How to Support LGBTQIA+ Colleagues in the Workplace BeyondPride Month

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For non-LGBTQIA+ professionals working in socially progressive environments, it might be
easy to diminish how significant, damaging and widespread exclusion in the workplace is.
However, there are many ways that discrimination can appear, often insidious,
unintentional and unnoticed by those who don’t experience it. These include derogatory
remarks or “jokes”, misgendering, microaggressions, inequitable benefits, biased hiring
and promotion practices, lack of support and representation, inadequate response to
harassment and non-inclusive facilities.

According to Stonewall, more than a third of LGBTQIA+ staff have hidden their identity at
work for fear of discrimination, and almost one in five LGBTQAI+ employees have faced
negative comments or conduct from colleagues due to their identity. The CIPD found that
40% of LGBTQIA+ workers have experienced conflict or harassment at work compared with
29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees. The same report featured a bespoke study with
trans workers which found that 55% had experienced workplace harassment. 16% of
LGBTQIA+ workers overall, and 18% of trans workers in a separate study reported feeling
psychologically unsafe in their workplace, compared to 10% of their heterosexual
counterparts.

As we know, having diverse teams is not enough. A company’s culture needs to be inclusive,
supportive, and just at every level to ensure everyone can feel safe and thrive. For this to be
the case, the onus to uphold an equitable culture, flag issues, and champion inclusivity can’t
only be on individuals from minoritised communities. Non-LGBTQIA+ professionals play a
crucial role in advocating for equality and creating a culture of respect. This article explores
how to be an effective ally and a positive influence on your workplace culture.

Educate Yourself
Active listening is crucial to allyship. Pay attention to the experiences and concerns of
LGBTQIA+ colleagues without interrupting or making assumptions. In addition to
interrogating your own biases, it’s important to challenge both interpersonal and systemic
biases that you observe at work.

Keeping up to date with LGBTQIA+ issues, history, and current events helps you stay
informed about the challenges faced by the community and allows you to be involved in a
process of continuous growth. Familiarising yourself with LGBTQIA+ concepts helps you
stay actively engaged and interested in learning. Understanding the preferred terms and
language used by the community shows respect and awareness, as reported by Harris
Poll
.

It’s important to note that there are historically pejorative terms that have been reclaimed by
members of the LGBTQIA+ community but are not okay to use by people who are not part of
that group. Also, remember that everyone is an individual and the LGBTQIA+ community is
not a homogenous group. Just because a term is widely used, if someone asks you not to
use it when referring to them, that should be respected. This Glossary of Terms by GLAAD is
a helpful resource exploring how and when certain terms are most appropriate.

Acknowledge your privileges and use them to advocate for minoritised colleagues.
Understanding the challenges faced by LGBTQIA+ individuals starts with acknowledging our
own intersectionalities and privileges.

Speak Up
It can be exhausting and overwhelming to constantly advocate for your community when you
are part of a minoritised group. For LGBTQIA+ employees, knowing that they will have
support when raising issues or not always have to be the ones to speak up can be a
powerful display of solidarity. Silence can be understandably interpreted as complicity.
Address discriminatory remarks or behaviours when you witness them and advocate for
inclusive policies and practices within the organisation. These could include
non-discrimination policies, inclusive healthcare benefits, and gender-neutral facilities.

Being visible and vocal in your solidarity can create a culture of pride and openness. Harris
Poll
reports that displaying symbols of support, such as wearing badges or displaying
inclusive signage in the workplace can have a significant impact on creating a welcoming
environment. Naturally, use your discretion as to what is appropriate and avoid co-opting or
appropriating movements and messages. When in doubt, ask the LGBTQIA+ members of
your team what would make them feel supported and safe. Above all, use your position and
influence to amplify the voices of LGBTQIA+ colleagues and ensure their contributions are
recognised.

Be an Inclusive Leader
Company culture is often informed by the attitudes of those in the most senior positions, so
if you’re a leader, you have a responsibility to ensure the business is providing appropriate
support. Make yourself approachable and accessible to LGBTQIA+ team members and let
them know you are available to listen and provide support if they need it.

According to Deloitte’s Global 2023 LGBT+ Inclusion @ Work report, those who are out
about their gender identity or sexual orientation are more likely to believe that they were
overlooked for promotion (65% for gender identity versus 44% for sexual orientation) or an
assignment (60% for gender identity versus 44% for sexual orientation). You can ensure
equal opportunities for LGBTQIA+ employees in hiring, promotions, and professional
development by establishing clear anti-discrimination policies, implementing bias training,
ensuring transparent, standardised promotion processes and conducting regular
monitoring and reporting.

Provide mentorship opportunities for LGBTQIA+ employees so they are equipped with
guidance to navigate career challenges and develop professionally. This can be set up as an
internal mentoring scheme, or time and budget could be allocated to employees accessing
external mentoring opportunities. LGBT Great, an LGBT+ membership community for the
financial services industry, provide a mentoring service in which you can encourage and
assist your colleagues in accessing. Some other programmes include Stonewall’s LGBTQ+
Leadership Programme
and the OutNEXT Leadership Development Program.

Some other methods for promoting equity include using inclusive language in all
communications; providing flexibility and understanding, considering the additional
pressure LGBTQIA+ employees might experience; and seeking feedback by ethically
gathering feedback and data from LGBTQIA+ colleagues about the workplace environment
and ways to improve it.

Advocate for Inclusive Spaces
One way to prioritise inclusivity is to encourage and participate in (where appropriate)
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for LGBTQIA+ employees. ERGs are voluntary groups
led and participated in by employees who share a characteristic, whether it’s gender,
ethnicity, religious affiliation, lifestyle, or interest. They exist to help in personal or career
development and to provide a safe space for support and advocacy where employees can
bring their whole selves. McKinsey reports that 66% of employees believe community is
effectively created through ERGs. However, it is vital to ensure they are not creating more
work for LGBTQIA+ or further causing division or silos.

Where appropriate, organise and participate in events that celebrate and support LGBTQIA+
culture and history, such as Pride Month activities. Allyship should be a year-round priority,
not just a focus during Pride month, so consider how you can keep LGBTQIA+ top of mind at
various events throughout the year. While Pride can be a time for celebration and joy, it’s
also an opportunity for non-LGBTQIA+ allies to reflect on the injustices still happening today.

Promote mental health resources that are inclusive of LGBTQIA+ needs and ensure that
in-house mental health services are accessible and supportive of LGBTQIA+
employees. Here are some resources that could be helpful to have available in the
workplace:

  • LGBTQIA+ Mental Health by Mind offers resources on mental health for LGBTQIA+ individuals, including specific information on dealing with discrimination, finding support, and tips for maintaining mental health.
  • Switchboard is the UK national LGBTQIA+ support line. Switchboard provides an information, support, and referral service for LGBTQIA+ individuals. They offer a helpline, email, and instant messaging services to provide confidential support.
  • Pink Therapy is a UK-based organisation specialising in LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapy. It provides a directory of therapists who are trained to work with LGBTQIA+ clients.
  • Galop provides support for LGBTQIA+ individuals who have experienced violence, abuse, or discrimination. Their services include helplines and counselling.

When we all commit to supporting LGBTQIA+ colleagues, everyone benefits. A number of
studies, from organisations like the Williams Institute, Human Rights Campaign and
McKinsey & Company have found that when LGBTQAI+ employees feel supported, their job
satisfaction and overall engagement increase, leading to higher productivity and innovation.
From a company’s perspective, Harris Poll found that organisations with a good reputation
for their inclusive practices attract diverse talent and are more appealing to clients and
partners, and PowerToFly found that inclusive environments foster collaboration and mutual
respect, which contribute to better team dynamics, teamwork and problem-solving.

Being an active ally in the workplace involves a genuine commitment to learning, informed
advocacy, and working to create an inclusive environment. Everyone has the power to
contribute to a more equitable and inclusive world, and the positive impact of supporting
LGBTQIA+ colleagues is profound, both in and out of the workplace.

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Date: 24 June 2024 | Posted In: Diversity & Inclusion, Helpful Guides | Posted by: Lisa Overett


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