In the U.S., more than two in five (45.5%) of LGBTQ+ employees said they had experienced unfair treatment at work, including being fired, not hired, or harassed because of their sexual orientation at some point in their lives—and nearly a third reported experiencing this within the past five years.
In a June 2022 survey by LinkedIn and YouGov, 75% of LGBTQ+ respondents said it’s important that they work at a company where they feel comfortable expressing their identity, and 65% said they would leave their current job if they felt they could not do so.
Clearly, there’s still room for improvement.
At Curate Partners, our employees are our greatest asset, and we take a serious stance on ensuring that everyone feels safe and comfortable in the workplace. We recently hosted Graci Harkema, an international diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) speaker specializing in implicit bias and inclusive leadership. Here are a few tips we learned from Graci that can help any organization better serve LGBTQ+ community members.
Celebrate the importance (and history) of LGBTQ+ pride.
From Stonewall to Harvey Milk, there’s much to learn about LGBTQ+ history. The origins of Pride Month can be traced back to 1969, when police raided New York City’s Stonewall Inn on Friday night, June 28th. This raid prompted a series of demonstrations against discrimination by members of the LGBTQ+ community—and it’s these demonstrations we now celebrate during Pride Month every year.
At its core, pride month is about supporting those who feel marginalized or discriminated against because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (or both)—and celebrating those who fought for equality socially and legally. Learning the history and understanding its importance is a great first step to becoming an ally in the workplace.
Acknowledge and respect individuals’ identities.
It can be challenging for anyone in the workplace to discuss their gender identity or sexual orientation with coworkers or even supervisors. When hiring new employees—and interacting with existing ones—it is essential to acknowledge and respect individuals’ identities. Encourage workplace transparency about sexual orientation and gender identity by honoring a person’s chosen name and pronoun usage.
If you or your employees struggle with pronouns, consider holding office hours where someone can ask questions about how to use them correctly without being mistaken for being overly sensitive or difficult. The National Center for Transgender Equality also provides an online guide for using pronouns correctly if you’re unsure which ones are appropriate for people who don’t identify as cisgender men or women.
Make sure everyone knows it’s okay to talk about being LGBTQ+ at work without fear of judgment (or worse). If some people are uncomfortable talking about their own lifestyles but are willing to lend a hand when coworkers come out about theirs, offer a small but important gesture by thanking them sincerely every time they do so.
Learn to be an ally in the workplace.
When you’re an ally, your actions demonstrate that you support and respect LGBTQ+ people and their families. Allies can help create a safe, inclusive work environment for everyone. They also help develop an understanding of the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ employees may face in the workplace.
Developing as an ally doesn’t mean you need to be perfect; everyone makes mistakes. The key is to use each mistake as an opportunity to learn, grow, and demonstrate your commitment to improving. The role of an ally is to consider the perspectives of your LGBTQ+ peers and see what behavioral changes you can make to ensure that everyone is treated equally. For example:
- Making sure that all employees feel welcome at lunchtime events or team outings by inviting them along or including them in group emails about these events.
- Speaking up if someone makes a homophobic joke or comments in front of others (or even around just one person)
Allies should also be mindful of their own language, which may inadvertently exclude or alienate LGBTQ+ people. The most prevalent way we see this happen is through unconscious bias—the tendency for those who hold certain privileges and status markers within society to unconsciously favor others like them over others who don’t share those markers. An ally in the workplace should consider how their actions may perpetuate these biases if left unchecked.
Take note of anything in your job post that may illustrate an unintentional bias. If you are hoping to promote internal talent, and are struggling to find interested employees, consider whether there are ways you can make your team or department more welcoming. For instance, is your team diverse? Are people collaborative and cohesive in spite of differences? Does everyone feel supported equally? Sometimes sending out an anonymous survey to this effect can help you determine how you can improve your team’s DEI.
Creating an inclusive work environment where everyone can be themselves encourages positive mental health and helps build trust between co-workers. So take a moment (many moments, in fact) to think about how your company could be more inclusive of all kinds of people—whether they identify as LGBTQ+, straight allies, parents with kids in school, different racial or cultural backgrounds, or even those who simply think differently.
Ultimately, the most important thing to remember is that everyone deserves respect regardless of their identity—and it’s up to us as employers to make sure that happens.