A Better Way to Support LGBTQIA+ Employees

Over the past few years, we have seen an unprecedented outpouring of support and acceptance for the LGBTQIA+ community. This cannot be overstated, because this newfound support is genuinely without precedent. Save a few choice exceptions, human history has been remarkably cruel to people who do not conform to cissexual, heterosexual norms. Luckily that cannot be said for the world we live in today, but that means that workplaces are faced with the new task of consciously creating space for LGBTQIA+ individuals. This can be done on two fronts, that of outward facing action, and that of internal education. Let pride month serve as an opportunity to lay a foundation for LGBTQIA+ inclusion that lasts all year.

External: Pro-LGBTQIA Signaling

Branding is the most common route companies take to create space for their LGBTQIA+ employees, and it typically involves public displays of support and monetary contributions to LGBTQIA+ advocacy groups. More companies are adopting rainbow colored branding during June and releasing statements about donations to or partnerships with charities, lobbies, or LGBTQIA+ owned businesses.

Recently, there has been discourse about how this behavior might do more harm than good. Though, there is something to be said about prominent, hyper-visible brands outwardly expressing support for the LGBTQIA+ community that goes beyond workplace culture. These rainbow filters and queer representative ads are likely falling on eyes that have not realized that change is happening, whether they like it or not. Or maybe a young person grappling with their identity see’s a Campbell’s soup ad with two gay male parents, and feels just that much more comfortable coming out.

Prominent brands making public displays of support ultimately move the needle of society in the direction of acceptance. Even more so when they are met with real contributions or causes that benefit LGBTQIA people in need. To go a step beyond branding and contribute to a good cause, here’s a list of potential recipients:

While taking steps like these send a strong message to the public, as well as to LGBTQIA+ employees, employers can go one step further in creating the most inclusive, accepting space possible for all genders and sexualities.

Turning Inwards: Building a Gender Inclusive Workplace

The word is “unprecedented.” This past February, Gallup released their finding that 5.6% of US adults identify as LGBT, a sharp increase compared to their 2016 number: 4.5%. In 2012, that number was 3.5%. Logic stands to reason that this is not because “more people are LGBT.” But rather, society is more accepting of different identities, so more people are publicly owning who they are. With that in mind, your workforce should be taking steps to ensure that this growing number of LGBTQIA+ individuals feel comfortable being their authentic selves at work! After all, employees who spend less energy pretending to be something they are not, can spend more energy focusing on doing the work that they love and building stronger teams. So what steps can employers take to ensure that their workplace is a safe space for LGBTQIA+ employees?

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a great starting point.

Support LGBTQIA+ EmployeesEstablishing a space where members of the community feel comfortable being themselves, and a space where they are supported by allies or other people who identify with the LGBTQIA+ community is a step in the right direction. Though, that is not where the real work comes in. For the most part, LGBT employees know about LGBTQIA+ issues. Just like you don’t need to teach a PhD in Mathematics what logarithmic functions are, you dont need to educate a transgender employee on the proper use of pronouns. The best way to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, trangender, queer/question, intersex, and asex employees is to educate non-LGBTQIA+ employees on the issues that matter.

Identifying Weak Points

While we should not assume hostile intent from employees who sit outside of the LGBTQIA+ community, you may have employees who simply aren’t familiar with the issues, struggles, or microaggressions that transgender people face every day. So the best way to make space for that group is to educate those who are less informed about those issues. Someone who has never worked with, or even met, a gender nonconforming individual might not know how to ask for someone’s proper pronouns. An employee unfamiliar with a gender transition may need some education on deadnaming, and microaggressions that are specific to trans people. Is your hiring manager aware that transgender workers report unemployment at twice the rate of the population as a whole? Even an HR professional who regularly deals with these issues, may be ignorant that their company policies are not entirely LGBTQIA+ inclusive.

It is not always explicit harassment, outward prejudice, or discrimination that negatively impacts the work experience of LGBTQIA+ employees. These days, it is more often the unconscious biases, microaggressions, and not-so-harmless ignorance that affects this growing employee demographic. Let June be an opportunity to educate all of your employees on How to Be an LGBTQIA Ally at Work, so that they can take that knowledge with them for the rest of the year. This pride month, teach employees how to use gender neutral language to propagate a culture of inclusion.

If you are looking for more specific guidance on how to create an LGBTQIA+ inclusive culture, reach out and find out how Emtrain can help.

John Wiese
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