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The Case for LGBTQ+ Inclusion: Progressing from Transactional to Transformational

This month, LGBTQ+ pride month, is celebrated around the world. The first pride parade took place in New York City in response to a historic police raid at the Stonewall Inn that sparked riots a year earlier.

Although much has changed globally for the LGBTQ+ community since then, 70 countries still criminalize same-sex couples.(1) The good news is that 206 major US corporations signed an amicus brief in the spring advocating for the Supreme Court’s June 2020 decision protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from workplace discrimination and hundreds of consumer brands have become regular sponsors of annual Pride parades.(2)

Despite these hard won and fragile gains, many challenges persist both in our workplaces and in society. This lack of progress is particularly pronounced at the more senior levels in US organizations, with just four openly LGBTQ+ CEOs, only one of whom is female and none of whom is trans.

To engage a new generation of workers and consumers—many of whom choose careers and products based on an organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion—companies must move beyond performative statements and gestures to sustainable progress by creating a more inclusive and positive work experience and environment for their LGBTQ+ employees.

Sustainable progress requires a compelling change narrative that people at all levels in the organization can buy into. With that in mind, let’s turn to my book, Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and consider the 3rd principle: And It’s Good Business, Too.

Compelling Rationales for Change

The 3rd principle, And It’s Good Business, Too, posits that any successful and sustainable transformation effort requires a rationale for change – without it most DEI initiatives are likely to be unsuccessful in the long term. A holistic and persuasive DEI change narrative considers the mission and business of the organization, along with the regional, socio-political, legal and cultural nuances. When organizations incorporate these elements and embed LGBTQ+ inclusion into their business model, they are able to create more widespread buy in that elevates a transactional business case to one that is transformational and a competitive advantage to the business. Barclays Bank did just that in 2012 with the LGBTQ+ community.

The LGBTQ+ business case is clear.

  • Increased consumer revenue: Globally 71% of LGBTQ+ individuals and 82% of allies are more likely to purchase a good or service from a company that supports LGBTQ equality. (3)

  • Employee retention: Research by Outnow LGBT2020 reveal that an employee is more likely to remain at an organization if they are fully out to co-workers. The study looked at ten countries; an openly out employee is 5% more likely to stay with an employer in Brazil, 17% in Canada and 22% in France. (4)

  • Employee engagement, commitment and creativity: The Center for Talent Innovation found that in organizations with LGBTQ+ inclusive policies, employees are significantly more likely to say they are proud to work for their employer (84% versus 68%) and more likely to go the extra mile (84% versus 73%) (5)

  • Benefit to cities and countries: Multiple studies have shown a correlation between LGBTQ inclusion and economic output per person on a national level. The noted economist Lee Badgett estimated that India could be throwing away more than $30 billion by stigmatizing LGBTQ+ people through its anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies. (6)

But Barclays did not simply rely on this business case. In 2012, the Head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays Bank was tasked with realising the vision of making Barclays the most inclusive bank in the UK. Recognizing the business benefit, many organizations were already reaching out to the LGBTQ+ consumer base. Barclays needed to stand out - something different was needed, something that would truly connect and transform the brand in the eyes of the LGBTQ+ community. In 2012 Barclays aired the first retail banking advertisement in the UK to include a gay couple. The advertisement promoted Barclays personalized ATM cards which were designed to be ‘less banking and more YOU’. The Bank also ran the British finance industry’s first transgender-awareness event in London in 2013. Both these initiatives built the reputation of the bank as an inclusive brand and laid the foundation for Barclays to strengthen its relationship with LGBTQ+ consumers. In 2014, Barclays secured the headline sponsorship of Pride in London and transformed the event into a grander occasion with over 125,000 people visiting over the weekend. They developed a contactless payment band that could be used throughout the event and doubled as a ticket for the festival. This new technology allowed Pride attendees to donate through the band and ‘ping a pound for pride’. Attendees could also attach their picture to a donation which, which would then appear on the big screens in Trafalgar Square all with Barclays branding. Barclays changed a number of cash machines along London’s Pride route into ‘GAYTMs’ (gay ATMS). As a result, in 2017 Barclays was showcased as a Star Performer by Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ rights charity in the UK, and became the bank of choice for the LGBTQ+ community. The external commitment of Barclays to its LGBTQ+ customers positively impacted employees at the bank, as noted by the CEO Anthony Jenkins in 2014: “We have definitely had people who have come out in Barclays, who have felt more comfortable bringing their whole self to work because of the commitment we have shown externally.” (7)

Adapting The Approach Locally

Barclays kept its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion consistent globally while adapting its approach to different settings. In India, where same sex relationships were outlawed until 2018, Barclays relied on partnerships with Indian LGBTQ+ rights organizations. Employee resource group leaders from other countries played the role of outside influencers who served as catalysts for change by sharing stories and best practices across borders. This built the confidence of local change agents within the company as they worked toward creating a more inclusive organizational climate for their LGBTQ+ employees in India.

Barclays never lost sight of its mission, but calibrated its approach based on the specifics of each locale.

Barclays integrated LGBTQ+ inclusion in their business model. They aligned their change narrative with their business objective to be the “most inclusive brand.” This enabled Barclays to strengthen customer and employee relationships, thereby attracting additional revenue and growth, as well as benefitting its employees by making it safe to be “out".

To learn more about Principle 3, And It’s Good Business, Too click here to buy your copy of my book Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the LGBTQ+ community and allies for all you do to make our workplaces more inclusive.

If you want to learn more about how you can effective ally – click here for 7 ways that you can be a better LGBTQ+ ally!

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  1. https://www.businessinsider. com/where-is-same-sex-marriage-legal-world-2017-11?r=US&IR=T


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  6. economic-costs-homophobia-lgbt-exlusion-india.pdf

  7. /samesex-and-the-city-barclays-ceo-antony-jenkins-on-why-the-bank-is-the -headline-sponsor-of-pride-in-london-9548210.html


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