While great progress has been made in LGBTQ+ rights in recent years, the workplace is not the most welcoming space. More than 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment.
This blog explores the importance of allyship in the workplace to support and advance progress and build an inclusive and supportive organizational culture that instills a sense of belonging.
Starting with the Stonewall Uprising in June 1969, Pride Month celebrates LGBTQ+ activism and culture through the years. June every year, workplaces celebrate pride month to promote awareness and equality within the company, understand the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community, and recognize the work that needs to be done to create a safe and supportive work environment for everyone.
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
While some companies create rainbow-themed social media marketing campaigns or add rainbow colors to their corporate logo to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important for businesses to move beyond these surface-level efforts and take pragmatic action toward creating a more inclusive workplace environment and society.
Pride allyship is one such impactful action!
To create systemic change within an organization, activating allies collectively to build belonging in the workplace can have a lasting impact. From implementing initiatives to celebrate, support and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community to building an inclusive culture and creating a safe place to work for all, there are many effective ways an organization can demonstrate being a true LGBTQ+ ally.
As the LGBTQ+ community is growing and getting more visibility in corporate India, many companies are working towards challenging old mindsets, offering open and safe work environments, and ensuring greater opportunities.
Karnataka has become the first state in India to reserve jobs in public employment for transgender persons.
Some large corporates like:
- General Electric (GE) – recently launched a program called Elevate to encourage potential employees from diverse groups to learn and upgrade their skills in a safe environment.
- Tata Steel – offers funding for gender reassignment surgeries, along with many benefits for its LGBTQ workers like medical services, parental leaves, etc.
- IBM – hosts Pride Walks on their premises, open to employees, community members, and allies.
- Accenture – has a virtual platform that allows LGBTQ+ employees to share their stories and conduct ongoing sensitization campaigns to help their employees understand the nuances of gender expression and identity and the use of inclusive pronouns.
- Deloitte India – has introduced Speak-up, a confidential and anonymous channel to report misbehavior, discrimination, or harassment due to sexual orientation.
Read on as we explore the different ways pride allies can bring about the change, foster safety, equality, fairness, acceptance, and mutual respect for the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace…
What are Pride Allies?
Everyone needs someone who will recognize and appreciate their existence.
Whether we identify as part of the acronym or not, we all have a big role to play in creating healthy work environments, especially when it comes to developing awareness and empathy for our LGBTQ communities. The burden can’t just be placed only on LGBTQ-identifying individuals to advocate for themselves.
Pride allies are not necessarily LGBTQ themselves but do a great deal to advance the cause of equality by advocating for equal rights and fair treatment. They support and recognize the essence of the LGBTQ+ community and help by challenging social ills and discrimination. Allies play a crucial role in today’s workplaces to ensure that LGBTQ+ employees don’t feel excluded or isolated.
The role of an ally goes beyond expressing support; it involves taking proactive steps to be:
- Champions of Inclusion: by listening to, advocating for, and amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ employees, supporting, as well as educating others on the importance of allyship.
- Champions of Change: Speak up against discrimination, biases, or microaggressions and create a safe and supportive environment for everyone.
- Champions of Engagement: by helping LGBTQ+ employees feel included, heard, recognized, and valued.
How to be an effective ally?
- Listen, Learn & Relearn: about the experiences of LGBTQ+ employees. Follow and engage with LGBTQ+ Thought Leaders and Content Creators.
- Practice Empathy: by acknowledging feelings and experiences with no bias or judgment.
- Allow Organic Diversity: instead of crafting some unique LGBTQ campaign, seamlessly incorporate the LGBTQ community into everyday scenarios.
- Use Inclusive Language: Incorporate inclusive language and pronoun signage and avoid assumptions or stereotypes.
- Practice Allyship Year-Round: Be genuine and express acceptance and support beyond pride month.
Creating a Psychologically Great Place to Work
Creating a friendly, inclusive workplace has positive ripple effects on the entire organization. Numerous studies report that diverse perspectives are powerful multipliers of innovation and growth. McKinsey reports that companies that employ a diverse workforce have 35 percent higher financial returns than national averages.
Firms like Zomato hire more LGBTQIA+ members to build a vibrant gender-neutral workforce. This is successful only when employees are made to feel comfortable in their skin, and the organization has a good framework that recognizes individuals, regardless of their gender preferences or sexual orientation.
Small things like being able to share weekend plans with co-workers openly or keeping a partner’s photo at the work desk can make a huge impact on an employee’s happiness and well-being.
To create truly inclusive spaces, organizations must take steps like:
- Implementing gender-neutral restrooms and signage
- Having appropriate dress code policies
- LGBTQ-friendly office policies and benefits
- Incorporating diverse LGBTQ+ representation in company imagery
- Having support and affinity groups for open and consistent communication
- A zero-tolerance policy to harassment, bullying, or discrimination with strict action to address the problem.
Policy changes at the corporate level will help reset the ‘normal’ and pave the way for a more inclusive future.
Being a Good Ally Starts with Learning
Education and complete awareness are the cornerstones of true allyship. By learning all there is to know about the LGBTQ+ community, its history, struggles, and accomplishments, allies can develop a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by individuals with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. This helps in breaking down stereotypes, dismantling prejudices, and fostering a culture of acceptance.
Some ways that organizations can educate employees and raise awareness:
- Hosting sensitization sessions and workshops
- Sharing educational resources and articles related to LGBTQ+ history and rights.
- Inviting influencers, lawyers, guest speakers, or LGBTQ+ activists to conduct sessions around gender sensitization and awareness.
Creating a Culture Where Everyone Can Be Out, Loud, And Proud
Organizations can show support through LGBTQ+ events and celebrations, such as parades or panel discussions. It demonstrates true allyship and helps create a sense of community. Some effective ways of showing support are:
- Celebrating and participating in LGBTQ+ events and milestones beyond pride month.
- Supporting LGBTQ+ causes and charities through partnerships or sponsorships.
- Establishing partnerships with the LGBTQ+ community and affinity groups.
Amplifying LGBTQ+ Voices
To promote understanding, increase acceptance, and spread knowledge, it’s important to empower people to share their stories and amplify their voices. Organizations must provide a discrimination-free platform where:
- Employees can share their own experiences without fear to find joy and freedom at the workplace.
- Employee stories and perspectives can be shared through employee spotlights, guest blog posts, or social media takeovers.
- LGBTQ+ employees’ achievements can be highlighted
- Diverse perspectives can be featured in the form of blogs, newsletters, or other marketing mediums.
- LGBTQ+ inclusive initiatives and campaigns can be showcased.
True Allyship is not just a Mindset
Allyship isn’t just about showing support once every Pride Month; it is an ongoing journey of learning, building awareness, unlearning bias, educating, and sensitizing others. It is about tangible action, which may be small, but, when combined, fosters a company culture that’s open, safe, and supportive. Sometimes all it takes is asking a co-worker if they are ok or need someone to talk to.
The willingness to create an inclusive workplace should be paired with embedding a sense of belongingness and true allyship into the organization’s cultural DNA. If people feel a sense of belonging, they automatically feel empowered to drive value for their organization.
Have you come across any outstanding examples of allyship in the workplace? Have you or someone you know taken action to drive positive change or advocate for equal rights or fair treatment? Point these positive stories our way so we can share them and celebrate them.
Together, let’s build a world or work where everyone can truly be their true selves!