How To Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Inclusive

June 10, 2020
Giorgia Alessandrini

Each year the LGBTQ+ community celebrates in a variety of ways from the 1st of June till the 30th. During this special month, different events are held around the globe as a way to recognise the impact LGBTQ+ people have had in the world.

Why is Pride Month in June? Since it is at the time of the Stonewall Riots, back in 1969. In addition to just being a month-long event, Pride month is really an occasion for the LGBTQ+ community to demonstrate peacefully and increase political understanding of existing issues. There are numerous street parties, cultural gatherings, art exhibitions, public speaking, festivals and events and training seminars all recorded by mass media and drawing the attention of millions.

LGBTQ+ people often interact within their school, family, and workplace environments without getting the comprehension and the feeling of belonging they need in order to experience safety in society. Anyone who is excluded of such a basic necessity over time will have to surmount more obstacles to be their true self fully. A loving and supportive community helps people's mental health, and allows them to recover and continue to grow into who they are.

Pride Month is celebrated worldwide, during the whole month LGBTQ+ community aim to help educate and sensitize outsiders on issues related to the community.

They not only do it for the people it affects, but also for businesses and employers, to show that there is a higher need for understanding and acceptance in the workplace.

In celebration of Pride Month, we've put together five different basic methods that a businesses can easily adopt in order to help their LGBTQ+ staff feel more included.

1. Assert and Ask

If a LGBTQ+ person shares with you a personal part of their identity, an employer or mentor should respect and confirm their identity if referring to them by using their correct name, pronouns, honorifics and gendered or non-gendered words.

If you ask someone about their gender identity or pronouns, do so in a manner which is not intrusive or disruptive, but based in confidence and friendship. Leaders should make it a normal practise to express and accept each other's gender pronouns, so that people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community are not identified or placed in vulnerable situations.

Asana incorporated the addition of gender pronouns into their profile settings, so people have visibility over how their team member's identify. This is a great example of a business fostering inclusivity.

[Source: Asana]

2. Listen and Trust

When you are presented a chance to know more about the identity of your employer or peer, listen to their story and trust in what they share with you.

There may be a desire to question in order to learn more, but bear in mind how this can come across and interrogative and invalidating. Instead, be accepting and perhaps go and read up on the discussed topic elsewhere. While a LGBTQ colleague or friend may be happy to explain things to you, it's not the responsibility of the community.

Know that LGBTQ+ identities are legitimate and genuine, and that individuals holding these self-identities deserve to be believed and respected in their awareness of themselves. Disrespecting their trust in you or marginalizing the individual will just diminish their feelings of safety in the work environment.

3. Include and Support

Employers, mentors and colleagues’ first commitment should be to do no harm. Keep this in mind in policies and procedures, and in intake documents for LGBTQ+ employees, and recommend using inclusive and supportive terminology.

Making these changes may require employers to de-establish their own social conditioning on gender standards and prejudices to better assess the safety of their workplace. Acknowledging the structural or cultural barriers that may affect LGBTQ employees is the first step to making changes that make your workplace more inclusive.

Listen to the LGBTQ community and include them in the conversation of how to improve.

4. Utilise Mentoring

At Guider we understand the power of mentoring. Mentors listen empathetically and respectfully, offering comfort and security and give their knowledge and experience in everything from support for recovery to entrepreneurship. The support received from mentors can be of significant help for the mentees of an organisation.

For many LGBTQ+ people, the fear of homophobia, rejection, being moved on for promotions and work interviews is still very strong. In reality, gay and lesbian job seekers are 5% less likely than heterosexual applicants with similar skills and experience to be given a job interview (as discovered by András Tilcsik, professor of sociology at Harvard University in his Journal Article “Pride and Prejudice: Employment Discrimination against Openly Gay”).

Mentoring, workers networking groups, workshops, and conferences all go a long way towards being a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ+ employees to work. Employees can also be provided with initiatives such as environment assessments, LGBTQ+ awareness training and workplace community groups.

📖 Read more on diversity and inclusion mentoring here.

5. Reverse Mentoring

The idea of mentoring is well known to most people. But 'reverse mentoring' explains the opposite of this where their senior is mentored by a younger, more novice member of staff.

Reverse mentoring benefits both sides and provides the opportunity for junior members to build relationships with senior employees and benefit from their experience and knowledge, while also trying to give senior staff the chance to learn from junior employees with various skills and knowledge.

In the last 20 years, thousands of companies have embraced policies and procedures designed to improve LGBTQ+ integration, but this remains a significant challenge for several workplaces. Research suggests that younger employees will be most likely to push change in terms of diversity and inclusion in LGBTQ+ in the work environment.

Reverse mentoring for LGBTQ+ integration allows to match senior employees with younger, more junior LGBTQ+ staff or allies. Reverse mentoring is one of the key methods recommended to businesses that wish to be more LGBTQ+ friendly. It is suggested not only to help increase senior employees' understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, but also to improve LGBTQ+ employees' career development.

Traditional mentoring focuses on developing the junior mentee, but both parties benefit from reverse mentoring. Senior mentees get insightful feedback from younger mentors, which helps them actively change and be more understanding and use their position to enhance the culture of the work environment.

📖 Read: The Complete Guide to Reverse Mentoring

We hope that this guide can support businesses to make their workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive, so that all employees feel accepted. Because feeling a sense of belonging and empowerment in the workplace is proven to increase performance, loyalty, and happiness.


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