In June, you will likely see a flurry of Pride posts and rainbow-colored photos from various companies across social media. Yet the workplace still often falls short of being wholly inclusive of the LBGTQ+ community. In a 2020 study done of 2,000 LGBTQ employees in New York, 75% of participants “reported experiencing at least one negative interaction related to their LGBTQ identity at work in the past year.” Clearly, we still have a long way to go.
Here are seven ways to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ inclusive:
Never assume anything about anyone.
An easy way to shift to a more inclusive culture is to not make assumptions about your coworkers or employees. “If you meet somebody and they aren't talking about their wife or girlfriend, don't assume anything,” encourages Marc Goldberg, Voice Systems Engineering’s Web and Editorial Content Guru. “It doesn't mean they are gay. It doesn't mean they are straight. They will tell you what they want you to know. It should be an open environment where people aren't assumed to be one thing or another thing.”
Not assuming that the default for a male coworker is a wife or a girlfriend (or vice versa), helps create an environment where it is more natural for employees to share about their personal life if and when they are ready.
Treat each other equally.
As part of the committee that planned wedding showers for employees, Marc was sure that he would have an inkling if the team were planning one for him. However, he was completely caught off guard when he walked into the cafeteria to find the company gathered for a surprise shower for him after his wedding to his husband. “It doesn't matter who's getting married. To me, that's a very inclusive aspect for me,” says Marc.
Look at your company’s policies – is parental leave offered for all employees? Are celebrations like wedding showers thrown for all employees? Is there recourse for discrimination or harassment? Corporate policies and culture need to work hand in hand to ensure equal treatment.
Do the right thing, even if it is not required.
What the law requires often is the bare minimum. To make a workplace where all employees feel valued regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, strive to go above and beyond to do the right thing.
Before same-sex marriage was legalized, VSE offered domestic partner benefits. Despite the law not mandating these offerings, VSE took initiative to become more inclusive before it was “the right thing.” “It was nice to know that if my husband lost his job before we got married that he could have went on my benefits without there even being a question about it,” reflects Marc. “VSE had been inclusive well before that became law.”
Support employee-led initiatives.
A simple way to build a more inclusive culture is to support the work your employees are already doing. If an employee suggests adding pronouns to email signatures, roll it out across the organization. If a team wants to support an LGBTQ+ focused nonprofit, give them time off to volunteer or engage with those causes. While cultural change also needs to come from the top of the organization, it’s important to embrace what employees are initiating on their own.
Ensure your advertising and branding is LGBTQ+ friendly.
One way to let your customers know that your company is LGBTQ+ inclusive is to show it through advertising and branding. For many years, VSE has partnered with LGBTQ+ friendly brands and services. When Marc transitioned to the marketing team, he says that “it wasn't uncommon in a meeting for someone to hold up a picture of two shirtless guys hugging and ask the group ‘what do you think of this as an ad?’ And we took it seriously because we were a business.”
Don’t make it a big deal.
To Marc, one of the most important things that VSE does to make its culture more LGBTQ+ inclusive is that it is almost looked on as a non-issue. “The big deal is that it’s no big deal,” Marc says. “It's so inclusive you don't even realize it because it's never been a big deal. I never felt like I had to come out because I just introduced myself as who I was. It's just part of who we are.”
Honor your employees all year.
If your company is working toward a more LGBTQ+ inclusive culture, remember that your coworkers and employees matter all year – not just in June.