Actions speak louder than words—and rainbow marketing. Pride is a movement that, among other priorities, reflects on the progress won and the progress left to be made to achieve liberation for the 2SLGBTQI+ community. In June, Pride is celebrated at work with rainbow logos on e-mail signatures and company windows, but there’s much more companies can do to show support for the community.
2SLGBTQI+ workers continue to face inequity and discrimination in the workplace, which is why employers should back Pride campaigns with intentional efforts to make positive changes for the community. And this should be a year-round commitment, not something we do because it’s Pride month. This year, consider focussing your Pride efforts on ways your company can improve belonging for 2SLGBTQI+ workers and customers.
Table of Contents
- The state of belonging and pride at work
- Prioritize Diversity
- Update Policies to Protect Workers
- Continually Challenge Unconscious Biases
- Recognize Individuals Fairly
- Assess Employee Compensation
- Offer Mental Health Support
- Support 2SLGBTQI+ Companies and Creators
- Volunteer for 2SLGBTQI+ and Pride Causes
- Build a Workforce of Allies
- Audit Practices and Policies with Inclusion in Mind
The state of belonging and pride at work
Diversity is the fuel that propels us all to new levels of success and innovation. But diversity alone isn’t enough. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) are the four values needed to achieve the results we hope to see from our workforce, from engagement to ingenuity. The last value, belonging, is the ability to be accepted and respected as your authentic self. Where diversity, equity, and inclusion exist, belonging is the outcome. A lack of belonging can lead to psychological and emotional distress, and it prevents an employee from contributing at their full potential.
Unfortunately, many 2SLGBTQI+ employees still don’t feel able to be their authentic selves at work, even during Pride season. For example, a 2020 report, Work, Inclusion and 2SLGBTQ+ People in Sudbury and Windsor, found that only 36.3% of respondents were out to their boss. Some industries are harder to navigate than others. The same report found that most respondents (63.6%) in the manufacturing, mining, transport, agriculture, utilities, wholesale trade, and construction sectors concealed their gender identity or sexual orientation at work.
2SLGBTQI+ workers often examine their work environment and the people they work with, especially their leaders, to determine whether it’s an inclusive space where they can be their authentic selves. It’s important for leaders to show acceptance and inclusion outwardly and consistently at work, not just during Pride season. Leaders should also model and communicate expectations for tolerance and respect at work. Below are 10 ideas to show your commitment to DEIB at work this Pride season and onward.
1: Prioritize Diversity
Many recent studies show that diversity strengthens companies. Diverse teams are generally more innovative, creative, and even smarter than non-diverse teams. Provide a diversity policy to set clear guidelines for recruiting and managing a diverse workforce. Recruit more intentionally by:
- Posting on job sites that are 2SLGBTQI+-friendly;
- Sponsoring Pride events;
- Sharing allyship stories in external campaigns to build brand awareness; and
- Ensuring all job postings use gender-neutral language.
2SLGBTQI+ workers may lack belonging if they perceive they are the “only” one at work with their gender identity or sexual orientation. Ensure the leadership team making decisions within the company includes diverse individuals who can understand and elevate the needs of 2SLGBTQI+ and other equity-deserving groups.
2: Update Policies to Protect Workers
Society is increasingly welcoming of 2SLGBTQI+ persons, but some workers and customers continue to bully, harass, discriminate against, or commit acts of violence towards 2SLGBTQI+ employees. To avoid this kind of treatment at work, many employees hide or change their behaviour or how they dress and express themselves.
To create an environment where employees can safely show up as their authentic selves, update violence, harassment, and discrimination policies and keep perpetrators accountable. Policies should include 2SLGBTQI+ persons and communicate what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. For example, intentionally and persistently refusing to use someone’s pronouns is a form of harassment and discrimination.
3: Continually Challenge Unconscious Biases
Everyone has unconscious biases. These are the internal beliefs and stereotypes we develop and maintain without our conscious awareness. Unconscious bias training is an essential tool to learn how to reveal what was previously unknown to you in your own unconscious mind. With effective training, employees can work against their biased beliefs and learn to form new ways of thinking that more accurately reflect the diverse world we live in.
You can also hire a 2SLGBTQI+ speaker or facilitate group workshops. Some employees simply don’t believe they have the right vocabulary or tools to participate in sensitive conversations. Training can give them the tools they need to ask questions and begin the process of unlearning harmful beliefs.
4: Recognize Individuals Fairly
According to research conducted by IBM, more 2SLGBTQI+ people said they had to work harder to succeed because of their identity compared to non-2SLGBTQI+ people. Examine your recognition practices to ensure they are fair and work to remove bias from performance management.
5: Assess Employee Compensation
Recent insights from The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) reveal that 2SLGBTQI+ workers earn less at work compared to their non-2SLGBTQI+ counterparts, despite having more education. Employers should routinely conduct pay equity analyses throughout their organizations. Regularly reviewing employee knowledge, skills, abilities, and contributions against their compensation can help reduce or remove the pay gaps that often exist between identity groups.
6: Offer Mental Health Support
Discrimination, stigma, isolation, harassment, and other issues 2SLGBTQI+ individuals may face in addition to typical work stress can negatively affect their mental wellbeing. The Sudbury and Windsor study revealed that 72.6% of survey respondents experienced a mental health issue related to work in 2019.
As an employer, you can offer an employee assistance program (EAP) so employees may access free mental health services and other supports. You may also encourage and help facilitate discussion groups or employee resource groups to focus on understanding issues related to the 2SLGBTQI+ community, offer support, and find workplace solutions.
7: Support 2SLGBTQI+ Companies and Creators
Support the companies who are built by or backed by 2SLGBTQI+ people. Additionally, refuse to do business with companies, groups, and institutions that engage in homophobic, transphobic, and biphobic rhetoric or acts. You can also look for opportunities to spotlight 2SLGBTQI+ creators who use your products and services, such as showcasing what they’ve made with your platform or tools.
8: Volunteer for 2SLGBTQI+ and Pride Causes
Partner with or regularly contribute to 2SLGBTQI+ communities and causes—not just during Pride month, but all year long. Support local heroes by encouraging employees to volunteer for their causes. A volunteer policy outlines when and how often employees may volunteer during work hours. Provide a few examples of local 2SLGBTQI+ causes the company has approved for employee volunteering.
Beyond volunteering, there are lots of ways to be a corporate ally. Where possible, lobby on the side of 2SLGBTQI+ rights and protections. Put company contributions where they make the most difference by starting or matching a grant, or donate a portion of the proceeds you make from a specific Pride campaign to a relevant cause.
9: Build a Workforce of Allies
Learning from 2SLGBTQI+ workers is essential for improving DEIB at work, but we can’t expect the 2SLGBTQI+ community to do all the heavy lifting all the time. Allies can champion causes, make changes, and speak out against biased decisions and behaviours in support of the community. Allies can also help create safer and more inclusive work environments for everyone.
A Harvard Business Review research project involving 109 people who identified as 2SLGBTQI+ concluded that a good ally:
- Is accepting;
- Takes action; and
- Has humility.
Allies can show up in many ways, big or small, such as wearing pink on the International Day of Pink. Every authentic act sets the foundations for new levels of activism and support.
10: Audit Practices and Policies with Inclusion in Mind
An inclusive work environment is not just important to the 2SLGBTQI+ community and other equity-deserving groups. A McKinsey study found that 40% of all respondents (2SLGBTQI+ and non-2SLGBTQI+) rejected or decided not to pursue a job because they didn’t believe the hiring company was inclusive.
Create more inclusive policies and practices by:
- Providing or improving coverage for things like gender-affirming healthcare;
- Removing gender stereotypes from company materials, like a dress code policy or employee handbook;
- Having onsite gender-neutral and single-use restrooms for any employee to use;
- Encouraging all employees to add their pronouns next to their names on things like their e-mail signature and videoconferencing profile; and
- Prioritizing inclusion and accessibility in external resources, like company websites.
Corporate allyship goes well beyond changing company logos for a month. Keep these ideas in mind when celebrating Pride at work and planning DEIB initiatives this month and throughout the year.