The start of June sees the start of Pride Month around the world. And although it’s still over a month away, now is a great time for HR to remind their workforce that the values and issues that Pride stands for are year-round concerns that won’t be forgotten or ignored.
The LGBTQIA+ community can face many hurdles at work resulting from their sexuality and/or gender identity. This ranges from overt discrimination to not feeling like they can be open about their personal lives with their colleagues.
HR, as the custodians of culture and anti-discrimination in the workplace should take a lead in understanding their LGBTQIA+ colleagues’ needs and concerns, and then creating and rolling out initiatives to make the workplace more equitable.
Following are 5 easy things HR can do to acknowledge and support their LGBTQIA+ community:
1. Gender pronouns
Pronouns might seem like a small thing to someone who has never questioned or not identified with their given pronoun. But having the freedom to express who you are through the pronoun that best fits, means a great deal to those who have previously been labelled with a pronoun that didn’t match their gender identity.
HR can help employees to feel included and supported at work by suggesting (not everyone will want to participate so it shouldn’t be enforced) that staff can communicate their gender pronoun in their email signature.
For anyone whose gender isn’t immediately obvious, being able to gently communicate who they are in their email signature can help them and their colleagues avoid confusion or embarrassment. And for allies, it’s a way to signal that you understand how important gender identity is and that you want to make it easier for everyone to articulate their pronouns.
2. LGBTQIA+ support group
According to the ONS, ‘An estimated 2.7% of the UK population aged 16 years and over identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) in 2019, an increase from 2.2% in 2018.’ In the same year, 0.7% of respondents identified as other, and 3% said they didn’t know or didn’t answer the question.
So, the workplace might feel like a lonely place for the LGBTQIA+ community at times (bear in mind that allies (A) may be included in this group and increase its numbers).
Creating a safe space at work for your LGBTQIA+ community to socialise with each other, to share common experiences and challenges, can go a long way in helping someone who might often feel ‘other’ to instead feel a sense of belonging.
HR can work with their LGBTQIA+ community to decide what their safe space looks like. It could simply be a message board within your HR system’s workspace, or it could be a more formal group that meets on a regular basis. A key thing to keep in mind is to make the group as inclusive as possible, so allies and those interested in learning more are also made to feel welcome.
3. Make LGBTQIA+ resources available
Education is often the key when it comes to advancing DEI in the workplace. People within the LGBTQIA+ community may appreciate resources on managing instances of discrimination or mental health issues arising from feeling marginalised at work.
People outside the community can also benefit from learning more about the issues that face anyone identifying as LGBTQIA+. Simply understanding what LGBTQIA+ stands for (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual/Ally) is a good place to start.
Mind has compiled a useful list of websites you may wish to direct people to: ‘LGBTIQ+ mental health’.
4. Plan what you can do to celebrate Pride Month in 2022
Pride Month is an important event for the LGBTQIA+ community. Acknowledging and celebrating the month as a business is a great way to show solidarity, and to celebrate sexual and gender diversity.
Businesses could consider supporting Pride Month by:
- Changing their company logo for the month to show off the Pride colours
- Hosting a drinks evening (online or face-to-face when possible) to celebrate together
- Running a comms campaign highlighting the resources available to support their LGBTQIA+ community and others interested in learning more
- Giving staff time off if they’d like to attend an external Pride event
- Donating on behalf of the whole organisation to a charity that supports LGBTQIA+ issues
5. Anonymous feedback channel
Undoubtedly, there will be employees in every organisation who have ideas about improving support for the LGBTQIA+ community, but who don’t wish to make their thoughts known publicly.
Having an anonymous feedback channel available for ideas is a great way to capture the thoughts of quieter/more private colleagues. Physical feedback boxes might pose a number of challenges in a modern workplace, including catering to off-site workers and data security. HR could consider using anonymous surveys instead.
Alongside an anonymous feedback channel, it’s important to let employees know how to raise a complaint if they’ve experienced (or witnessed) discrimination as a result of gender or sexuality. Anonymous feedback shouldn’t replace direct conversation when serious issues need to be addressed.