The LGBTQ+ community has made great strides in recent years in terms of social acceptance and legal protections. However, there is still much work to be done to create truly inclusive workplaces where LGBTQ+ employees can feel safe, respected, and valued.
It’s easy to understand the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace. It’s harder to enact DEIB policies that encourage everyone to show up authentically at work.
However, with the right attitudes, strategies, and practices, you can make your organization a thriving, empowering space for everyone—including the LGBTQ+ community.
Keep reading to discover seven ideas for fostering LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace.
1. Understand that Identities are Complex
People’s identities are layered and complex. Consider just the acronym LGBTQ+. It stands for:
- Anyone who isn’t straight or cisgender
Even the word “queer” itself has a long and convoluted history. While today many members of the LGBTQ+ community have reclaimed the word for themselves, others still reject the term as a slur.
What does this mean for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace?
Remember that all people are different, including your LGBTQ+ employees. They will connect with that identity in different ways. Their backgrounds may intersect with other historically underrepresented communities—which may have more of an impact on their lives.
Support your LGBTQ+ employees without preconceived assumptions about how they identify or what they prioritize. Set aside time to get to know each of your team members as individuals.
2. Let People Choose Their Labels
Just like LGBTQ+ people have their own unique identities, they also have their own connection to labels. Some people feel empowered by labels, while others find them oppressive. It’s essential to allow employees to choose the labels, or lack of labels, that work best for them.
One way to facilitate this is to ensure your employee database or Human Resources (HR) software allows individuals to change their pronouns or names on the official record. If someone makes a change, confirm that all correspondence to and about them will reflect this choice.
3. Set up ERGs
Employee resource groups (ERGs) allow employees to connect with each other around a shared interest or identity.
ERGs tailored to the LGBTQ+ community can be a powerful resource for LGBTQ+ staff and allies, offering networking, support, and advocacy.
An ERG that’s open to both LGBTQ+ employees and allies supports a company-wide culture of inclusion. It also allows individuals who are not yet out at work to participate comfortably.
Encourage ERGs in the workplace. Provide resources and support so they can thrive. At Insight Global, our employees run multiple ERGs, including one for LGBTQ+ employees and allies.
Of course, joining an ERG isn’t the only way for allies to support their LGBTQ+ team members and co-workers.
4. Encourage Visible Allyship
Allies from every level of the organization provide a crucial role in supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion, challenging biases, and establishing a fair and equitable company culture.
There are many different ways to make allies visible. Some companies have special decals on keycards or items allies can display on their desks. Others have inclusive events where allies and LGBTQ+ staff can participate together in fundraising events, panel discussions, or film screenings.
One easy way to demonstrate allyship is to add pronouns to email signatures. If your company shares email signature templates, include a space for pronouns.
5. Remember that Inclusion is a Journey, Not a Destination
Inclusion requires effort and planning because it is overcoming a long cultural history of misunderstanding differences. Progress can be slow and steady, but it will not be instantaneous. Understand that inclusion is an ongoing journey, and align your expectations with the process.
Also, the template for LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace is not one-size-fits-all. Your program may evolve over time based on your employees, your location, your company culture, and community resources.
Remember to conduct regular and confidential surveys of your LGBTQ+ employees. Their feedback will help you align your policies, strategies, and initiatives with the genuine needs of the community.
6. Meet People Where They Are
Your employees have different experiences and backgrounds. You can’t expect everyone to know everything about every dimension of diversity. Allowing individuals to grow from where they are is an important component of a truly inclusive culture. Some people are sincerely confused by the emerging awareness of gender and sexuality. Making it safe for them to learn and grow empowers the whole team.
If someone says something ignorant related to the LGBTQ+ community, they may not have done so maliciously. If you talk to them privately and learn more about their current level of understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, you may be able to educate them on why their comment gave offense. They might just need some additional education and resources.
Part of allyship is speaking up when you see or hear something that could be hurtful or inappropriate. Leaders especially need to respond to problematic comments in the moment. This models inclusion to all employees. It shouldn’t be the burden of your LGBTQ+ employees to correct ignorant statements.
7. Don’t Place the Burden of Education on Your Staff
It’s one thing if an engaged colleague is excited to share their knowledge. It’s another thing entirely if management expects LGBTQ+ staff to educate their colleagues.
Refrain from burdening your employees with the task of educating others. Support those who want to share, but don’t expect LGBTQ+ employees to lead trainings or volunteer to organize Pride events.
The company is responsible for offering allyship training or sharing LGBTQ+ resources in the workplace.
Unlock Your Organization’s Potential with Insight Global
Embracing DEIB facilitates collaboration, innovation, and positive work culture. By actively fostering LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace, you cultivate a sense of belonging and unlock the full potential of your organization.
If you want to improve workplace diversity by fostering inclusion, Insight Global can help. Our DEIB team offers both DEIB training solutions and diverse recruiting solutions. Fill out the form below, and one of our team members will reach out shortly.
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