With the Netherlands being in the heat of Pride Amsterdam, and the Pride Walk only a few days away, let’s celebrate diversity! However, Pride events worldwide should not be the only time to be all about diversity and inclusion. They should be celebrated and encouraged all year round!
While more and more of the LGBTQIA+ community and allies are working towards a more diverse and inclusive society, there are still some troublesome issues in the workplace. Did you know that, according to a Glassdoor survey conducted by The Harris Poll, 47% of LGBTQ respondents believed that being out at work could hurt their career? Or that 68% of LGBTQ employees say that they need more support from their current employers?
So, the questions beg to be asked: what can we do to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace? How can the allies of the LGBTQIA+ community help? Keep reading, as not only will you find ways on making LGBTQIA+ people feel more at home at your company, but also examples from other organizations of how you can do that as well!
Let’s start with the basics - do not assume your coworker’s gender, sexuality, or anything else included in the abbreviation of LGBTQIA+ which might make them uncomfortable. When you’re getting to know the people you work with, and don’t yet know much about them, it is best not to speculate. How should your coworker answer the question of “Do you have a boyfriend?”, when they actually have a girlfriend? Make sure to always use neutral terms - in this case, “partner” - in order to avoid making your coworkers feel as if you are putting them in a box.
2. Let the LGBTQIA+ community come out whenever they want, however they want
The LGBTQIA+ community has to come out a bunch of times throughout their lives - they might have to come out every time they make new friends and get close enough to feel ready, every time they move or start a new job. Even when talking about such topics as gender, sexuality, partners and such, you gather that the person you’re talking to is different from the hetero norm - don’t push it! Let them come out whenever they want, however they want. And if they do come out to you, make sure to keep it only to yourself, or at the very least ask if that is common knowledge at the office. You do NOT want to out them accidentally!
3. Create a strong inclusion policy
A surefire way to make everyone aware of how they are expected to handle such topics as gender and sexuality, is creating an inclusion policy. Most inclusion policies include terms about non-discrimination based on gender identity, expression and sexual orientation. For example, Visa follows the United Nations Standards for LGBTI guide for creating inclusive workplaces. The guide includes five concrete steps for organizations to work against discrimination, which concerns respecting and standing up for human rights, eliminating discrimination against LGBTI employees and supporting them. By following this guide, Visa was named one of the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality” - follow their example!
4. Hear them out
Here we bring it back to the basics: communication is the key to making sure your employees feel heard and get to share their opinion. Therefore, if you are creating new diversity and inclusion policies, or are thinking of hosting an awareness event, you should ask your employees for their input! Is there anything that could be done to make them feel at home when they’re at work? Maybe they feel the need for diversity training? An anonymous survey would be the best way to collect honest feedback. This way, the respondents do not have to hold themselves back or come out to the company: everyone can share their opinion. And the allies of the LGBTQIA+ community might have some great ideas too!
5. Create a LGBTQIA+ community
Another way to make sure your LGBTQIA+ and ally employees have a platform to share their issues and ideas, is creating a community or employee resource groups! For example, Converse has launched the “Converse Pride Network'' for LGBTQA employees to celebrate their differences. According to Converse, “The Pride Network was formed to connect, engage and empower Converse employees in meaningful ways so that everyone feels heard, safe, valued, and connected.” However, it is important that such networks also include the allies of the LGBTQIA+ community who want to be involved in creating initiatives and events for the community to thrive.
6. Use the right pronouns
If you are not sure which pronouns the person you are talking to prefers, it is best to know the difference between inclusive and non-inclusive pronouns. For example, replace “hey guys or girls” with “hi all or everyone”. Instead of “boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife” use “partner or spouse”. Be careful with assuming one’s gender. At Zalando, this is called enabling a de-gendered experience. They do not use gender pronouns in contracts, do not ask for preferred names, and have non-gendered bathrooms. Zalando has also stopped using gender pronouns in the titles of their promotional emails and now use customers’ names instead. These are great examples to follow in order to provide a de-gendered workplace experience!
7. Mistakes are opportunities to learn
It is almost inevitable that you will make mistakes along the way. However, accidentally calling someone the wrong pronoun is not the end of the world as long as you understand your mistake and learn from it. All you need to do is apologize and make sure you do not make the same mistake again. Making a conscious effort to be more inclusive is all that matters!
8. Provide D&I and/or implicit bias training
We all have implicit biases, which can be explained as unconscious attitudes or thoughts towards a social group - even if we think we don’t. In some cases, this can lead to a negative working environment. Implicit bias training programs are designed to battle such biases by exposing us to those biases, and then providing us with tools to adapt our thinking. For example, EW Group had the goal of raising awareness and educating URBN’s employees on how to create a more inclusive company culture. According to EW Group, the training got some great results - from a great deal of delegates now being sure why diversity and inclusion are crucial to a company's success, to them being aware of what unconscious biases and their impacts are.
9. Create initiatives to promote inclusion and diversity
For the LGBTQIA+ community to feel comfortable at their workplace, it is essential to create initiatives that allow them to feel seen and heard. These initiatives can be anything from a simple social media post to a huge awareness event. It can also be company-wide participation in an event or a donation! Appical is choosing to show that we care by going to the Pride Walk Amsterdam - and we would like to invite everyone based in Amsterdam to do the same. On Saturday the 7th of August, we are going to march the streets to show our support for the LGBTQIA+ community. We will celebrate the 25th anniversary of Amsterdam Pride by taking pride in everyone who differs from the hetero norm and making sure they are visible. We are also donating to a charity called COC, which has been advocating the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community since 1946.
Let us work together towards an inclusive society!