The preamble of this book sets out a strong claim for the LGBT+ community – identifying it as containing ‘the ultimate champions of creativity, diversity and innovation’. Powerful stuff, and you are likely thinking “yes please.” What business wouldn’t want a group of people that bring different perspectives, new ideas, positive challenge and a break from the norm? Well, as it turns out, quite a few.
Jens Schadendorf has written a foundational book in terms of the inclusion and utilisation of LGBT+ team members in any organisation. He’s quite rightly focused both on the mechanisms of inclusion and on the benefits for when organisations ‘get it right’ and create an equitable working environment. But he’s also used stories of ‘when it goes wrong’ to highlight the long road to parity that has been taken by many community members.
This is a highly technical book – to say it’s acronym-heavy is an understatement, and sometimes the depth of explanation veers off the deep-end. But then, bang, back to a tough reality with a look at the Stonewall riots of the late sixties, individual tales of forced-repression and stories of political persecution. What’s clear is the complexity of the issues being addressed, and the sheer volume of work that’s been delivered by a relatively small group of people across the globe who have been determined to build a solid, safe and equitable standing for the LGBT+ community in the global economy.
If you are looking for ideas on how to build a stronger position and approach to being an inclusive organisation, then this is the book to read. It’s akin to the ‘manual’ for how organisations can understand the relevant trends and societal shifts, and respond accordingly. Mess up, and you are up there with the Italian pasta giant Barilla, that lost significant market share due to ill-informed comments. Develop the right approach and, as McKinsey, SAP and United Airlines have found, you tap into a rich seam of talent and original thinking that can be the business differentiator an organisation needs to survive and thrive.
It will take you time to read this book – if you are part of the community it will be a personal read that will doubtless reflect your own experiences. If you are not, then it’s going to need patience and openness to listen to what’s being said. It’s impossible to fully understand a culture you are not part of, but it’s important to try.
For those wanting the quick answers, look elsewhere. Jens has drawn together a rich, deep and broad snapshot of how LGBT+ individuals are, finally, taking their rightful places in our businesses and organisations. It clearly hasn’t been easy, and the solutions haven’t been simple – tackling, as they do, the deep-held assumptions and biases of many people. It’s humbling to see all of this effort laid out in front of you.
Chris Preston is a culture expert and one of the founding partners of The Culture Builders