How to Make Software Engineering More LGBTQ+ Friendly

As more and more organizations advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion, the engineering landscape is embracing a culture shift, including software engineering. A survey found that only 30% of LGBTQ+ engineers have come out to their colleagues for fear of discrimination, which means that more efforts are required to drive diversity and equality efforts in the workplace.

While many large corporations are paving the way for LGBT diversity efforts, smaller companies should follow suit to recruit and retain some of the most talented software engineers. So, here’s how to make software engineering more LGBTQ+ friendly.

Have an Awareness of the Language

Language matters in every workplace. It can provide acknowledgement and validation of identities, which is why every organization needs to be fully aware of the impact of the language they use, the context in which they are using it, and why people should make a conscious effort to use inclusive languages, especially when communicating with those members of the LGBTQ community.

Supporting and affirming people for who they are and how they identify is crucial for establishing an inclusive workplace. Inclusivity within language is as essential as any other kind of inclusivity in a culture.

People use languages that they assume to be inclusive and do not consider the inclusiveness of their words. An example is using “you guys” in addressing team members. Perhaps, it’s more appropriate to say, “You all.” Most of us have been using this language throughout our lives, which shows how much our language lacks inclusivity.

One way to make software engineering more LGBTQ+ friendly is to use languages that will not make LGBTQ members feel like they are not included in something or feel invalidated because we are not aware of how we use languages and how it affects other people. 

Celebrate Openness

One of the most crucial aspects of fostering an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace is to provide a venue for LGBTQ+ members to share their stories and encourage a culture of positivity. Workplaces should allow individuals to openly choose their labels, whether they identify as gay, bi, queer, or trans. They should not feel oppressed regardless of their gender preferences.

Coming out as an LGBTQ+ in the workplace can sometimes be daunting, especially in software engineering, a male-dominated field. Companies can help ease this stress and celebrate openness by establishing clear transition policies to meet the universal needs of LGBTQ+ members and adapt to each employee’s experience. By actively embracing one’s sexuality and that of others, companies are helping to promote safety and belongingness in the LGBTQ+ community.

When cultivating a culture of openness, companies must not force everyone to out themselves. It should be a choice that every worker should feel comfortable making for themselves. Some individuals may feel uncomfortable outing themselves at work, especially in a male-dominated field.

Implement Diverse Recruitment

Companies must implement diverse recruitment to make the workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly. When going through the electronic engineer recruitment process, companies should consider diversity, which helps establish a more inclusive workplace. Mention LGBTQ+ professionals through recruitment events and job boards when hiring new engineers.

Be careful with your use of language. For most candidates, the language the organization uses in a job posting is a first indication if they are LGBTQ+ friendly or not. Therefore, when making job posts, avoid gendered terminology. Instead of using he and she, it’s better to use they or “the candidate.”

According to studies, diverse organizations will be more likely to outperform their competitors during hiring and lead in innovation. Therefore, establishing a more diverse and inclusive culture can benefit the organization and not only the employees.

Diversity must also apply during training. Training staff to recognize and avoid discrimination is essential for establishing an LGBTQ+-friendly workplace. Furthermore, organizations should also consider updating the companies’ presentation to include LGBTQ+ employees, providing equal opportunity to everyone.

The recruiters and hiring managers should also undergo training to ensure they are aware of possible unconscious bias. They should learn the proper terminology and language to avoid gender identity. Awareness is necessary to ensure that LGBTQ+ engineers are comfortable right from recruitment.

Don’t Make Assumptions

Organizations should avoid making assumptions if they want to establish a more LGBTQ+-friendly workplace. Most of us can tell if someone is an LGBTQ+ member by looking at them. However, we should not make any assumptions to prevent upsetting anyone.

Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ engineers have to navigate microaggressions like hearing disparaging remarks about them for being LGBTQ+. According to studies, more than 60% of LGBTQ+ employees have to correct the assumptions of their managers and colleagues regarding their personal lives. Some face a more devastating experience of being misgendered and referred to by a pronoun that does not align with their identity.

People should not assume anything about the gender and preferences of their colleagues. Workplaces will be friendlier if everyone avoids making assumptions. If you are uncertain, dare to ask questions and communicate to prevent misunderstandings. More importantly, avoid making homophobic comments that could offend LGBTQ+ members, whether you feel they identify as one or not.

Normalize the Use of Pronouns

Organizations should normalize the use of pronouns to encourage a more LGBTQ+-friendly environment. Implement it in everything, from LinkedIn profiles to email signatures and Slack profiles. Normalizing the use of pronouns within the team by introducing everyone by their preferred pronouns is one of the best ways to make the workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly.

Do not hesitate to ask if you are unsure what pronoun someone prefers. The goal is to avoid shaming employees for what they identify as. If you cannot adjust to someone’s pronouns, keep trying. Using the proper pronouns can help to avoid making people feel excluded and giving the impression that someone doesn’t need to be afraid to show who they are at work.

Generally, it is best to practice using inclusive terms like “you” and “they” or “employees” in all manner of communications, including in contracts and job listings, unless you directly address a person and are aware of their preferred pronouns.



Mark Munroe is the Creator and EIC of ADDICTED. He's ADDICTED to great travel, amazing food, better grooming & probably a whole lot more!