How to Include LGBTQ allyship into your DE&I efforts
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was implemented in the military as a way to reduce any prejudice by forcing those in the LGBTQ community to keep their sexuality a secret. For some reason, that mindset translated to the corporate workforce. However, the amended version I’ve experienced is “Don’t ask, but let me tell you about my wife.”
There’s already a precedent for discussing your personal life, but for some reason, being queer falls under what is “not work appropriate.” But why? I see spouses, partners and friends in pictures on the desks around me and frequently discuss the people in my coworkers’ lives.
How do we remedy this disconnect? How can we include LGBTQ employees in the culture and feel comfortable talking about their personal lives? How do we include more diversity into a company culture?
Here are a few tips for including LGBTQ identities into your organization’s culture and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) efforts.
Start a DE&I group
The first logical step is to start a DE&I council. Gathering employees together to plan out ways to celebrate diverse identities is a great way to ensure company buy-in to your DE&I efforts. Highlighting LGBTQ events and celebrations gives employees outside that community exposure to groups they might not get exposure to otherwise. When people experience new things, it makes them less afraid of the unknown. Acceptance and tolerance also increase when you have exposure to a group that was previously unknown. Including LGBTQ employees in DE&I efforts not only highlights queer individuals, but it gives them a seat at the table to influence how the company celebrates all identities, not just theirs.
I am on the Synergis DE&I council and we meet twice a month to discuss our diversity needs, plan events around diverse identities and find educational opportunities for our company as a whole.
Put it in writing
Writing a DE&I statement for your business should include a wide range of diversity. But that shouldn’t be the only place you include these diverse identities. Writing company policy to protect employees from any potential harassment is a good first step to ensure your employees feel safe just being who they are. It is essential to not only include sexual identity, but also gender identity.
The second thing you should put in writing is your value statement as a company and how celebrating diversity is a part of your culture. If it isn’t part of your culture just yet, writing it down is a good first step in the right direction.
Educate and train on inclusive language and behavior
Organization-wide training on discrimination and harassment policies enforced by the company is a pretty standard practice to ensure each employee feels seen and protected by said policies. Educating on hurtful language or lines of questioning is one thing, but training on how to be an ally when discrimination is present is a deeper level of support and inclusion.
Training and education should be provided to every employee, but management’s education should run even deeper than that. This ensures that the DE&I statements shared externally are true internally. In fact, Synergis is participating in a Getting Comfortable with Pronouns webinar later this month.
Select inclusive benefits
It is important to acknowledge the differences between benefits packages through the lens of queer individuals. LGBTQ individuals have specific needs that traditional benefits packages can overlook. For example, do your benefits cover same-sex couples? Do they cover drugs related to HIV/AIDs including PrEP (a medicine to prevent getting HIV)? Does your ‘maternity’ leave include all parents, especially new adoptive parents? Those are some basic differences but there are many nuances to benefits that can only be uncovered if you search for inclusive benefits.
Update your hiring strategies
Once you have LGBTQ-friendly policies, you’ve set the stage for welcoming and including LGBTQ employees. But what if your hiring practices are preventing people from joining in the first place? Remedy this by reviewing job posts to make sure they send the right message. You can train interviewers on their own unconscious bias to ensure they are being open and fair to everyone who interviews. Go to LGBTQ recruiting events or join networking groups geared towards LGBTQ individuals in relevant professional fields. There are many different avenues for hiring diverse talent. The key is to start looking for them.
Now that you’ve increased your awareness of ways to include LGBTQ identities in your DE&I efforts, you can start implementing some of them. Education and understanding are the first steps, but the next step is action. How will you take action in your organization? How will you ensure diversity, equity and inclusion in your hiring practices? How will you fight to retain diverse backgrounds in your organization? I know it can be hard to get started, but it will all be worth it once you do. And while you’re at it, consider donating this month to these LGBTQ organizations.
About the author
Lindsey Carbo serves as a Technical Recruiter for Synergis. She started as an Associate Recruiter and was promoted within the first six months. In this role, she sources candidates for clients, specializing in project management and data analytics roles. Lindsey is a fervent advocate for her candidates, guiding them through the hiring process every step of the way. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communication studies from Appalachian State University. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and watching movies.