There are organizations that practice outward support for the LGBTQIA+ community only during Pride month without ensuring genuine inclusion at the workplace. They are blissfully unaware of how isolated their LGBTQIA+ employees feel everyday.
Companies need to go beyond lip service and understand how employees belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community can be supported by their colleagues and company policies. Here are some practical ways to create impact.
Encourage speaking up against discrimination
Nearly one-third (31.1%) of LGBT respondents reported that they experienced discrimination or harassment at the workplace. Organizations need to acknowledge the discrimination faced by community members. Apart from having an anti-discrimination policy on paper, top management needs to be vocal about its stand on intolerance. Examples of microaggressions, which might not be obvious to some, should be communicated through internal support campaigns. Community members and allies who speak up against stereotyping and homophobic/transphobic language should be lauded.
Inclusive language and policies
Using inclusive language that supports the LGBTQIA+ community implies being mindful of bias and exclusion of underrepresented groups while communicating. For an organization, inclusive language should permeate all documentation, policies, internal communication, marketing materials and more. When an organization proactively uses inclusive language (such as partner or spouse instead of husband or wife), it leads to more awareness among all employees. Providing access to gender-neutral restrooms, gender-inclusive dress codes and making pronoun-sharing a norm are ways to make employees with unique gender identities feel accepted.
Dedicated trainings for all
Sensitivity training should be conducted periodically and should be mandatory for all employees. Organizations tend to miss the mark by having general training sessions instead of specialized ones. New hires, employees who manage teams, recruitment teams, customer service teams and senior management would need more nuanced training which dive into specific scenarios and how to handle them. Bystander intervention trainings help employees recognize and respond to inappropriate behavior. The support of allies is monumental for LGBTQIA+ employees. Teams can work with the Pride or LGBTQIA+ employee resource group to ensure that all the training material is impactful.
Mentoring programs and Sponsorship
Mentoring programs created for employees who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community showcase the organization’s commitment to career progression of their employees. These programs take into account the challenges faced by them such as being overlooked for promotions due to differences in beliefs and biases. Sponsorship programs identify high-potential employees and advocate for them. Top talent belonging to minority groups such as LGBTQIA+ need inclusive sponsorship programs to break the cycle of implicit biases of the top management who tend to sponsor only those who are similar to them.
Respecting personal choices
A workplace that respects every individual for their personal choices is truly inclusive. Educating employees about not making assumptions about the gender or sexual orientation of their colleagues or stereotyping them is a key component in awareness. It is solely the individual’s choice to provide information they are comfortable sharing and this needs to be understood by all. Companies can encourage employees to self-identify without any imposition by creating a judgment-free environment.
With words and actions, inclusivity and acceptance can be ingrained into workplace culture. These initiatives can have a profound positive impact on the mental and physical health of LGBTQIA+ employees.