With the unprecedented events that have taken place in the last two years in the U.S., safe spaces and equal representation for marginalized groups have taken on a renewed meaning. People are prioritizing their happiness not only in their personal life but in their professional life as well. Healthy and inclusive workplace environments are no longer optional. They're necessary.
While coming out or publicly expressing elements of one's identity in the workplace is a personal choice, being in a safe space and feeling comfortable doing so is still important. Also, finding the right approach might be challenging as well.
If this is an issue you face, check out a bit of encouragement and inspiration via three LGBTQ+ professionals currently in corporate America, who share their own personal experiences and tips:
1. Don't be afraid to show up authentically.
How do you show up authentically? A simple way, to start, is by including your pronouns when/where appropriate to do so. The more context you provide on how you want to be addressed helps set positive boundaries with colleagues. It is a great starting point for finding other employees who identify similarly to you.
“As someone who identifies as non-binary, it is important for me to state my pronouns when I first interact with someone new, " said Tyler Williams, a digital Marketing intern in Prince Georges County, Maryland. "I also dress in what makes me comfortable while still being work-appropriate. My sense of style is reflected candidly in my profile pictures at work and my LinkedIn account. My sexual identity is not all of who I am but a big part of who I am so I don’t shy away from that.”
2. Utilize diverse networking opportunities.
Go where you feel seen and stay away from groups of people or environments that make you feel like you don’t belong. It is essential to take advantage of your company’s opportunities to interact with marginalized groups. Does your company host PRIDE events or have an LGBTQ+ employee resource group? Take advantage of the resources you have at your company, or be sure to ask about these resources when interviewing for a new job or opportunity.
“Lean on people that are showing up in the ways that you would. Build community with people who are aware and understand the same issues. It’s important to be visible," said Marsha Nunes, a diversity talent specialist in San Francisco. “In the recruiting aspect, we show up to events like Lesbians Who Tech or AfroTech where we know the community is and hope to see an intersection of people.”
3. Create the opportunity.
No company is perfect, and in some cases, you might want to consider creating the opportunity you are seeking. Always remember no idea is too grand if it’s something that you believe will make a difference in your experience at a company.
“If you create the opportunity and the need, people will show up," said Theo Patt, an onboarding program manager in New York City. "There was a quote by Maya Angelou: 'People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' My hope is that when I create the opportunity, it will attract the community and allies that I am seeking.”
Everyone has a different story. Take time to make sure you tell yours in whatever capacity that fits for you. The next time you're questioning how to navigate LGBTQ+ representation in Corporate America, reference these quick, easy-to-apply tips.