Small ways to create a work environment that is LGBTQ+ inclusive
Work and life barriers continue to break down as many people realise it’s important to be themselves in all environments. For some people in the LGBTQ+ community, and in many organisations, it can be tough to know how accepting and inclusive a professional workplace is. The goal for organisations should be to remove this ambiguity and create a space that invites diversity of all kinds, without employees having to feel unwelcome or like they cannot be their full selves.
Here are just a few small ways to start building an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace.
Use inclusive language.
Inclusive language is a simple and subtle way to create an inclusive environment for all.
Some examples include changing job titles such as ‘Chairman’ or ‘Salesman’ to ‘Chairperson’, or ‘Salesperson’.
It can be helpful to address a group of people via email with ‘Hey Everyone’, or ‘Hi Team’. Instead of ‘Hi guys’, or ‘Hi ladies,’ especially when you don’t directly know the people you are corresponding with well.
It can also be helpful to offer some ‘right and wrong’ language tools to help people learn what is inclusive language and what isn’t.
Be aware of pronouns.
Pronouns are how people identify themselves. They can include (but are not limited to):
Or some people may just prefer to use their name!
If someone has their pronouns listed near their name on LinkedIn, in their email or elsewhere, make sure you use the right ones. This shows respect. For example, do not use ‘He/Him’ or ‘She/Her pronouns for a person who is non-binary and prefers to be identified as ‘They/Them’.
If you’re unsure of someone’s pronouns it is best to just use their name as it is in their email or on their profile.
It can be helpful to show acceptance and to normalise the use of pronouns by sharing your own on LinkedIn, in your email signature or elsewhere where people can find your information.
Be an active ally.
Back up your words with actions. Don’t just post about being supportive of Pride, actually donate to important LGBTQ+ foundations. Don’t just say you accept everyone, implement diversity actions that actually flow through your business. It’s always a good start to speak up about your support, but you want to avoid virtue signalling. Be genuine about your inclusivity.
On that note, celebrate with your LGBTQ+ community, have fun during Pride, learn more about the history and celebrate wins such as legalising gay marriage. But also, be aware of the steps that need to be taken to create a safe place and true equality.
Create a safe space for open communication.
Part of the actions you are taking could be to actively build safe spaces for those who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community to speak openly to their colleagues about their identity. New avenues of dialogue can also help inform and educate your diversity working groups and HR, which can then facilitate changes in the workplace to improve gender and sexual equality.
These safe spaces should allow people to talk freely about their experiences (if they want to) and hopefully reassure them that they have an inclusive support network within their business.
Share EAP programs.
As many of us know, inequality and discrimination are common struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. From ignorance to passive aggressiveness, to rude remarks, to outdated laws, to physical violence. The LGBTQ+ community experience a very specific type of prejudice which can take an immense toll on a person’s mental health.
It can be valuable to share concerns and let people know there is help available through an Employee Assistance Program. Many EAP’s include free counselling sessions and can be beneficial to support anyone struggling with their mental health.
Create a strong inclusion policy and communicate it well.
Company policy ensures everyone employed must abide by the rules and behave in a way that aligns with the organisations ethos and values. To create a strong and clear diversity policy is key. On top of that, this policy should be communicated to employees, or at least advertised in a way internally where it is easy to access and see for all employees. To have rules in place against discrimination and to communicate the company’s diverse attitude widely can create a safer space for employees who are part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Lead with openness, honesty and acceptance.
For people to feel free being themselves, it helps to have leaders in place who are also consistently themselves. Whether you are gay, straight, cis, or trans, it doesn’t matter. Celebrate differences of all kinds, don’t shy away from topics that discuss LGBTQ+ issues, talk to and treat others with compassion, and always be an advocate.
Do NOT ignore discrimination – act on it and speak up.
On that note, when discrimination does happen, even if by accident or ignorance, make sure it is addressed and that there is some sort of action taken.
Many people might not have any idea about the scope of gender identity or the many possible sexual orientations, this doesn’t mean they can’t be educated. Don’t put this responsibility on the LGBTQ+ community only. If formal training for inclusivity and diversity is required, then it should be implemented. Alternatively, sometimes a simple conversation about what is considered harmful and what is considered respectful will be enough.
If someone is purposely discriminating, even more severe action should be taken – because if you’re an inclusive organisation, intentional discrimination of any kind should not be tolerated. If it is tolerated or brushed over, it shows the person whose been discriminated against that you do not care enough about true inclusivity and creates a space where they feel endangered and disrespected.
We know there is plenty more than can be done, and this could just be a start for your business. Please tell us more ways that have been helpful for you at your workplace - or must not-to-do’s! We will share your ideas and credit you of course.
- By Erica Genda
- 6 months ago
- In this blog
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