Many companies show support and celebrate Pride Month in June, but what about the rest of the year? We have put together some advice for what you, as a company, can do to make your workplace a more diverse and inclusive environment all year around.
By Elli Fowler • 1st August 2022
Photo by TONL
Mental Health Research Analyst
The month of June is celebrated in the United Kingdom as Pride month, an occasion of celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and to remember those who fought to be where we are today. However, it is the months surrounding pride that can serve as a stark reminder of the progress that is still yet to be made. Many companies will engage with and actively promote their support for Pride, whether that be in social media posts, or maybe a special edition rainbow themed product. When Pride ends however, everything disappears, and some of those companies may, for 11 months of the year, be unwelcoming places for LGBTQ+ employees to work. So, here at Helsa, we have put together some advice for what you, as a company, can do to make your workplace a more diverse and inclusive environment.
Pride month is a time when many companies don the rainbow and express their support for the LGBTQ+ community. However, if this ends as June does, such actions are nothing more than performative. In order to be a truly diverse, LGBTQ+ friendly workplace, companies need to hold this same level of supportive energy day in and day out. Only through this will sustainable change be achieved.
Inclusive practices and policies need to be implemented in every sector and every level of a company, from CEO’s to interns. Senior members of staff should endeavour to lead by example and promote a progressive, welcoming culture, in which every employee has the ability to feel accepted and supported.
One study suggested that LGBTQ+ are 5% less likely to even get an interview than their heterosexual professional equivalents . This indicates a bias even at the most basic level of recruitment. There are a number of procedures that can be put in place to negate these biases, such as blind CV screening to remove gender identifiers, writing inclusive job descriptions, and distributing job adverts within appropriate minority spaces .
Beyond initial stages of recruitment, it is important that hiring practices remain conscious of these biases, and work to promote inclusion. This may entail the discussion of LGBTQ+ policy within the onboarding process, and asking for preferred pronouns at the point of interview, a practice known to make gender-queer individuals feel more comfortable .
Inclusive hiring practices have also been highlighted as improving company reputations, and research has consistently demonstrated that having a diverse workforce promotes higher levels of productivity, innovation and performance. It is within both individual and corporate interest to implement diverse hiring practices.
A major, but simple step that should be encouraged across the workplace is being respectful of and using people's preferred pronouns. Introduce asking about pronouns as a cultural norm. Research has indicated that pronouns are a highly important reflection of gender identity for many LGBTQ+ people, and the more respected that identity is, the more comfortable they will be .
It may seem small, but the language we use everyday, often without thinking about it can be alienating to some LGBTQ+ people. For example, using the phrase “Good morning ladies and gentlemen'', whilst polite and not inherently offensive, is not inclusive of those who may not identify as either a man or a woman. Saying a phrase such as “Good morning everyone” could go a long way to making sure gender minority people feel included and comfortable in the workplace. It's a small change in your behaviour that can make a significant difference to their day.
It may seem small, but the language we use everyday, often without thinking about it can be alienating to some LGBTQ+ people.
This should not be considered advice to stop use of gendered language altogether, but to incorporate gender neutral options too. An example of this may be replacing the term “husband or wife” with “husband, wife or partner”. Importantly this kind of practice should also go beyond verbal language, and be incorporated in email language, written company policies, and both internal and external communications
Before you ask, yes this means gender neutral bathrooms, but it can go so much further than this. Employing inclusive policies involves designing your corporate practices so that they do not exclude those who do not necessarily conform to society’s expectations. An example of this would be for providing gender neutral parental leave, so that new parents, regardless of gender, can take paid leave. Gender inclusive parental leave policies have been demonstrated to enable more parental involvement in early stages of a child’s life, leading to better outcomes for the whole family. (Hart, 2020)
Additionally, policies that are not just inclusive but actively exist to protect LGBTQ+ employees are crucial. For example, a Zero Tolerance policy towards homophobia, transphobia and racism that is actually acted upon demonstrates commitment towards maintaining a diverse workforce. On the flipside, it is important to have processes in place designed to support gender minority people, such as procedures of how to support someone who is transitioning, this might include formally changing their name within the workplace, or altering the dress code to best accommodate their needs.
In order to help translate your company policies into ongoing corporate culture, LGBTQ+ champions could be introduced. These are employees from within the community with additional training and knowledge about LGBTQ+ identities and issues and are there to support their colleagues in every day work, thus fostering a welcoming and diverse environment.
It is important that commitment towards diversity and inclusion doesn’t just stop with your own employees, but should also be championed among the companies you may work and partner with. This is particularly important if any of those corporations operate or originate in countries where LGBTQ+ people may be less accepted, or even persecuted. Sadly, to be LGBTQ+ remains actively criminalised in 69 countries around the world, and it is important to not only advocate for LGBTQ+ equal rights and acceptance in our own immediate vicinity, but to be an active advocate for change at a global scale.
Action for this could range from using inclusive language in external communications, to promoting equality and diversity training within your wider networks, and even considering terminating relationships with corporate partners who refuse to operate a safe workplace for LGBTQ+ employees.
Only LGBTQ+ people will be able to have accurate perceptions on how inclusive a workplace is, and so it is crucial that their voices are given a platform on how practices and culture can be improved. This is one of the major benefits of implementing the LGBTQ+ champions mentioned in section 4 as they would be able to be a voice for their peers, and allow for effective internal communication about the needs of LGBTQ+ employees.
It is also crucial that integral corporate processes such as policy development, recruitment, and strategy writing are carried out by diverse employee groups, in order to ensure that contributions are made from all perspectives.
Only through consistent, powerful advocacy can companies retain diverse workforces and provide spaces in which all people can thrive.
Equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) training is a hot topic in the corporate sphere at the moment, as workplaces recognise the increasing need for formal training and education around minority issues. However, much of the EDI training that is available is simply ineffective, with long term outcomes in terms of altering attitudes and behaviour being poor  . It is important that any EDI training chosen for the workplace is appropriate and engaging, and that the majority of employees actually attend. In terms of selecting a company for EDI training, it is valuable to look for an organisation that tailors its training for the specific organisation and its unique workforce demographic.
Helsa offers a wide range of training workshops that do just that. From explaining the basics of LGBTQ+ identities to discussions on the nuance of gender expression in the modern world, there are resources suitable for everyone. Helsa’s Empathy VR technology presents a novel opportunity for workplaces to drive their inclusion journey with empathy, and allow employees to understand first-handed what it can be like to experience everyday stigma and discrimination, through the eyes of the stigmatised. Check out the training section on our website for further information.
Develop metrics for the tracking of progress of the effectiveness of any EDI training your employees undertake. This will allow for you to understand the impact that your interventions and investment in training has had, but will also provide a basis for feedback. It is important to take feedback from both those identifying within the LGBTQ+ community and those outside of it, in order to understand whether attitudes are progressing and change is being achieved
A primary aim for any company wishing to be more inclusive is that any changes they make be effective and sustainable. Only through consistent, powerful advocacy can companies retain diverse workforces and provide spaces in which all people can thrive.
LGBTQ+ allyship is for life, not just for pride month.