As we near the end of Pride month 2021, let’s take another moment to think about our LGBTQ+ community and our people’s experience, and how we can demonstrate our support and allyship consistently and with gusto. In the past few years, particularly around Pride month, companies have come under justified scrutiny for ‘jumping on the Pride bandwagon’. We’ve all seen it – the moment that clock ticks to 12:01 on 1st June - website logos change to include rainbows, profile pictures on LinkedIn suddenly have Pride frames and we start hearing a lot of narrative around how organisations are supporting their LGBTQ+ communities.
This is all well and good, and we can acknowledge that some support is better than none, however, if we truly want to foster inclusive workplaces, what can we do in the other 11 months of the year that make LGBTQ+ people feel consistently seen and heard? How do we create an environment that is confidently open and psychologically safe to allow our people to bring their whole selves to work? Recognising Pride for the month of June is a wonderful time for our people to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, but we must think about how to avoid Pride being a lip-service or a tick box in our calendars. An approach of ‘let’s do it for a month’ can unfortunately have the opposite intended effect of making people feel included.
Inclusion has become crucial to business’ strategy as we see more and more workplaces adopt a distributed working model. And for most, this new way of working is here to stay in one form or another. Inclusion steps beyond ‘How do we have meetings when some of the team are at home and some are in the office?’. That’s a key part in how we operate efficiently and ensure we remain productive, but being an inclusive workplace for all of our people is so much more, and there are some simple and impactful ways in which we can make that come to life.
Recognise important dates
Pride is the big one – most companies do some form of recognition in their support of the LGBTQ+ community for June. There are several other days in the calendar that can be acknowledged to demonstrate true appreciation for the community. LGBTQ+ history month is in February, Bisexual visibility day is in September and World AIDS day is in December, to name a few. Make these points in the year opportunities to celebrate and recognise our people.
Many companies talk about equal opportunities during the recruitment process. Whether it be part of a job advert or via anonymous survey questions on sexuality, gender, etc. This is a great way to show prospective candidates that you care about diversity and it’s part of the organisation’s agenda. This can be taken a step further by creating an inclusion policy and building it into the company handbook, for example. Taking the time to make a clear statement about the company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity in the workplace, ensures that the values and mission of the business are intertwined with embracing and celebrating the differences in our people.
Encouraging people to be their true selves at work is a sure-fire way to make sure people feel accepted and visible. Creating opportunities for people to have their voice heard is a positive way to promote an authentic and genuine culture that welcomes all. We’re humans first and job titles second. People should be given opportunities to talk about their experiences and stay true to who they are, all the while successfully adding value within their job roles. Design strategy with people, rather than for them. Seek feedback on building an inclusive and diverse culture. Encourage people to be candid and form part of the solution.
Self-identifiers and gender
Gender identity and pronouns and fast becoming part of our everyday culture and as we see society shift to a more self-identifying gender approach, there are ways that we can embrace this change and make people feel safe and included in the workplace. Encourage an environment where people introduce themselves with their name and pronouns. Could pronouns make up part of individual email signatures? Is it possible to have a gender-neutral bathroom so people who are gender non-conforming, non-binary or trans feel more comfortable? Embrace the use of the pronoun ‘them’ when speaking about people whose gender you don’t know.
Having merch available throughout the year that allows people to show support of the LGBTQ+ community, can create the ever-existing presence of inclusion. This could be something as simple as offering new joiners the choice of an orange, blue or rainbow coloured lanyard on their first day. Giving people to ability to demonstrate their support and allyship for the community in the workplace on an ongoing basis creates an environment of acceptance and promotes individuality.
The actions talked about here are not ones that require big budgets or a generous amount of time to bring to life. These little inclusion nudges, when always present and part of the company DNA, can have a big impact on the workplace, in making the LGBTQ+ community feel embraced by the organisation. There’s a difference between acceptance and empowerment – enable and empower people to be who they are and to be proud of what makes them different, all 365 days of the year.