Three steps to becoming LGBTQ+ inclusive all year round
With Pride Month in full swing, Lynne Hardman shares three ways organisations can ensure support for the LGBTQ+ community all year round.
Pride Month is here and we should all take the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge those who take the lead in LGBTQ+ activism.
While many companies will be changing their logos to incorporate the rainbow flag as a symbol of solidarity, support for the LGBTQ+ community should extend far beyond this. It is employers' responsibility to empower this often underrepresented group year-round, not just for the month of June.
According to Amnesty International, transgender people can face up to 50 to 60 instances of micro-aggression, or casual discrimination, a day. Some of that will be happening in the workplace.
More support for the community is still needed. There is a world of difference between changing colours on the website and creating a culture where everyone feels safe and has an equal opportunity to succeed.
Here are three ways organisations can actively show support for the LGBTQ+ community and prevent Pride Month from becoming a box-ticking exercise.
1. Assume nothing and demonstrate support
Using inclusive language and putting pronouns in our bio and email signatures is a simply way to promote inclusivity.
Do not make assumptions. For example, rather than asking how somebody met their husband/wife, "how did you meet your partner?" is a more inclusive question and does not make assumptions about their sexuality. But proceed with respect: first, ask yourself how you would feel if someone asked you that question.
We can also think about how we signal to people that our workplaces are places of acceptance all year round, not only during Pride Month. For example, adding Pride memorabilia such as trans flag mugs or stickers to shared spaces can show that the office is a welcoming and safe space.
2. Ensure mission statements and policies are updated
Employers must have a clear mission statement outlining their support with measurable outcomes that hold the company accountable.
Policies should be updated so they are inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees, ensuring that they align with the UN standards of conduct. Communicating detail on updated policies, expectations and consequences for not adhering to them is also critical.
All employees need to understand what discrimination and bullying look like. Unfortunately, according to the TUC, seven out of 10 LGBT workers have experienced at least one type of sexual harassment at work, with two-thirds of those harassed not reporting it. To change this, we need to make sticking up for a co-worker and reporting inappropriate behaviour "business as usual".
3. Proactively include the LGBTQ+ community in wellbeing and coaching programmes
Organisations should incorporate awareness and assistance of the LGBTQ+ community in their wellbeing and coaching programmes.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGB adults are more than twice as likely to experience mental health issues, and transgender people are nearly four times as likely. It is for this reason that mental health and wellbeing programmes must also be designed with LGBTQ+ employees in mind. For example, if an employee is transitioning, providing a mental health ambassador or a peer support programme can be of benefit.
The most progressive organisations recognise the value in embedding a coaching culture, which can also help address diversity challenges. Two specific areas include:
Coaching through the hiring process to ensure unconscious bias is managed, diversity is sought, and a progressive culture is maintained. Anglia Ruskin University has found LGBTQ+ applicants are 5% less likely to be offered a job interview than heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience. Everyone is terrific at hiring people "like us". Recruitment teams and managers should be supported to look past the immediate culture fit that comes with hiring through traditional networking paths and to see the benefits of diversity and diverse views.
Personal coaching to help address the unique challenges LGBTQ+ team members face in their careers. According to McKinsey's Women in the Workplace research, LGBTQ+ women are more underrepresented in business than women generally and face an increased sense of "onlyness". Furthermore, many transgender employees face unique obstacles to their career progression and performance, and six LGBTQ+ men in 20 believe that their sexual orientation will negatively affect their career advancement at work. All of this doesn't stop any LGBTQ+ employee from having work aspirations. Coaching focused on development and support ensures an individual can overcome barriers and achieve the goals they set for themselves.
Let us all celebrate the powerful symbol of Pride this month but know the onus of action and change falls on everyone all year round, not just when the company logo becomes a beautiful rainbow.