Updated: Nov 10
Inclusion isn’t only the right thing to do; it’s good for business. Learn how to create safe spaces for colleagues and customers.
Part of your role as a trusted advisor is to create a safe environment where clients feel comfortable sharing their hopes, fears, and plans for the future. Fostering this kind of environment is key to retaining existing clients and bringing in new business.
Promoting a welcoming and inclusive professional environment is even more important for your 2SLGBTQ+ clients, who have historically been marginalized in all aspects of society and continue to face discrimination.
You may be thinking, “But I don’t have any 2SLGBTQ+ clients.”
Studies show that as many as 20% of millennials identify as 2SLGBTQ+. If you don’t think you have any 2SLGBTQ+ clients today, you very likely will in the coming years, especially as millennials start to inherit their parents’ assets and seek out professional advice.
And just because someone isn’t out to you as 2SLGBTQ+, doesn’t mean it’s safe to assume you don’t have any 2SLGBTQ+ clients. Millennials are more likely than generations before them to openly identify but this doesn’t mean that older clients aren’t 2SLGBTQ+; they’re just less likely to be open about their gender and/or sexuality.
Will they feel welcome in your office... or will they go somewhere else?
Creating an inclusive environment where clients from all walks of life are welcomed isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also good for business.
Here are a few things you can start doing today to show your current and future 2SLGBTQ+ clients that you’re in their corner.
Getting to know your 2SLGBTQ+ clients
The best advice isn’t one-size-fits-all; it’s tailored to each unique client. In order to give tailored advice, you need to know about the personal lives of your clients. What are they passionate about? What are the causes that are meaningful to them? Who are the important people in their lives? If someone doesn’t feel comfortable discussing their personal life with you, they won’t get the same level of detailed planning as your other clients.
When offering advice, it’s also important to understand the unique barriers 2SLGBTQ+ clients face when it comes to financial and estate planning. If you don’t factor in these barriers, there will likely be significant gaps in the advice you give.
For example, a report from Trans PULSE found that only 37% of transgender participants were employed full-time despite their credentials, background, and work experiences. 15% were employed part-time, 25% were students, 3% were retired, and 20% were unemployed. To add insult to injury, provinces and territories don’t provide adequate trans healthcare coverage. They also don’t cover healthcare costs like prescription drugs, dentistry, and mental health care which makes it difficult to pay monthly bills, let alone save for the future. While more and more companies are offering inclusive healthcare benefits, these benefits are typically only offered to full time employees.
Microaggressions aren’t so micro in their impact
While it may be illegal in Canada to discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, some forms of discrimination, like microaggressions, can be very subtle.
For 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, this type of discrimination is often based on inaccurate assumptions about someone’s gender or sexuality and can sometimes be an insult wrapped in a compliment, like:
“What’s your real name?”
“I would have never known you used to be a girl.”
“What’s your husband's name?”
When talking to clients, remember to use gender-neutral language, and be mindful of how you phrase questions:
“What name do you go by? Is there a different name that’s listed on your legal documents? I will always call you by the name you go by but any paperwork I submit has to be the name that’s on your legal documents.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me.”
“What’s your partner or spouse's name?”
Inclusive forms and using correct names
Ensure any forms your clients fill out are inclusive and only collect information that’s absolutely needed. For example, we provide a diverse range of genders for our customers to select from when setting up their EstateBox.
You may need to use someone’s given name on certain documents but there’s no reason to call someone by that name if they’ve specified they use a different one. Deadnaming, when someone is called a name they no longer use, can be incredibly harmful and should be avoided at all times.
If you need to know a specific piece of information, ask respectfully before assuming anything about your client’s personal life.
The importance of pronouns
Another way to be inclusive is to add your pronouns to your email signature and your website bios like we do at EstateBox. It may seem like a small detail but it communicates that you’re a safe person for your 2SLGBTQ+ colleagues and clients. If you slip up and use the wrong pronouns or name for someone, correct yourself and move on. If you’re corrected, say thank you, correct yourself, and move on. Apologizing profusely can put people in an awkward position where they may feel like they need to say it’s okay, even if they don’t feel okay.
There may be a variety of reasons someone doesn’t have their pronouns listed on their email signature or social media accounts so it’s important not to make it mandatory. For some people, they may not feel safe to share them with all of their email contacts or everyone online.
If you’re not sure which pronouns to use for someone, ask or stick with “they/them”. Be aware that some people may use different pronouns in different situations or around certain people.
Creating safe spaces for colleagues and clients
If you’re taking the time to educate yourself, share what you’ve learned with your colleagues so they can create inclusive and safe spaces with their clients as well.
Make sure any frontline staff your clients interact with are also creating a welcoming and accepting space, whether in person, over the phone or online. They’re often the first people your clients interact with so they set the tone for what clients can expect in your office. If you have public bathrooms, have gender neutral and accessible facilities available.
Attending webinars or setting up a training session with a 2SLGBTQ+ organization like Pride at Work Canada or the 519 can also help get everyone on the same page. When the EstateBox team attends educational webinars, we take the time to have a discussion afterwards where people can ask questions or share their thoughts about what we just learned. It also gives our 2SLGBTQ+ employees the opportunity to share their personal experiences if they’d like to do so.
The inclusivity you build into your work life can also be reflected in your personal life. Adjusting the words you use to be more inclusive is like any new habit; it takes time and repetition to change. Chances are most people won’t notice the subtle changes, but to the people in your life who are most impacted by gendered language, it will make a world of a difference. Remember, our interactions and actions outside of our workplaces can tell our customers a lot about the service they can expect.
These are just a few of the actions you can start taking today to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for your current and future 2SLGBTQ+ clients.
Education is a lifelong journey. Here are some other resources about allyship and fostering inclusivity that you may find helpful as you consider how to best serve your 2SLGBTQ+ clients:
We’ve worked hard at EstateBox to develop a digital life and legacy planning platform that reflects the lived experience of a diverse range of users. We invite other organizations to join us in making estate planning an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone.
Create an account today and enjoy a 60-day free trial (no credit card or code required) to explore everything the EstateBox platform currently has to offer your clients.
While we're passionate about estate planning and creating inclusive spaces, we're not professionals. We recommend working with diversity, equity, and inclusion professionals to help make your office a safe space for everyone.