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Making Your Workplace LGBTQ+ Inclusive

February 1, 2022
Giorgia Alessandrini

Welcome to Pride Month! Held in annually in June (the month the Stonewall Riots took place in the US in 1969), Pride is a month long celebration for LGBTQ+ people. Through marches and events, Pride is a moment to celebrate how far the rights of LGBTQ+ people have come, and a reminder that there is still much work to be done. Different events are held to raise awareness of and combat prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community while celebrating its many achievements and upholding its diversity.

Pride Month in the UK

2022 marks 50 years of Pride in the UK. To celebrate many organisations will be looking at the history of Pride over the last 50 years and looking forward at what we want to achieve in the next 50 years. The visibility of Pride and the communities formed are so important in providing supporting for people across the world.

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 mental health, and allows individuals to recover and continue to grow into the person they are.

In celebration of Pride month, we've put together five simple ways businesses and everyone in the workplace can make LGBTQ+ people feel included, not only for Pride month but every month of the year!

1. Assert and Ask

If an 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. Similarly, LinkedIn have recently added the ability to add pronouns to your profile. Managers and leaders should encourage their teams to do so to promote inclusion within their company.

[Source: Asana]

2. Listen and Trust

When you are presented a chance to know more about the identity of your employee, colleague, or work friend, 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 as 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, it's not the responsibility of the community to educate you.

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 marginalising the individual will just diminish their feelings of safety in the work environment.

This culture of listening, trust and mutual respect will filter down if it is held and advocated for by senior leaders. Any organisation trying to become more LGBTQ+ inclusive need to have a senior leadership team who a bought into this mission. If there is some educating to be done within those teams, prioritise that before trying to implement LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives as it will have more impact in the long run.

3. Include and Support

An employers' 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. Before launching any programs aimed at supporting the community, make sure you have involved them in the design process and truly understand different lived experiences within the organisation. Feeling truly heard is essential to an inclusive workplace.

4. Utilise Mentoring

At Guider, we understand the power of mentoring. Mentors listen empathetically and respectfully, offering comfort and security and provide their knowledge and experience in everything from self confidence to leadership. The support received from mentors can be life changing for mentees within the 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.

LGBTQ+ Inclusive Mentoring

5. Reverse Mentoring

The idea of mentoring is well known to most people. But 'reverse mentoring' implies the opposite of this, where the senior leader 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 works by matching senior employees with younger 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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