Working Smarter for release Jan. 26, 1996. By Paula Ancona Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service Would you want to make it harder for 10 percent of your valued, experienced workforce to do their jobs well? Would you risk losing them by treating them unfairly or denying them the same rights and rewards as other employees? Probably not. But those could be the effects a company may experience when it does not support fair and equitable treatment for gay employees. Most experts estimate that gays comprise about 10 percent of our population. `Perhaps the most compelling reason for including gay workers in your diversity mix is this simple fact: They are already there,` Liz Winfeld and Susan Spielman write in `Straight Talk About Gays in the Workplace` (Amacom, 1995). So are parents, siblings and friends of gay people, who also may be offended, distracted or harmed by such practices in your workplace. Companies that have instituted supportive policies for gays enjoy increased productivity, higher profitability and a better public image, experts say. Following last week`s column suggesting how employees can make their workplaces more equitable for gays, here are tips for managers and other company leaders. The ideas are from Winfeld, Spielman and Brian McNaught, who wrote `Gay Issues in the Workplace` (St. Martin`s, 1993) and is featured on the video `Homophobia in the Workplace` (Excellence in Training Corp., Des Moines, Iowa). _ Find out if your company has a written policy protecting gay people from discrimination. If so, make sure everyone knows about it and knows that the company enforces it, McNaught says. _ If your company has no policy start discussions with high-level managers or executives about it. You might present them with a `white paper` about sexual orientation issues in the workplace, suggest Winfred and Spielman, founders of the Common Ground consulting firm, Natick, Mass. The paper would help educate executives about what it`s like for gay people in many workplaces and explain what companies like Disney and AT&T are doing to become more equitable and inclusive. _ Educate yourself so you can respond to protests, concerns and questions about these issues. Attend workshops or invite experts to speak to your organization. Have all managers attend these sessions to show employees that the company is serious. _ Invite all employees to hear speakers or attend workshops on these issues. These can be company wide, if you have company support, or localized to your department. _ Model respectful and professional behavior. Stand up against anti-gay humor. Demonstrate that you are open to many kinds of people. _ Establish a gay employees resource group or gay/straight alliance that would lend support to gay employees and educate others about their concerns. Managers could attend meetings to show support. A resource room might be helpful, too. _ When you encounter resistance remind people that we all are entitled to our own beliefs. But those beliefs shouldn`t interfere with others` rights to a fair, safe workplace. Soothe fears that gays will be flaunting details about their sexual activities by noting that most people don`t engage in this kind of unprofessional activity at work, and that gays want to be honest about who they are just as heterosexuals are. Paula Ancona is the author of `SuccessAbilities! 1003 Practical Ways to Keep Up, Stand Out and Move Ahead at Work` (Chamisa Press, 1995). She has been writing about workplace and career issues since 1988. Write her c/o this newspaper or send e-mail via to email@example.com. Paula Ancona is the author of `SuccessAbilities! 1003 Practical Ways to Keep Up, Stand Out and Move Ahead at Work` (Chamisa Press, 1995, 800-WORKTIP). She has been writing about workplace and career issues since 1988. Write her c/o this newspaper or send e-mail via to firstname.lastname@example.org. Paula Ancona Working Smarter Columnist PO Box 753 Excelsior, MN 55331 Reprinted with permission. Article may be reprinted provided Paula Anacona and Scripps Howard News Service are credited.
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