As Pride Month kicks off this week, companies and organisations around the world are celebrating the LGBTQ community and supporting LGBTQ causes. Pride initially started in commemoration of The Stonewall Riots in 1969, a clash between police and members of the gay community at the Stonewall Inn in New York. The riots were ‘a crucial, era-defining moment in the struggle for [LGBT] equality’ and a catalyst for the gay liberation movement and modern fight for LGBTQ rights. Since then, Pride has turned into a global celebration of the LGBTQ community and annual demonstration against continued discrimination and injustice. Increasingly, corporations are getting involved, sponsoring events in return for company floats at parades. However, this has attracted criticism in recent years, from people who are concerned that parades are being used as an advertising opportunity for corporations whose ‘core values the other 364 days of the year have nothing to do with LGBT liberation’. So, how can workplaces ensure that they are making LGBTQ inclusivity a priority all year round?
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION POLICIES AND TRAINING
Stonewall (the UK’s leading charity for LGBTQ equality) recommends that companies develop clear zero tolerance policies on workplace discrimination and harassment and actively communicate these to all staff. Employees should also receive thorough training on LGBTQ issues, to build awareness and understanding and encourage inclusivity. Companies should ensure that domestic partner benefits, such as health insurance and life insurance, cover same sex couples. They should also provide support for any medical needs that trans employees have and develop specific policies to support employees who are in the process of transitioning.
STAFF NETWORKS AND ALLY PROGRAMMES
Building strong staff networks is crucial for creating inclusive workplace environments. Companies should support the formation of LGBTQ staff networks and support visible LGBTQ role models in the workplace. Companies should also develop ally programmes. Typically, an ally is ‘a person who is a member of the dominant or majority group, who works to end oppression in his or her personal and professional life through support of, and as an advocate for, the oppressed population’, however LGBTQ employees can also be allies for each other. Ally programmes have proved highly effective in companies such as Goldman Sachs, who in 2008 appointed 20 senior level executives to be formal LGBTQ allies and advocate for LGBTQ issues, promote participation in LGBTQ events and mentor and sponsor LGBTQ employees.
INCLUSIVE HIRING PRACTICES
Companies must ensure that their recruitment processes are fair, transparent and encourage diversity among staff. Hiring panels should be as diverse and possible and receive unconscious bias training. Companies should make their commitment to LGBTQ staff clear on their website and in job advertisements. Companies should also consider attending LGBTQ recruitment events and posting job advertisements on boards that are catered towards the LGBTQ community, such as Pink Jobs or the Transgender Job Bank.
Reverse mentoring is extremely effective for improving diversity and inclusion. Instead of traditional mentoring, where senior employees mentor junior staff to share their expertise and provide guidance and support, ‘reverse mentoring’ is where junior staff mentor their senior colleagues. Reverse mentoring for LGBTQ inclusion pairs members of senior management with junior LGBTQ staff or allies. This benefits both parties, as it increases awareness of LGBTQ issues among senior management, but also provides career development opportunities for LGBTQ staff. Mentoring sessions can focus on topics such as barriers LGBTQ employees face at work, the importance of LGBTQ visibility, how to combat negative stereotypes and how to normalise conversations about sexuality and gender identity.
Pride isn’t the only opportunity to celebrate the LGBTQ community and raise awareness for LGBTQ causes in the workplace. Events such as LGBTQ History Month (held in October in the US and February in the UK) are a great opportunity to host LGBTQ related events, raise money for LGBTQ charities or invite LGBTQ organisations for ‘lunch and learns’. Other events include Spirit Day, National Coming Out Day, Intersex Awareness Day, World AIDS Day, Bisexual Awareness Week and International Transgender Day of Visibility, among many others. Celebrating these events not only promotes awareness and understanding, but also sends a clear message to LGBTQ staff that they are part of a supportive workplace environment that champions LGBTQ equality.
Research suggests that having LGBTQ supportive policies in the workplace lowers discrimination which contributes to better psychological health and increased job satisfaction among LGBTQ employees. Furthermore, employees in inclusive workplaces have stronger relationships with colleagues, are more productive and are more committed to their jobs. The costs of implementing LGBTQ supportive policies are likely to be offset by savings made in other areas, due to healthier, happier and more productive staff. As Darren Towers, Executive Director of Business Development and Stonewall states ‘people perform better when they can be themselves. Businesses with high-performing staff typically have inclusive policies, benefits that apply to everyone and a workplace culture where diversity is not just welcomed, but championed at all levels’.
Pride Month is a chance for companies and organisations to celebrate the LGBTQ community and demonstrate their support of LGBTQ equality. However, the fight for equality demands that companies take LGBTQ inclusion seriously, not just during Pride, but all year round.