In last week’s blog, I hailed the repeal of the US Military’s “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell” policy which occurred late last year. The US Congress, which voted to repeal this policy, finally understands what most major US businesses have long ago understood – that the most successful enterprises will have no barriers to entry, which allows the best talent from the widest possible pool can be considered.
So now gay men and women can enlist in the US military and be open about who they are. Now what? Is the work over? Certainly not! There is a lot of hard work ahead! After we are able to add GLBT talent to the US military, we need to work hard to keep them there and working at their peak capacity.
First, solid training will be required from the top of the US military through to every service member. Everyone needs to be taught to refrain from GLBT offensive behavior, including crude GL BT slurs and jokes. And then people need to learn how to best address and include GLBT people in every day interaction – including using more inclusive language like “spouse” and “partner” in addition to “husband” and “wife.” The culture needs to become one that is welcoming and nurturing to all so that every member of the team can contribute their best. A recent Associated Press article already stated that the US Army has started this training and hope to have it completed by every Army member by August.
Next, many of the military programs need to be examined for full inclusivity. Areas could include the provision of “married housing” to same-gender couples and support structures for spouses of service members.
And finally, this could then have ramifications on the military’s thousands of suppliers of products and services, especially since many of the suppliers interact directly with military personnel. For those suppliers who have not fully embraced total inclusivity of GLBT people, education and change implementation will be required.
I stand ready as a consultant with my leadership experience in one the world’s leading GLBT-inclusive companies to assist our military and their suppliers in any way I can.
I was very pleased to see the end of the US Military “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy at the very end of 2010. The Policy basically stated that it was “OK” for those in the military to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender as long as they “did not tell” anyone , i.e. keep it hidden. What this basically amounted to was that GLBT people who wanted to serve in the US military had to keep hidden or lie about this very important aspect of who they are.
President Barack Obama signs the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2010, during a ceremony at the Interior Department in Washington.
Studies in the private business sector have shown that when people hide who they are at work, it negatively impacts their productivity. People need to keep track of who they have and have not disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity to, thereby distancing themselves from coworkers and team members. They worry more about if they may lose their job or be passed over for a promotion because of who they are, and that negatively impacts their productivity. But people who can openly bring their full selves into a supportive work place can optimize productivity and devote all their energy to their work. The “Degrees of Equality” report from the Human Rights Campaign provides the details of this analysis.
Hundreds of thousands of people participated in the 2009 March on Washington advocating for equality for LGBT people. Many spoke on the need to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell
Now better days are ahead for the US Military! The ending of the “Don’t Ask / Don’t Tell” policy means that the military can truly recruit the best and brightest talent, including those who may be gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. Studies have shown how many bright and talented people serving our country in key roles like linguistic intelligence have been dismissed simply because they came out as being GLBT. Data from the SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) shows that thousands of talented service people have been dismissed from our military, robbing our country’s defense system of key personnel.
In my next blog entry I will write about what may be needed by the military in 2011, and the lessons they can learn from the business world.