LGBTQ+ history month is a month-long celebration that honours the achievement of the queer community and their influence on the world.
While the entire world has been growing more accepting of this community, it’s obvious that we still have a long way to go.
We’ve all seen businesses marketing their brand and products under the rainbow flag during Pride month.
But what about the rest of the year?
Furthermore, glorifying their commitment to the community in front of the world has no meaning if they don’t work towards improving their company’s internal dynamic. We’re by no means perfect here at Avva but we’re certainly trying very hard to make ours an inclusive workplace.
In this post, we’ll share six actionable strategies that you can implement to build an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace this February and ensure your commitment to the community lasts a lot longer than a month.
However, before we get into that, let’s take a look at the benefits of creating a workplace that supports LGBTQ+ employees.
Benefits of LGBTQ inclusion at the workplace
1. Safer employees
LGBTQ+ employees deal with unique challenges that your other employees may not commonly experience or even understand.
It’s not uncommon to hear about people from the LGBTQ+ community being fired without reason or being harassed physically or mentally.
When organizations take proactive measures to create an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace, it makes your queer employees feel safe.
Providing LGBTQ+ training and having policies in place to support these employees sends across a positive message and reduces the chance of people being discriminated against or harassed on the basis of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
2. Deeper relationships
A toxic work culture forces LGBTQ+ employees to hide behind a mask and avoid personal conversations at the workplace (sometimes even outright lie).
This instills a sense of mistrust amongst employees, which significantly affects the way your company functions.
How will people give their 100% when they are constantly worrying about censoring themselves?
When people don’t feel the need to hide a part of themselves, they are more open with their team members, which helps build stronger and deeper relationships.
3. Reduced stress
Human beings are social creatures. If people have to lie or don’t feel comfortable talking about their gender identity or sexual orientation, it naturally gives rise to stress. This can directly impact their performance and productivity.
Giving people the freedom to be open about their identity gives the rumour-mill fewer topics to gossip and speculate about.
4. Attracts more talent
LGBTQ+ candidates do their research before they join any company. They review your company’s values, policies, and past actions to see if it will be a welcoming space.
According to the Washington Post, one in every six Gen Z adults is part of the LGBTQ+ community. With the current global talent shortage, alienating this group isn’t a smart decision.
Strategies to promote LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace
1. Put it in writing!
If you want people to know that you’re committed to tackling all forms of prejudice in your workplace, it’s critical to have LGBTQ+ policies in place that outline your position and the expectations you have of your employees.
If you already have policies that cater to the LGBTQ+ community, it may be worth reviewing and updating them.
While you may have anti-discrimination and harassment policies in place, it helps if they specifically mention gender identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression as forbidden grounds of discrimination.
You can even go one step further and provide examples of what is considered homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic discrimination.
Additionally, making your policies inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees is essential. For example, you need to take care while drafting policies on parental leave, adoption, and more.
2. Increase empathy and awareness
The first step towards helping your team build an empathetic mindset is providing gender training.
Here’s the thing. Whether you choose to provide LGBTQ+ training or not, your team is diverse. It’s your responsibility to make sure your entire team feels respected, valued, and included.
By offering training opportunities, you’re leveraging a powerful way to ensure your employees understand the LGBTQ+ community. With the right training, your company’s values and policies will be understood and followed across the organization.
Here are a few things that your LGBTQ+ training should include:
- It should make employees aware of the anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies your company has in place.
- Educate them about how they can be mindful of their language.
- Educate them about how the company will support employees who have been subjected to discrimination or harassment.
3. Cultivate compassion
Not everyone is on the same page about their knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community.
Some of your employees may be extremely passionate about understanding everything they can about gender identity and sexuality. Others may find it confusing and not even know the difference between gender and biological sex.
For example, imagine if someone calls out your colleague’s old name after transitioning. This can be extremely harmful to your colleague’s mental health, especially when done with ill-intent.
However, it’s also possible that they may have done it in a split second of thoughtlessness, or maybe even naivety.
Instead of calling them out on their mistake, call them in. This will give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes without experiencing a public backlash.
This compassion encourages people to improve their behavior and move past their ignorance.
4. Make it fun!
Building awareness about the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace doesn’t always have to entail training sessions.
I’m sure you’ll agree that people learn a lot more when they’re having fun than when they’re asked to sit through an hour-long seminar.
People are across the spectrum when it comes to their knowledge and experience about the issues surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, it’s crucial to start a genuine conversation between your employees.
The best way to spark a conversation about LGBTQ+ is to host an LGBTQ-themed experience. Virtual experiences create an atmosphere where your team must work together, learn from one another, and rely on each other to achieve a goal.
These emotions surrounding a virtual experience can help your LGBTQ+ inclusivity efforts by creating an environment that is supportive and enthusiastic about learning more about the queer community.
Here are a few LGBTQ-themed virtual experiences that can help you spark these emotions and start a real conversation.
Avva’s LGBTQ+ History Drag Bingo & Trivia Extravaganza is a hilarious and fun-filled virtual experience hosted by the legendary Drag Queen Charlie Hides!
Charlie was one of the 14 queens who competed in the 9th season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, and she was the oldest contestant ever to compete on the show.
She hosts the #1 virtual bingo worldwide, and in Avva’s unique Bingo game, numbers are replaced with gay icons, well-known queer artists, activists, and historical figures. The game also touches upon significant moments in queer history and culture.
You can have the Queen of Bingo host a fun-filled (and informative) virtual experience and celebrate LGBTQ+ history month with your entire team!
Another excellent LGBTQ-themed virtual experience is Avva’s Virtual Pride Casino Night hosted by the gorgeous and hilarious drag queen Amber Dextris.
This virtual experience will unleash your team’s competitive side, and Amber will have them wiping tears of hysteria with her jokes.
Be ready for outrageous antics and cheeky banter during this “Rated 18” Drag act with our sassy drag queen Amber Dextris!
If you’re looking to celebrate LGBTQ+ history month with your entire company with hundreds of employees, look no further!
Your entire team will be divided into small breakout rooms where they’ll play for fun casino chips and attempt to climb the leaderboard and be crowned the ultimate winner of the night.
You also have the option of adding fundraising to your virtual casino night experience. When your attendees have used the chips they were allotted at the beginning of the event, they can donate to a charity of their choice and get back into the race.
Another excellent opportunity to show your support for the queer community, isn’t it?
5. Use gender-neutral language
Though it’s been a while since most Western governments have put in place anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBTQ+ employees, we still have a long way to go.
The prime example is how much of our everyday language alienates people who don’t identify themselves as either female or male.
From the standard “ladies and gentlemen” greeting to the “Mr, Miss, Mrs and Ms” in official documents, it’s no wonder we fall remarkably short in this situation.
If you want to make LGBTQ+ employees feel more included, it’s time to take note of the type of language you use.
Instead of using he or she, use they in your official documents. They is a gender-neutral pronoun. This simple change can help people who don’t identify themselves as a man or a woman still feel represented within the company’s policies.
Additionally, if you have a dress code for your organization, review those policies, too.
Don’t dictate what dress code is appropriate for men and women. Instead, emphasize dressing up in a way that meets the professional standards.
Read through all your company policies with gendered language that fuels stereotypes at the forefront of your mind.
6. Your benefits package needs to be relevant to all employees
To ensure that your benefits package is LGBTQ+ inclusive, you have to step into their shoes and understand their specific needs. For example, this could be related to aspects like healthcare, parental leave or pensions and retirement planning.
Some businesses that strive to create inclusive workspaces might even cover transition-related medical expenses (including surgeries for gender affirmation).
7. Support Employee Support Groups
Voluntary employee-led support groups like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), Affinity Groups (AGs), and Business Resource Groups (BRGs) comprise employees who share a common identity, interest, or life experience.
The ultimate objective of these support groups is to foster a sense of belonging, community, diversity, and inclusion within their organization.
They provide a safe space for individuals to meet others who share their interests, support one another, talk about LGBTQ+ issues like sexual orientations and gender identity, and take steps to stop homophobia, transphobia, biophobia, and other issues that plague the corporate industry.
8. Support gender transition in the workplace
These days, people are generally accepting of people identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. However, this acceptance doesn’t always extend to people who undergo gender transition in the company.
This specific community is still discriminated against, instilling a sense of isolation and fear within these employees.
To build a gender-inclusive workspace, it’s crucial to help employees who are transitioning by offering benefits packages that cover their transition-related healthcare bills.
Have documented processes and supported guidelines to help transgender employees. Furthermore, take measures to ensure that everyone in your company is aware of the system you have in place.
Let’s take a step back and understand gender transition.
By definition, gender transition is the process that some trans individuals go through to align with the gender they internally identify with.
This transition may include a change in their name and dressing style for some. For others, this may entail hormone replacement therapy or undergoing surgery.
Transitioning is a personal process, and there is no single concrete way. Therefore, the company needs to draft policies that cater to the entire trans-community.
When businesses have such guidelines in place, it shows employees that this is a subject that the company takes seriously and encourages them to feel safe about their decision to undergo transition.
People expect businesses to follow suit as the modern world grows more accepting and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.
They admire and trust companies that don’t just leverage pride month to market their products, but also show their support by building an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace.
While there is still a long way to go, you can implement the strategies outlined in this blog to support LGBTQ+ employees within your company for the benefit of all.