9 Tips for Building an LGBTQ+-Friendly Workplace

Want to learn more about how FindSpark can support your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and strategies? Visit findspark.com/employers 

By Zachary Hughes and Andrew Beveridge of Cloudreach, a FindSpark Employer Partner. Check out their openings: cloudreach.com/careers

Being inclusive is more than obeying the letter of the law; it means ensuring and nurturing a company’s workforce. During Pride Month, in particular, committing to LGBTQ+ equality and embracing a diverse workplace sends a powerful signal: your company cares and aims to do what’s right.

Here are some tips to promote an inclusive workplace:

1) Tackle bias head-on.

Objectively assess your employee lifecycle, from recruitment and onboarding to appraisals, salary reviews, and promotions. Ensure that everyone involved in these issues has access to unconscious bias training, from recruitment teams to C-suite executives. At each step of this cycle, ensure employees feel comfortable discussing or reporting any anti-LGBTQ+ bias.

Additionally, confirm that company communications reflect your diverse, inclusive culture. Prominent and public inclusion of an equal opportunity statement helps both current and prospective employees relax and feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work. Augmented writing tools like Textio can help to analyze written material, identifying unconscious bias and phrases in written materials.

2) Communicate a clear diversity policy.

Many organizations have a diversity policy, but fail to effectively communicate it.

In order to be useful, a diversity policy must be short, clear, and visible to everyone. Frequent references in communications ensure that employees take it seriously and reinforce the employer’s stance on this issue. Frequent and open communication of this type also ensures that employees are comfortable discussing any LGBTQ+ issues that might arise.

3) Demonstrate support.

Talk is cheap; action is golden. Many organizations use diversity and inclusion as a tick-box exercise with limited impact. A recent cross-industry study by the Human Rights Campaign revealed that more than half (53%) of LGBTQ+ workers nationwide hide who they are at work. Employers need to send a clear message to staff: we stand with and support LGBTQ+ employees.

Demonstrating this support can be achieved through something as bold as an entire campaign, or as simple and subtle as providing inclusive language and marketing material. No matter the scale, backing up expressions of goodwill with action is critical.

4) Educate yourself and avoid generalizations.

The fight for equality has gathered gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning, and queer people over the past few decades. Everyone shares the goal of acceptance, but the identities behind this goal can be quite different; in fact, sexual orientation and gender identity are unrelated.

The infographic below is useful in showing the difference between a person’s gender and sexual identities:

Understand these distinctions and nuances in LGBTQ+ identity and avoid generalizing people with unrelated terms or harmful assumptions.

5) Be thoughtful with language.

Learn an individual’s preferred pronouns (e.g. “he”, “she”, “they”), and make an effort to use them. Slipping up doesn’t have to be catastrophic; just apologize and continue making the effort.

Confirm that systems and tools don’t enforce the use of pronouns, gendered titles, or previous names, and avoid gendered language unless absolutely necessary. Small steps like saying “people” instead of “men” or “women” are low-effort and go far in putting folks at ease.

6) Provide gender-neutral facilities.

While gender-specific bathrooms are established and have their own benefits, it’s also important to provide gender-nonspecific facilities. Traditional, gender-divided bathrooms can be a miserable place for trans and non-binary people. What should be a simple trip to the restroom be can stressful and prompt the fear of harassment or assault for using facilities in which they might be perceived to not blend in.

Executed well, gender-neutral bathrooms can solve these issues and improve the situation for all involved, improving the workplace environment for transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals while shortening queues for bathroom stalls.

Clear communication of these changes to the community is critical, and it’s important that all employees see this as an opportunity to make folks more comfortable, not an imposition.

7) Empower everybody to be an ally.

Anti-LGBTQ+ incidents are frequently subtle; people are often unaware of their bias and may feel their actions or words are justified and normal.

One way to break this self-perpetuating cycle is to empower everybody to speak out and stand up for LGBTQ+ rights. Allies can break through the collective silence, advocate for LGBTQ+ issues, and push back against non-inclusive behavior.

Arrange for and provide training to your employees; one great example is Stonewall’s Allies programme. Order inclusive swag and offer it to everybody. Even just a handful of employees showing non-verbal statements of support can be a powerful tool for communicating support to their peers and empowering allies to speak out.

8) Sponsor charities, community initiatives, and local events.

Whether you choose to become a corporate sponsor of an LGBTQ+ charity such as the LGBT Foundation,  participate in community initiatives, or pitch in for one of the many local Pride events, putting your money where your mouth is is always a positive step.

Depending on your level of contribution, this can also be an opportunity to associate your brand with the LGBTQ+ community, reinforcing the feeling that the company’s stance on LGBTQ+ issues. This is also an opportunity to ensure that sponsorship aligns well with the company’s internal state of affairs and that it practices what it preaches. Donating to or sponsoring an LGBTQ+ cause in the absence of inclusive policies can come across poorly and muddy the waters.

9) Listen attentively, and never stop learning.

It’s impossible to anticipate every problem which faced by LGBTQ+ employees, and each person will have a different experience.

As such, it’s vital to continue listening and seeking feedback; employers should never presume to understand every situation or assume they know best. Instead, maintain open channels of communication, welcoming and listening for any problems, suggestions, or feedback regarding the state of affairs.

Challenge assumptions, reject binary thinking, and continue learning; doing so will put anyone on the road to becoming a great ally.

Thanks again to Zachary Hughes and Andrew Beveridge of Cloudreach, a FindSpark Employer Partner, for contributing this resource! Check out their openings: cloudreach.com/careers

Want to learn more about how FindSpark can support your company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives and strategies? Visit findspark.com/employers 

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