Embracing Workplace Diversity: Empowering Employees with Tools for Equity

Woman leading a meeting

June marks the start of Pride Month, when people come together to recognize the impact that LGBTQIA+ individuals have had, as well as providing a reminder of the need to build a more inclusive culture supportive of all. Organizations have an ethical responsibility to establish workplaces where all employees can flourish and feel safe coming to work. Embracing diversity within the workforce is essential for cultivating an inclusive and innovative workplace culture, as well as to boost productivity, expand the talent pool, and ultimately drive business forward.

In the U.S., employees who identify as LGBTQIA+ comprise 5.9% of the workforce.1 Over 45% of LGBTQIA+ workers have reported experiencing unfair treatment at work, such as being fired, not hired, or harassed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity at some point in their careers.2 Other types of unfair treatment reported include losing promotions and being excluded from company events simply for being who they are. Members of the LGBTQIA+ community also often deal with insufficient support systems and a lack of inclusivity in benefits, such as health insurance that does not cover same-sex partners or provide resources for alternative paths to parenthood. With adoption costing as much as $60,000 and surrogacy ranging from $100,000 to $225,000, LGBTQIA+ employees who prioritize family-building but lack supportive benefits often face financial stress, leading to an emotional burden that can impact their job performance and overall health. This is unacceptable.

These disparities are even more pronounced for people of color. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people or color) employees additionally are faced with examples of inequity in the workplace, often including incidents of harassment and discrimination, disparities in pay, underrepresentation, or unequal access to resources. Black women are three to four times more likely to die a pregnancy-related death compared to white women, and 60 percent more likely to develop life-threatening pregnancy complications.3 Employees are telling us that there is a profound lack of benefits that support women and diverse people in the workplace, such as fertility and maternity care resources, longer paid parental leave, flexible scheduling, or menopause support. This leads to a key question: How can organizations best support the well-being of diverse employees?

1. Invest in inclusive benefits

Creating a supportive workplace for all employees means fostering inclusivity in all areas of business – including your benefits. Research indicates that 63% of millennial LGBTQIA+ couples plan to expand their families in the near future.4 Many will need fertility benefits to help plan their path to parenthood, which is known to be not only expensive, but emotionally difficult. When family-building is a priority, employees face nearly impossible decisions: How will they afford the costs? How much debt can they manage? These kinds of financial stressors can lead to emotional exhaustion and negative physical health effects, which can take a toll on a person’s work life. Without fertility benefits, these individuals may seek a new employer that provides the support they need to build their family. On average, replacing an employee can cost an organization around $75,000, so it makes economic sense to invest in inclusive benefits to retain high-quality employees. Plus, these benefits are consistently in demand – each year, we conduct our annual Future of Family Friendly benefits survey where we ask more than 2,000 working parents for their thoughts on their existing benefits, and how they could improve. This year, 38% of respondents said that they are looking for their employer to provide alternative family planning support, and even more (41%) want their employer to provide fertility screenings and testing for both women and men.

Ovia Health offers a range of solutions and support for people building their families through assisted reproductive technologies (ART), adoption, and surrogacy. Through our Gay and Future Parent experience in the Ovia Parenting app, and our new, first-of-its-kind Fertility and Family Building Benefit, Ovia extends our clinically driven approach to support all paths to parenthood, and is available to members of all demographics and family types, including same-sex couples. The Ovia Fertility and Family Building Benefit provides employers with a customizable solution to help engage and support employees during their entire family-building continuum.

In addition to addressing an important need for greater health equity and increasing support for LGBTQIA+ families, Ovia provides expanded support for maternity care and postpartum solutions, improving health outcomes and lowering costs as employees are engaged in their own personalized care pathways. Beyond this, Ovia spans the full spectrum of women’s and family health from preconception through pregnancy, parenting, menopause, and midlife – supporting employees in whatever phase of life they currently are in.

2. Increase access to specialized support

Data shows that 29% of LGBTQIA+ couples are raising children.5 Ovia offers content and resources tailored to the unique challenges these parents face, including navigating legal and social hurdles, managing non-traditional family dynamics, and finding LGBTQIA+-affirming healthcare providers. One such resource is our Care Team, made up of health coaches and care advocates available for 1:1 virtual coaching and support services 365 days per year. Well-versed on sensitive topics, they can guide employees through their unique challenges and answer questions about surrogacy, fostering, adoption, and general health. Additionally, our community of fellow-future-parents and current parents are always a resource to help navigate the challenges of parenting at any stage.

3. Invest in tools that support BIPOC mothers

Our data shows that Black women rank digital fertility and maternal health tools in their top-five most important benefits year after year. Disparities in healthcare track with this desire as Black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related complications.6 Ovia is dedicated to combating these issues and addressing the need for better resources to improve birth equity. Our Black Maternal Health program provides personalized education and guidance based on social determinants of health and each person’s unique medical history and symptoms. We help members learn about their possible risk factors, catch symptoms early, navigate care, and ultimately advocate for their health. In addition, we offer guidance on building a birth team, education on care team members like midwives and doulas, and framework for a birth plan.

4. Create employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) or other open communications forums are provide necessary opportunities for employees to build community, share information, and experiences. It’s important to encourage open dialogue and provide safe spaces for diverse employees to share and feel supported in the workplace. If your organization has these groups, it’s important to make sure they’re funded and supported as they require proper advocacy from leadership, including actively engaged executive sponsors, in order to thrive.

5. Foster an inclusive culture & equitable hiring practices

LGBTQIA+ women are twice as likely as women overall to report feeling like the “only one” in a team or meeting. This sense of “onlyness” is even more pronounced for LGBTQIA+ women of color, who are eight times more likely to experience this feeling when compared to straight white men. 7 Organizations can reduce stress and isolation with inclusive hiring and by clearly and consistently communicating and showing that inclusiveness is core to your culture. Building off of hiring practices, equally support all employees through a family-friendly culture. For example, return to work (RTW) preparation should begin long before the employee goes out on leave, and be more than just one packet of information. Center your programming on a comprehensive ecosystem of benefits, access to virtual health support, and holistic guidance for case by-case planning between managers and new parents. Leaders should practice radical empathy, actively reinforcing company values loudly and often. Move beyond standard unconscious bias or cultural competency workshops with extensive diversity-focused training that helps employees identify their own biases and learn strategies to eliminate microaggressions in the workplace. Train managers to better support and know what working parents need, including setting expectations around hours, communication, and bringing everyone’s full selves to work.

6. Offer flexible office requirements

A flexible work schedule was the third most popular benefit parents wanted most in our Future of Family Friendly Benefits survey.8 Flexible schedules offer numerous advantages for both employees and employers. Employees enjoy greater job satisfaction, improved health, better work-life balance, and reduced stress. Employers, in turn, benefit from increased productivity, lower turnover, and less absenteeism. If a particular role doesn’t require fixed hours, recognize that the best talent is as unique as their schedules. Create part-time flexible return options for those new parents looking to gradually ease back into work, and offer remote or hybrid opportunities for all employees whose positions make that feasible, to enable them to take care of both their jobs and their families.

At Ovia, we are committed to supporting the diversity of our members as well as diversity goals across organizations through our inclusive digital health solution that supports all paths to parenthood. By working with Ovia, organizations can strategically enhance their diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, equip diverse employees with tools to better balance work and life, improve health outcomes across your organization, and ultimately cultivate overall workplace wellness.

1. McKinsey and Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/how-the-lgbtq-plus-community-fares-in-the-workplace

2. Williams Institute of Law: https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/publications/lgbt-workplace-discrimination

3. Population Reference Bureau: https://www.prb.org/resources/black-women-over-three-times-more-likely-to-die-in-pregnancy-postpartum-than-white-women-new-research-finds/

4. Family Equality Council: https://familyequality.org/resources/lgbtq-family-building-survey

5. Family Equality Council: https://familyequality.org/resources/lgbtq-family-building-survey

6. Centers for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/maternal-mortality/index.html 

7. McKinsey and Company: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/how-the-lgbtq-plus-community-fares-in-the-workplace8. Future of Family Friendly Benefits survey: https://learn.oviahealth.com/benefits-that-matter