Beyond Tolerance: The Importance of LGBTQ+ Leadership & Representation in the Workplace

When it comes to workplace diversity, equity and inclusion, adding “DE&I” to your company values statement is a good start. But it’s only a start. Every June, we see plenty of companies change their social media profiles to rainbow logos and branding in acknowledgment of Pride Month. But again, that’s the tip of the iceberg of what companies can be doing to support LGBTQ+ employees. 

The most successful organizations are choosing to move ‘beyond tolerance,’ meaning they are actively working toward creating an environment of belonging where LGBTQ+ employees feel safe, respected, and valued. Understanding why representation matters and how to hire, develop and grow  LGBTQ+ and other diverse employees within your organization is the first step toward creating a culture of belonging.

Why Representation Matters

For LGBTQ+ employees, a lack of representation in leadership can compound feelings of ‘onlyness,’ or being the only person of a gender identity or sexual orientation on a team or in a meeting. According to research from McKinsey & Company, LGBTQ+ women make up only 1.6% of managers and less than 1% of vice presidents, senior vice presidents and C-suite roles. Representation of LGBTQ+ men is slightly higher, with them making up 2.8% of managers and 2.9% of senior vice presidents and C-suite roles. Building a diverse and inclusive workforce and leadership team not only benefits company culture, it also can have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. Another McKinsey analysis finds that companies with more diverse leadership are more likely to outperform their less diverse peers. 

When LGBTQ+ employees see others like them in leadership positions, it sends a message that they can achieve similar success. As evidenced by the McKinsey data, the need for representation is across all leadership levels and types of leadership opportunities; this can include actual leadership roles within and across departments (e.g., organizational structures) and company initiatives (e.g., employee resource groups (ERGs)).

Additionally, it’s about creating a culture of inclusivity and respect diverse and LGBTQ+ employees. When people feel valued and supported, they are more likely to be engaged, productive, and successful at work.

How to Increase LGBTQ+ Leadership Representation


In every aspect of business, it’s important to stop and assess your current state on a regular basis, especially when wanting to make a change. When it comes to DE&I, it’s no different.  Assessing your current state is all about asking questions and uncovering where your company really stands with diverse and LGBTQ+ representation.

Here at Day & Zimmermann we look at our company’s data, such as demographics and engagement, and ask questions like: 

  • Who makes up our current leadership teams?
  • Is leadership (executives, directors, managers, team leads, etc.) across the company diverse? 
  • Specifically, are diverse and LGBTQ+ employees in leadership-level roles?Are diverse and LGBTQ+ employees actively and regularly promoted within the organization?
  • Are diverse and LGBTQ+ employees involved and active in employee groups, committees, councils, etc.?

The data we collect informs our initiatives and strategies, especially in diversifying our leaders and adding representation if gaps exist. 


Fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect is key to recruiting and building a diverse workforce. Like any other potential candidate, LGBTQ+ workers seek out companies that align with their values and provide a work environment where they will feel safe to be their authentic selves. This means creating a space where all employees are celebrated and valued for their uniqueness.. Research from BetterUp finds that a high sense of belonging and inclusivity at work is linked to better performance, higher job and employer satisfaction, and even greater growth in terms of promotions and raises. 

At Day & Zimmermann, talent recruitment and retention is a pillar of our diversity & inclusion initiatives. We analyze our talent efforts regularly to ensure we’re leveraging best practices and resources to recruit, retain, develop and engage diverse talent. Within the last year, to promote inclusivity, we gave employees the choice to put their pronouns in their email signatures and Zoom salutations. To assist with recruiting and promoting our organization as a LGBTQ+-friendly place to work, we submit our company for annual rankings like the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Our business groups and talent acquisition team look to LGBTQ+ job boards, organizations, etc. to seek out and hire LGBTQ+ candidates.  Lastly, through our True Colors ERG, we create and share LGBTQ+ focused content throughout the year to promote allyship and an inclusive culture.


LGBTQ+ representation doesn’t end with recruitment and hiring. It’s important to continue to uplift LGBTQ+ employees and leaders in your workforce by enabling their growth. Seeing LGBTQ+ individuals in leadership positions, sends a powerful message to your workforce. It provides visibility and a “seat at the table” for a population of employees that is often in the minority. It also highlights that, regardless of one’s unique life experience, anyone can make it to “the top'' at your company.

Providing resources and support for LGBTQ+ employees, such as employee resource groups (ERGs), benefits guides, diversity and inclusion training, etc., can help create a sense of community and belonging and in turn increase job satisfaction and retention. At Day & Zimmermann, our True Colors Employee Resource Group was established to advocate for a culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion and empowers the LGBTQ+ community and allies to bring their whole selves to work. The True Colors ERG provides a space where all colleagues can learn about LGBTQ+ issues and work together to bring initiatives that foster inclusivity to life across the organization.

To create a workplace truly inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, companies must go ‘beyond tolerance’ and actively work toward creating this environment of inclusivity and belonging. LGBTQ+ representation is still lacking in managerial roles and higher levels of leadership across industries, geographies, and markets, but the data shows that companies that actively seek out and promote diverse candidates are more likely to succeed and thrive in today’s global marketplace. At Day & Zimmermann, we follow these three steps, plus others, to increase LGBTQ+ leadership in the workplace, while ensuring the diverse and LGBTQ+ workforce is supported and celebrated year-round.