5 ways you can support LGBTQ+ employees at work

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  • Date posted

    Jun 15, 2021

A 2020 Gallup survey indicates that roughly 5.6% of the U.S. population—or nearly 18 million U.S. adults—identify as LGBTQ. And while many companies are starting to advance their DEI policies, LGBTQ professionals continue to face unique challenges based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Workplace discrimination is still a problem for the LGBTQ workforce

American companies hold a great deal of power when it comes to shaping public opinion and supporting LQBTQ employee wellbeing at work. LGBTQ rights have increased dramatically over the past 20 years, but there is still room for improvement.

Recent studies have shown:

75%

of LGBTQ employees have experienced daily negative workplace interactions related to their LGBTQ identity. (2)

40%

of LGBTQ employees are closeted at work, and 26% of these individuals wish they could be out at work. (2)

36%

of LGBTQ employees who are out in their personal lives have lied about their identities at work in the past year. (2)

54%

of employees who are out at work remain closeted to their clients and customers. (2)

While these numbers are unfortunate, you (yes, you!) have the power to help improve the wellbeing of diverse employees—including those who identify as LGBTQ. Here are five simple ways to create a more supportive workplace for your LGBTQ employees.

1. Educate yourself and encourage others to do the same

It’s important for allies to take initiative and research what it means to be a member, and an ally, of the LGTBQ community. Don’t leave it up to your LGBTQ employees to educate you and other co-workers.

Ways to kickstart your education:

  • Learn about the historical, cultural, and political significance of Pride Month. Pride events are typically held throughout the month of June to recognize the Stonewall Rebellion, which occurred in New York City on June 28, 1969. This rebellion was the start of a national reaction that brought much-needed activism and visibility to the struggle for LGBTQ rights.
  • Consume media created from the perspective of LGBTQ community members. Walking in someone else’s shoes is a great way to understand their perspective. Consider reading books on what it means to be LGBTQ in America, listen to a podcast discussing different gender identities, or watch movies or TV shows written from the LGBTQ perspective. Over time, this will help you develop an understanding of what it means to be a better ally for the LGBTQ community.

2. Be part of a supportive culture

Be affirming, respectful, and sometimes just listen.

This doesn’t mean you need to go around every day patting your LGBTQ co-workers on the back and saying, “You’re great just the way you are!” (In fact, I’m advising against that.) Instead, start with the simplest way to affirm someone’s identity: listening.

By just listening and being supportive, you show you care. This goes back to educating yourself and making an effort to learn more, thereby creating a culture in your workplace that feels safe for your LGBTQ co-workers to be open about themselves. Remember, the onus is on you to learn more and be open—and appreciate the privilege you may have as a heterosexual person. (And hey—you’re already off to a good start by reading this blog!)

3. Be sure your hiring practices are inclusive

During one of our recent blogs, we discussed the importance of inclusive hiring practices. When building a culture of wellbeing, it’s important to consider the signals you’re sending as a company or fellow co-worker. If you’re hiring for a new position, actively seek out LGBTQ professionals through LGBTQ hiring boards and recruitment events.

Studies show diverse companies are more likely to lead in innovation and outperform the competition. So, not only is building a more diverse culture the right thing to do, it’s also great for your company’s overall wellbeing.

4. Think about how your company shows up publicly

Authentic representation is a simple, effective way to build a more inclusive work environment. Go beyond showing LGBTQ community members during Pride Month and extend that visibility year-round. It’s also important to make sure your representation is authentic and avoids tokenism or stereotypes. Tokenism can occur when an entity only makes symbolic efforts—that give the appearance of supporting underrepresented groups—without truly supporting those values.

If you’re going to move forward with more inclusive advertising, make sure the focus is on normalizing these interactions and giving LGBTQ individuals a voice. This non-verbal show of support signals to current and new team members that your company supports LGBTQ employees, clients, and community members.

5. Be an active and vocal LGBTQ ally

  • Get involved! If you want to support the wellbeing of your LGBTQ team members, it’s important to be an active ally. That means being vocal and participating in public shows of support. This can include volunteering at an organization that supports LGBTQ causes or even participating in your local Pride parade. Actively supporting the LGBTQ community shows you are willing to turn words into action, and it might help foster a greater sense of acceptance among LGBTQ employees.
  • Pay attention to the language you and others use. Language matters. Another way to actively support a healthier, more inclusive work environment is by using inclusive and respectful language. It’s equally important to recognize and address potentially offensive language from others. It’s common for derogatory comments to be passed of as a joke in casual conversation. Should this occur, make it clear this type of language can be hurtful and is not welcome in the future. While these can be more difficult conversations, they are essential to building a culture of mutual respect.
Want to learn more about diversity and inclusion in the workplace? Find out how your company and employees can benefit from thoughtful and strategic DEI initiatives.

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