LGBTQ+ employee support does not, and should not end in June. In this article, Mertcan Uzun, Head of Culture & Community at Blinkist shares ten actionable steps to support and advocate for your LGBTQ+ colleagues 365 days of the year.
Mertcan Uzun — July 14, 2023
Establishing year-round advocacy, allyship, and authenticity at work is crucial for creating an inclusive and supportive environment for everyone, particularly members of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s essential to approach this effort with sincerity and a genuine commitment to promoting equality and equity, rather than engaging in “rainbow washing,” which refers to superficial displays of support without meaningful action.
Take the initiative to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ issues, terminology, and history.. Familiarize yourself with the challenges faced by the community, including discrimination, bias, and social issues. This knowledge will help you better understand the experiences of your LGBTQ+ colleagues and enable you to advocate more effectively without putting the work back on them to educate you.
Oftentimes, we may believe it’s the company’s responsibility to make a difference here. However, we have to come to the realization that it’s our individual responsibility above all that we do our part, and do the necessary learning!
Foster an environment where employees feel safe and supported to be their authentic selves. Encourage open dialogue, respect confidentiality, and ensure that individuals can express their identities without fear of discrimination or judgment.
This can be done through diversity and inclusion training, workshops, or creating an employee resource group focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion. Above all, take affirmative actions and be loud when you hear, see, or observe any discrimination against the minority communities in your organization and ensure their are consequences and protections in place. Speaking of…
Evaluate existing workplace policies, such as anti-discrimination and harassment policies, to ensure they explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Develop comprehensive policies that support employees’ rights, provide clear reporting mechanisms, and outline consequences for any violations. Regularly review and update these policies to align with the evolving needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
Review your organization’s employee benefits and make sure they are inclusive of LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. This may include offering health insurance that covers gender-affirming treatments and procedures, providing family leave policies that accommodate diverse family structures, and ensuring that gender-neutral bathrooms and pronouns are respected.
This was mentioned in step two but deserves more information. Encouraging and supporting the formation of employee resource groups (ERGs) focused on LGBTQ+ inclusion can really drive change.
These groups provide a platform for employees to come together, share experiences, and collaborate on initiatives that foster a more inclusive workplace. Allocate resources and time for these ERGs to conduct educational events, awareness campaigns, and community outreach.
Invest in and offer training programs to leaders and allies within your organization. These sessions can focus on LGBTQ+ issues, allyship, unconscious bias, and creating inclusive work environments. Work with an external professional or company to equip leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to support and advocate for their LGBTQ+ team members effectively. Make it mandatory for the leads in your organization. As a people leader, it is paramount that they understand the lived experiences of their minority team members if they are not a part of these groups themselves.
Ensure LGBTQ+ individuals are represented at all levels of the organization, including leadership positions. This representation demonstrates a commitment to diversity and sends a powerful message of inclusivity. Actively seek qualified candidates that enhance diversity and create opportunities for career advancement for your LGBTQ+ employees. Work with targets and set measurable goals to make sure you actually achieve something tangible.
Collaborate with external organizations and nonprofits that focus on LGBTQ+ advocacy and support. Engaging with these organizations can provide valuable insights, resources, and opportunities to make a broader impact in the community. Consider participating in Pride events, volunteering, or partnering with LGBTQ+ charities. Above all, make monetary donations to these organizations, and encourage active participation or even matching for your employees’ donations.
Establish ongoing conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusion and create spaces for feedback and input. Conduct surveys, focus groups, or town hall meetings to gather perspectives and suggestions. Regularly revisit the topic of LGBTQ+ inclusion in team meetings, ensuring it remains a priority throughout the year.
Develop metrics and benchmarks to track progress, and hold the organization accountable for LGBTQ+ inclusion. Regularly assess the impact of your initiatives, identify areas for improvement, and communicate the results transparently to all levels of the workforce.
Remember, creating a genuinely inclusive and supportive workplace requires ongoing effort, commitment, and adaptability. It’s essential to continuously listen, learn, and respond to the needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ employees. And, when you do something, do it with intention and a purpose.