy looks like in global organisations today.
Register to join this special webinar, ‘Pride before People? How to Fix the Top 3 Mistakes Organizations Make in LGBTQ+ Allyship’, on 28 June 2021 at 12.45 BST.