Creating an Inclusive Environment for LGBTQ+ Employees Doesn't End With Pride Month

Jun 30, 2021 2:00 PM ET

“Obviously, no LGBT person should be denied the ability to be who they are because their boss disagrees.” – Gloria Steinem, American feminist journalist and social political activist 

At PSEG, we couldn’t agree more with Ms. Steinem. While Pride Month may be drawing to a close, we will continue to foster an inclusive culture for all employees where diversity is celebrated and inclusion is the norm. Pride Month was the start of our LGBTQ+ inclusion campaign designed to create greater empathy, safety and support for the LGBTQ+ community at PSEG. Here, PSEG’s Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Diversity Officer Sheila Rostiac, and Steve Fleischer, senior director DEI, Talent Acquisition & HR Operations, reflect on the changing workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.

Q: Why is focusing on the LGBTQ+ community important?

Rostiac: Quite simply, employees who feel that they need to hide a crucial part of their identity while at work cannot perform at their best. And unless we have a workplace that is truly inclusive for LGBTQ+ individuals, we will not be able to attract and retain the next generation of talent. I want to share some statistics that reinforce how important this work is – recent external research that surveyed U.S. workers across organizations found that 75% of LGBTQ+ employees had experienced at least one negative or prejudicial comment or action in the past year at work, and 41% experienced more than 10*.

PSEG is working to create a culture in which employees feel comfortable self-identifying as LGBTQ+ – from selecting their pronouns to attending our PRIDE and PRISM Employee Business Resource Group events to talking about their personal lives at work like any of their colleagues. This sends an explicit signal about inclusion to the entire workforce.

Q: As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, how would you describe the culture for LGBTQ+ employees at PSEG?

Fleischer: PSEG’s culture is evolving. When I joined the company in 2007, LGBTQ+ issues generally weren’t discussed at either the corporate level or one-on-one. It just didn’t come up that often. Now, fast-forward 14 years and we’re coming off the most active Pride Month that we’ve ever had, featuring a series of powerful discussions and activities throughout the month. Our CEO, Ralph Izzo, and Rostiac were involved in our Pride Month activities.  Our Chief Nuclear Officer, Eric Carr, is cosponsoring the PRIDE EBRG with me. And, we also held an enterprise-wide event inviting every employee to hear from their colleagues about what it’s like to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community and what it means to be an ally.

While we’ve made progress, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to continue the inclusion work for our existing LGBTQ+ workforce. In addition, to attract the next generation coming into the workplace, we need to be agile and comfortable in this space. This generation wants to see themselves reflected in the workplace and in our leadership; they expect us to be comfortable with pronouns and gender identity. So there’s more work to do and we look forward to supporting our employees across a host of dimensions.

Q: What are some common misperceptions about the LGBTQ+ community?

Rostiac: One misconception is that the LGBTQ+ workforce is a static or monolithic group with a single set of experiences, needs and priorities. That has never been the case. LGBTQ+ employees, just like all employees, offer a complex mix of personal attributes in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity. Demographic factors such as race or ethnicity, generation and immigration status, and life factors such as caretaker status, religion and managerial level, mean that each LGBTQ+ employee brings a different life experience to the workplace. 

While our earlier understanding of LGBTQ+ employees focused on personal relationships – who they love – that understanding has evolved to more appropriately appreciate LGBTQ+ employees for who they are, considering the complexity of the complete person beyond their relationships and taking into account the workplace readiness and personal resilience that accompanies the LGBTQ+ identity and experience.

Q: How can organizations make their cultures more welcoming and inclusive to LGBTQ+ employees?

Fleischer: The No. 1 priority is to make sure everyone feels safe. People have to know that they can come into work and talk about being LGBTQ+ and it won’t impact their career trajectory and they won’t be subjected to harassment or negative comments. To support that objective, during Pride Month we launched our LGBTQ+ campaign, which will run throughout the year and into 2022. Through a combination of education, experiences and activities, our goal is to build empathy and create psychological safety so that LGBTQ+ employees are able to be authentic at work. Campaigns like these augment our EBRGs, which function to create safe spaces for employees to connect with one another and also raise awareness among allies.

Q: We hear a lot about allyship. What does being an ally mean to you?

Rostiac: When I think about allyship, the key words for me are support, advocate and challenge. An ally is someone who voices support, who demonstrates value and respect for another person and their experience, and who looks for what they can do to help. You may not understand everything about another person’s history, background or life experience, but you push through any fears of difference and choose to stand up for and alongside them to fight any injustice against them – even if you can’t fully understand it and even if the issue doesn’t personally affect you. No individual group can achieve equality until all groups have equality.  It’s about valuing someone else’s needs, perspectives and freedoms, and doing something about it.

Q: How can people be stronger allies for the LGBTQ+ community?

Fleischer: Get involved. Attend events focused on the LBGTQ+ community. Listen to your friends, family and colleagues. Pay attention when someone is trying to share more about themselves or trying to communicate the kind of support or environment they need in order to be authentic at work and act accordingly. Ask how you can help and speak up if you see someone being treated in a way that you are not comfortable with, even if it’s unintentional. We can’t change and ensure everyone is safe if people stay silent.

*BCG and New York City’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center: []