June is Pride Month and there is no better time than now to advocate for your LGBTQ+ colleagues in the workplace, whether that profession is corporate or non-profit. Making the workplace inclusive to everyone can mean a lot to employees. I once read a quote that said, “Employees don’t leave bad jobs, they leave bad managers” and nothing rings more true than feeling out of your element or like you don’t belong in a workplace because your voice isn’t heard or you are treated differently because of a characteristic you possess such as your skin color or your sexual orientation.
According to the Center for American Progress, up to 43% of gay and transgender workers have experienced some form of discrimination on the job and eight to 17% of gay or transgender workers report being passed over for a job or being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. No matter someone’s sexual orientation, no one should be treated with less than respect, especially in the workplace.
Check out these ways to advocate for your LGBTQ+ co-workers in the workplace:
Provide spaces where LGBTQ+ colleagues feel comfortable.
There is a thin line between empty gestures and really making a change to better how someone feels. I was recently asked why my news station didn’t change our logo to the pride flag like so many others on Twitter and my answer was simply “because it’s an empty gesture”, why do I have to change my logo on social media when we advocate for the LGBTQ+ community every day of the year?”
Putting up Pride flags throughout the workplace may make someone smile but what’s the point if they are being ignored in aspects where it matters? Small gestures that have big impact are important such as including gender-neutral bathrooms in the workplace.
“[That] sends a clear message that the organization does not just talk about diversity and inclusion—it acts on it. It sends the message that the organization respects and values every person for who they are and what they contribute, not by what sex they were assigned at birth or their gender identity,” said Mildred Perez, director of people and culture at Lambda Legal in New York. Including a place where LGBTQ+ people can feel comfortable shows that someone was thinking of them and that feeling goes a long way.
Recognize Pride Month.
Any chance my office gets to have a potluck; food is had. If there is a national holiday, it’s usually celebrated and that goes for holidays such as Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Juneteenth. So why not celebrate Pride Month? Pride Month is a fun time. Besides the bright colors, everyone is in a good mood and it’s beautiful seeing people be themselves and live in their truth. Workplaces can include the flag, add an ally message to emails (“I am an ally of the LGBTQ+ community.”) or add your pronouns even if you are cisgender, throw a pride themed office party, offer pride month discounts if you are a retailer, or offer pride swag to wear around the workplace such as pins.
Use personal pronouns.
Another way to advocate for LGBTQ+ is using the correct pronouns when identifying someone. Identifying someone with the pronouns they recognize themselves with is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity according to the LGBTQ+ Resource Center at The University of Wisconsin. Misgendering someone can lead to feelings of disrespect, dismissal and negative mental health outcomes.
Provide training for all employees.
To get everyone in the workplace on the same page, companies can provide training whether it’s in-person or online. Usually when a job is first started, employees complete mandatory time sensitive inclusion training. I know when I first was hired at my current news station, my inclusion training included training on race, religion, and how to interact with LGBTQ+ co-workers. “We provide training to prepare employees because they will be working with people from all walks of life. We want everyone to be comfortable at work,” said Darlene Dorman, an HR professional at WMAR2 News.
Resources such as the LGBTQ+ Workplace Education Center also offer great tools for employers who want to see LGBTQ+ thrive in the workplace.
Form a support group.
Some companies already offer this via Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) but if your company doesn’t, create a support group. Also, make the workplace for LGBTQ+ employees a comfortable place in the physical sense. Designate a room in the building where co-workers can meet with managers and others when they have concerns. Even though there have been advancements in regard to advocating for the LGBTQ+ community since Stonewall, professionals still face challenges.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, new FBI hate crime reports shows an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ attacks. This can cause depression, anxiety, and fear. A lot of LGBTQ+ individuals don’t have family they can turn to because they have been shunned for their sexuality so most times, their co-workers become their family. Forming a support group at work will give them a safe space where they can express feelings without judgement.