As Pride Month comes to an end, organisations are again reminded of the importance of creating an LGBTQ+-inclusive workplace. We often talk about an organisation as if it is its own person, but it isn’t. It isn’t necessarily the people who lead the organisation either; the board, the senior management team, the decision-makers who set the strategy and objectives, give the orders and sign off the budgets. In reality they are often not the real change-makers in an organisation and although they make the announcements and launch the new policies, they are reacting to and implementing ideas which come from within and below.
They come from a few pioneering souls in the junior ranks of the organisation rather than its leaders. These are the people who ultimately change the culture. They are the real organisation.
So how do you, a junior account executive, a personal assistant, a deputy area manager help create a LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace?
- Help your company see LGBTQ+ culture and understand what queerness is.
This can take many forms and will be an individual choice and depend on personal levels of comfort with it. Consider getting involved in recruitment, in organising events, and to positively represent LGBTQ+ and bring your perspective to as many different aspects of working life as possible.
- Speak up and call out anything you are uncomfortable with when you see it.
That may be blatant homophobia or transphobia, but more likely it is going to mean being vigilant against discrimination regardless of how subtle it may be, as well as behaviour that makes LGBTQ+ employees uncomfortable (this could include asking personal questions surrounding transition, surgical or medical history or how they came out, or giving unsolicited advice on how they should dress and keep themselves groomed etc.) Be prepared to challenge a lack of understanding of LGBT+ experiences and perspectives.
- Found a LGBTQ+ committee/network to build solidarity and representation.
Here are Stonewall’s 10 steps to setting up an effective network group:
- Research other LGB employee networks to find out what has worked for them.
- Establish the business case for a network in your organisation. This should include benefits to the business and not just to LGBTQ+ employees.
- Find a senior management sponsor who can argue your case across the organisation. Get the HR team on board as well.
- Set out the aims of the network. These could include advising on diversity policy and practice, or helping LGBTQ+ staff develop their careers.
- Draw up a business plan that sets out the purpose of the group, its proposed activities and funding requirements.
- Ensure that network co-ordinators have the time to make it work. Many employers give co-ordinators time off each month for network business.
- Establish criteria for network membership, setting out whether the network is exclusive to LGBTQ+ staff or open to all staff with an interest in LGBTQ+ issues.
- Publicise the group internally, through e-mail and the company intranet, and externally, through pink and mainstream press.
- Respect the privacy of network members and non-members who are not out at work. Consider using internet e-mail accounts or an external website.
- Consult regularly with all network stakeholders – members and managers – to ensure it stays relevant to the business and to LGBTQ+ staff.
- If you are not LGBTQ+ yourself, be a LGBTQ+ ally who supports and advocates for LGBTQ+ colleagues.
This can mean doing a number of things in practice, but includes speaking up and calling out inappropriate behaviour/conduct. You have a particular role to play in listening closely to what your LGBTQ+ colleagues are saying, as well as what your non-LGBTQ+ colleagues are saying and helping the latter understand the experiences and perspectives of the former. Being an ally also means educating yourself (and others) on the issues that currently affect members of the LGBTQ+ community. If you’re having trouble understanding certain topics, it’s likely other people are too. For example, around the importance of using gender pronouns. You can ask questions but it should also be incumbent on you to find resources that will help you navigate those concepts. It’s something which you should specifically pay attention to and encourage everyone else to do it too.
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