Break Barriers to Build an Equitable Culture

by Liz Ahmed

When individuals work to build relationships based on trust and consistency, barriers are broken. These same people – when united to promote and advance inclusion and diversity – can create lasting relationships and meaningful change.

I’m proud to represent Unum Group and our Unum and Colonial Life brands. We believe to break barriers you have to be an ally and elevate the voices of the LGBTQIA+ community.

While the rights of individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ have expanded, we still have work to do. Industry surveys show that fifty percent of LGBTQIA+ employees report hiding their identity to supervisors, with many who engage in ‘covering’ behaviors to avoid work discrimination. This may emerge as changes to physical appearances or avoiding discussions about families at work.

Businesses, organizations, and employers have a collective responsibility to welcome all people in the workplace. At Unum, we celebrate differences and encourage our employees to come to work as their authentic selves. We know this philosophy connects diversity of thought through each employee’s unique perspective, experience, and background. It also helps us better serve customers and build a representative workforce.

Here are just some of the ways to build a more equitable culture and inclusive teams within your organization:

  • Celebrate Differences. Our belief in an ‘appreciation for differences’ is the cornerstone for a diverse and inclusive culture. We recognize commemoration days and months throughout the year such Black History, Diversity, Autism Acceptance and Pride month. To initiate meaningful conversations, the Inclusion and Diversity team creates and shares manager communication tool kits and employee stories that are shared throughout the organization and on our social media and corporate brand channels.
  • Engage in Equitable Hiring Practices. According to a March 2022 Unum Employer Insights Pulse Survey, one of the top HR challenges in the workplace is employee attraction and retention.* Look for new avenues to recruit and expand candidate search to a diverse pool of people. For example, target efforts for the LGBTQIA+ community through specific online resources and career fairs.
  • Measure Standards. Recently, Unum was again named to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index 2022. This national benchmarking tool provides a deeper look into corporate policies, practices and benefits pertinent to LGBTQIA+ employees. Some of the criteria included hiring practices, supplier diversity and philanthropic support of LGBTQIA+ organizations. This helps us know we are on the right track.
  • Offer Inclusive Benefits. Inclusive employee benefits for spouses and partners – both same and different sex – can make all the difference in recruiting and retention. Unum offers programs and services that support the employee’s physical, emotional, financial and professional needs. This includes medical, dental, fertility, and behavioral health benefits. In addition, Unum offers benefits that help cover gender affirming surgery and short-term disability for gender confirmation surgery.
  • Provide Safe Spaces. To foster a culture of belonging, start with employees. Employee and business networks like Unum’s bePROUD network, is a great place to advance the conversation. We have a collective responsibility to create stronger relationships and better inform our understanding of each other.
  • Support Social Justice. Look for ways to partner with action-oriented organizations that work to end racism, discrimination, and bias. Through our Social Justice Fund, we provide grants and partner with organizations to advocate for stronger and healthier communities. Cempa Community Care and We Are Family are two examples of organizations we partner with that deliver education and support services for teens and adults in the LGBTQIA+ community. Since 2020, we have donated almost a million dollars to 49 community-minded businesses to help end injustice across the globe.

*Unum, Employer Insights Pulse Survey (March 2022)

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About Unum Group

Unum Group (NYSE: UNM), an international provider of workplace benefits and services, has been helping workers and their families for 175 years. Through its Unum and Colonial Life brands, the company offers disability, life, accident, critical illness, dental, vision and stop-loss insurance; leave and absence management support and behavioral health services. In 2022, Unum reported revenues of about $12 billion and paid $8 billion in benefits. The Fortune 500 company is one of the 2023 World’s Most Ethical Companies, recognized by Ethisphere®. 

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