On June 11, 2019, Cait Boyce and I had the honor of speaking (by invitation) about workplace diversity and overall diversity landscape in Central Oregon to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) at their Bend offices. Tana Libby from ODOT was our host. We were asked by Tana to provide an overview of what’s going on in Central Oregon regarding diversity and inclusivity as part of ODOT’s efforts to understand how to attract a more diverse workforce.
Firstly, we applaud ODOT as an equality leader in being the first state in the U.S. to allow for a third gender option (‘non-binary’) to the state’s driver’s licenses and identification cards.
Through its diversity initiative, ODOT is examining ways in which to increase and incorporate diversity into their workforce.
Cait and I opted for a less-structured approach to this presentation, allowing for open discussion and questions about diversity in Central Oregon from the approximately 45 attendees. We began by providing certain LGBTQ+ workplace statistics: 46% of LGBTQ+ employees say they are closeted at work; 53% report hearing jokes about lesbian or gay people at least once in a while; 28% lie about their personal life; 17% feel exhausted from spending time and energy hiding their gender identity; and 31% feel unhappy or depressed at work. Many LGBTQ+ workers aren’t out at work due to fear of harassment, exclusion, and negative comments. Additionally, the top reason why LGBTQ+ workers don’t report negative comments they hear at work is that they don’t think anything would be done about it. These ultimately manifest by LGBTQ+ employees not bringing their full and whole selves to work, potentially limiting their workplace creativity and productivity. It thus behooves employers to ensure that the workplace is safe and welcoming for all employees.
Even more surprisingly, in 28 states, you can be fired for being lesbian, bisexual, or gay; in 30 states, you can be fired for being transgender – in other words, you can be fired just for being who are you are!
Cait provided a history of key organizations and individuals in Central Oregon who have focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion, such as Cliff Cook, Human Dignity Coalition, and PFLAG, giving insight to their pioneering efforts to bring inclusion and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community to this rural and arguably conservative area.
ODOT was extremely engaged, asking many relevant and pointed questions as they tried to understand and relate to such concepts as unconscious bias and the importance of providing a safe space for all in the workplace. Such open conversations are so important for all in order to truly grow and understand how an inclusive and diverse workplace can occur. Afterward, ODOT commented this was their most interactive presentation they have had in their monthly series of talks.
Lunch was catered by our partner Bethlyn’s Global Fusion.
More info @ oregon.gov/ODOT/About/Pages/Diversity.aspx