LGBTQ cultural competency: County unveils unique workplace tool
County workers sign in to view a demonstration of a cultural competency tool designed to help employees learn how to treat LGBTQ co-workers and residents with respect. (Jordan Henderson/Newsbeat)
The County of Santa Clara has launched a groundbreaking training program aimed at improving the government workforce’s LGBTQ cultural competency.
Dozens of county workers showed up last week on National Coming Out Day for three demonstrations of the County’s custom-made, interactive training module. Amy Lanteigne, project leader, described the module as the first-ever interactive LGBTQ cultural competency program in the country to promote workplace inclusiveness.
Lanteigne first demonstrated the modules in the Board of Supervisors Chamber on Oct. 11, Coming Out Day. Several uniformed probation officers and members of the Sheriff’s Office attended, among others. Later, she presented at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and at the Social Services Agency.
She then urged attendees to go back to their offices, log in and work through the entire 30-minute training module.
Lanteigne said the County worked with health-simulation company Kognito for 10 months to develop the program. The training followed a 2013 LGBTQ health assessment. The survey found widespread discrimination and discomfort among LGBTQ County workers and residents.
LGBTQ training for County workers
Users watch a pair of animated simulated conversations. One is between a County worker and a transgender woman who wants to change her name in a county computer system. The other is a conversation between two co-workers after one makes an inappropriate comment about another staff member’s sexual orientation.
At key points in the simulated conversations, the program prompts users to try to choose the best response to biased behavior from a menu of options. In the end, users learn their score and find out where they might have made better language choices.
The program is designed to be nonthreatening and safe for users. It helps them realize how they may be unintentionally using hurtful language, and how to avoid doing that.
A powerful tool
The County encourages all 20,000 employees to take the training. Although learning to treat LGBTQ people with respect on the personal level is the overall goal, there’s more to it than that.
“It’s not just one and done,” said Maribel Martínez, director of the Office of LGBTQ Affairs.
The County will aggregate the data, she said, and crunch it to determine whether further education or programming might be needed.
Supervisor Ken Yeager, the County’s first openly gay supervisor, spearheaded the effort to get the training project underway.
“Under the Trump administration,” he said, “we are seeing a sustained assault on LGBTQ rights. That can be horrifying to someone who is thinking about coming out. In Santa Clara County, we don’t tolerate hate or discrimination. We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. We honor this day by sending a clear message: This is a welcoming place where we celebrate all sexual orientations and identities.”
— Chuck Carroll, Newsbeat editor