Gender and sexuality in the workplace is the focus of an upcoming employer information session in Peterborough organized by the Workforce Development Board/Local Employment Planning Council (WDB/LEPC).
Set for Thursday, January 16th at 8 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Peterborough Waterfront (150 George St. N., Peterborough), the featured speaker is anya gwynne, education co-ordinator with PARN – Your Community AIDS Resource Network in Peterborough.
The event will begin with breakfast and networking, with gwynne’s presentation on best practices around gender and sexuality in the workplace at 8:30 a.m. followed by a question-and-answer session at 9:30 a.m. Admission is complimentary, but those attending are asked to register in advance at eventbrite.ca.
According to WDB/LEPC project co-ordinator Wade Matthews, this is the sixth and final employer information session presented by the organization since June 2019.
Previous sessions have covered addiction and substance abuse, diversity and inclusion, accessibility, mental health and wellbeing, and managing different generations in the workplace — with each session building upon previously published employer guides made available by the WDB/LEPC.
The premise, says Matthews, is to introduce employers to best practices around each issue.
“In terms of our governance, we take our advice from the community and the various associations we’re affiliated with,” Matthew explains.
“From that, we get a sense of what employers are looking for and what they need. All six of these issues were flagged as important to employers to take into consideration for best practices in the workplace.”
“In addition, there are legal implications for employers they need to be aware of in relation to these kinds of issues. They’ve become something they can no longer simply avoid.”
While the sessions are primarily geared for employers in both the private and public sectors, human resources managers have attended past sessions and benefited, notes Matthews.
“And the sessions are great for small business, because small businesses often don’t have the resources to spend time looking into these issues. We help by short-cutting issues for them and provide them with best practices they can implement.”
“We’ve done surveys after each event. Generally speaking, participants have found the event helpful and have taken on practices suggested by the expert.”
Speaking directly to the upcoming session, Matthews says its subject is highly relevant.
“We still have an employment scenario where there’s a gap between the wages paid to men and the wages paid to women,” he notes. “And there’s research that clearly shows the more diverse workplace you have, the better productivity you have.”
In WDB/LEPC’s recent guide entitled Gender and Sexuality, it’s noted that the Ontario Human Rights Code prohibits sexual and gender-based harassment in the workplace and employers are obligated to develop formal policies to address and prevent such instances.
Further, according to a 2013 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, gender-based harassment, unlike some forms of sexual harassment, is not generally motivated by sexual interest or intent. Rather, it is often rooted in hostility and intended to make another feel unwelcome.
The report goes on to note there’s a cost to employers who do nothing to put policies in place and address instances as they arise. Cited are decreased productivity, low morale, increased absences and higher health care costs, along with the potential for incurred legal expenses.
Workplace harassment and discrimination is particularly prevalent for members of the LGBTQ+ community, the WDB/LEPC guide concludes, with one of the biggest forms of discrimination seen around the issue of gender-specific pronouns.
“A lot of transgender people face barriers around their chosen name,” notes Alex Karn of Gender Journeys, a pilot project offered through the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge.
“Education is the best place to start. A lot of it should be common sense. It comes down to treating people with respect. It’s important that employers be visible as an ally.”
The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s policy on sexualized and gender-specific dress codes states employers could be proactive by removing gender references from workplace documents and using gender-neutral language, such as “partner” or “spouse” as opposed to “husband” or “wife”.
According to a 2018 report by Addictions and Mental health Ontario, a number of approaches are recommended to better ensure inclusiveness in the workplace.
These include ensuring LGBTQ+ inclusiveness is woven throughout all organizational policies, ensuring those policies cover gender identity and gender expression, and having policies in place that offer privacy and accessibility for those who may be required to take hormone therapy medication.
For employers, the following strategies are contained in Beyond Diversity, a report compiled by Great Place To Work and Pride At Work Canada:
- Create a formal policy in writing
- Use gender-neutral language
- Review employees’ dress code
- Provide diversity training for employees
- Provide management training
- Support employee resource groups
- Support gender transition
The WDB/LEPC guide concludes that an inclusive workplace is driven from the top by workplace leadership teams.
This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario.
This story was created in partnership with WDB/LEPC.