In this final week of LGBTQ+ Pride month, I can’t help but pause to consider how far we have come. My first staffing agency job was in 1995 in Baltimore, and I saw far too many client companies engaged in appearance discrimination. While my team assessed candidates on many factors, there was a clear preference for those who “fit the mold”, who looked and acted like the hiring team. I shudder to think how quickly I may have dismissed my own daughter as a candidate, with her nose piercing, tattoo sleeve and preference for masculine attire.
Almost three decades later, I’m encouraged by the outpouring of support for those who have historically been treated unfairly. My social media feed has been flooded with posts from companies who embrace diversity and by employees who feel seen and included. Policies have been implemented to protect individuals from discrimination. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) have grown in popularity for employees with shared life experiences to connect in a safe space. Company-sponsored benefits plans have expanded to include parental leave policies for LGBTQ+ families and healthcare coverage for gender-affirming treatments. Corporate social responsibility initiatives are on the rise as evidenced by widespread participation in Pride Month, events and sponsorships that push for equality and inclusiveness.
While there is still work to do, these initiatives are contagious, and they move the needle on diversity, equity, and inclusion. My daughter is only 18 but she has already expressed a clear preference for employers, jobs and leaders who embrace DE&I initiatives. May she enter a workforce that offers her equal opportunities and that embraces her qualifications, skills and merit above all else.