Discover 3 tips to facilitate LGBTQ+ community’s inclusion in a startup

Discover 3 tips to facilitate LGBTQ+ community’s inclusion in a startup

by Startup Montréal
11 August 2022

During our last Startup Wednesdays, we had a discussion with Naoufel Testaouni, co-founder and CEO of the organization Queertech. The conversation led us to learn more about this organization, which aims to eliminate barriers, create open spaces and connect people with others, the 7,000 LGBTQ2S+ members of its community to support and equip them in their career development. He shared a few ideas and tips with us that could contribute to making the Montréal startup ecosystem more inclusive of this minority, which too often is still invisible.

How does our ecosystem behave regarding inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community?

Before going into the concrete means that can be put in place to favour inclusion in all Montréal startups, we asked Naoufel to tell us about his perception of our ecosystem regarding inclusion of the LGBTQ+.community.

He considers that Canada is fairly advanced in rights for members of the LGBTQ+ community. We need only turn to the United States and other foreign countries to recognize that discrimination regarding gender identity or sexual orientation is still quite strong.

Too many cases of harassment against the LGBTQ+ community in Québec

For Québec, the Queertech leader considers there is still a lot of work to be done in education and awareness. We need only read this sad statistic to understand, that even though our province is successfully showing acceptance and openness in some regards, there are still a lot of issues for this community, especially in the work environment:

“In the results of an LGBTQ survey shared by Fondation Émergence, we can read that 65% of the respondents have been victims of at least one situation of sexual or psychological harassment in the workplace in the past five years.”

It’s difficult to identify with the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace

Out guest highlights another issue that particularly affects this community, due to the fact that 50% of LGBTQ+ members are still in the closet in dealing with their employer. Why? Because some are afraid of being victims of discrimination or missing out on career opportunities.

The way others see us is still cause for concern

Though Naoufel today proudly asserts his sexual and gender activity, this wasn’t always the case. He says he used code switching on various occasions in his career. This practice involves deliberately hiding one’s identity by changing one’s appearance or certain behavioural traits with the goal of integrating more easily.

Here are the 3 tips to facilitate LGBTQ+ community’s inclusion in a startup.

1. Have clear policies and effective procedures for applying them to counter discrimination

If inclusion is a value your startup proudly wants to promote, your position regarding members of the LGBTQ+ community must be stated clearly through policies adequately distributed to all your employees. You must also establish procedures that are easy to use in reporting people who act against these policies.

2. Make employees aware of issues concerning the LGBTQ+ community

Too often in the business world, members of the LGBTQ+ community have the burden of educating their colleagues and explaining the issues they experience. Instead it should be the company’s responsibility to organize exchanges, presentations or discussions to make everyone aware of the various questions concerning diversity and inclusion.

3. Make assistance and support programs available to employees from the LGBTQ+ community

To offer support to members of the LGBTQ+ community who are part of our team, it is important to make the existing mentoring and training programs available to help themselves better in their work environment and progress in their career. These resources do not have to be developed by your startup. You can easily call on organizations like Queertech to help deploy this type of initiative. Several other organizations that are not dedicated to members of the LGBTQ+ community can also be solicited to provide networking among various resources instead of working in silos.

Some resources available for entrepreneurs from the LGBTQ+ community

Startup Montréal has created a Web page to gather resources likely to help entrepreneurs from the LGBTQ+ community to feel more at home in their business project. We therefore invite you to go to this page for more details.

Our guest Naoufel finished the discussion by encouraging the members of the LGBTQ+ community to continue to make choices aligned with their values, not be afraid to tell their story to contribute to raising awareness, and not hesitate to consult the organizations around them to find the right tools to help them propel their respective careers.