A young man in a blue casual shirt. He is smiling at the camera outdoors. Behind him is a building and several shrubs.
Robert Dillon. Image: Mastercard

How employers can support their LGBTQ+ employees

18 Aug 2021

Mastercard’s Robert Dillon discusses his ‘coming out’ experience in his job and offers advice for employers to support their LGBTQ+ employees.

Diversity and inclusion are critical for employers. A diverse group of employees leads to diversity of thought, which has been shown to bring about higher success rates in business.

But while diversity is about bringing people from all walks of life to the table, it can’t truly succeed without inclusion – ensuring those people you brought to the table have a voice, feel welcome and can come to work as their authentic selves.

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For members of the LGBTQ+ community, a significant part of that authenticity can centre around the ‘coming out’ experience when they start a new job.

Robert Dillon, a software development engineer at Mastercard, recently said in a LinkedIn blogpost that coming out is a never-ending, regular process.

“Every time you take up a new hobby, chat with a stranger on the street or meet a friend of a friend, there’s a chance your sexuality will come up in conversation,” he wrote.

“On top of the general stress of starting a new job in a new company, you’re faced with the prospect of ‘coming out’ to dozens of people who you’ll work with closely.”

Advice for employees

With this in mind, members of the LGBTQ+ community will often want to look out for positive signs of an inclusive company before even applying for a job.

Dillon told Siliconrepublic.com that the first thing he looks out for is whether or not a company promotes LGBTQ+ inclusivity all year long, instead of simply during Pride month.

“Another thing I like to look out for is if there are internal initiatives to boost diversity and inclusion within the workplace. This is a good thing to ask about during the interview process and I’m pleased we have great groups and activities at Mastercard to support inclusion,” he said.

“I also think there’s real value in how the company values diversity in other areas. If it’s a large company, you can generally look at how many members of the senior management team are women or people of colour, for example, and have they made any commitments to increase inclusion levels?”

Being able to be authentic to yourself has often been heralded as key to employee success, satisfaction and retention.

Dillon said that while this is important, LGBTQ+ employees should also feel comfortable taking things at their own pace.

“Starting a job can be overwhelming and if you find the idea of juggling a lot of new things with the goal of coming out to your new colleagues, take your time. But I would say, when the time is right for you, be open to sharing your life with your colleagues,” he said.

“You know yourself better than anyone, so move at your own speed but always remember to be authentic and true to yourself – especially somewhere you’ll be spending eight hours a day, five days a week.”

Advice for employers

For employers, Dillon said it’s essential to be proactive when it comes to inclusion and that can even start with something as small as sending company-wide emails to mark holidays that are important to minority groups.

“Offer training on areas around diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias. Have inclusion policies readily available. Offer resources to employees to form committees such as Mastercard’s Pride committee, and give them the time they need to promote diversity and inclusion in your workplace,” he said.

“These initiatives are things that an LGBTQ+ person will be aware of when they first join your company and will lead to them being happier and more engaged during their time working with you.”

From his own experience, Dillon said his concerns around starting a new job were alleviated from the very first day at Mastercard.

“When chatting about the Pride committee, I found out there were Pride committees in so many offices and the Dublin committee was a very active group offering internal events for employees, as well as supporting external events across the country. During my office tour, there were lots of ‘LGBTQ+ ally’ flags on desks and it really made a great first impression,” he said.

“I never felt apprehensive about sharing facts about myself at any stage and I never felt uncomfortable when talking to other colleagues.”

However, while Dillon said he’s grateful to work somewhere that allows him to share personal stories without apprehension, he shouldn’t have to feel grateful for this.

“This should just be normal for everyone regardless of who they are, and it’s a company’s responsibility to strive towards making this a reality.”

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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