Conference room office meeting: A diverse team of seasoned businesspeople listens to a specialist with short pink hair discuss the firm’s strategy. A creative start-up team talks about a major project.
Although LGBTQ+ persons have always been employed, many companies are now for the first time taking into account the unique needs of queer and trans people. The already expanding diversity training sector experienced strong increases in 2020. Employers were forced to reevaluate how hospitable their workplaces are as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and a Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination. In order to execute reforms and restructure office culture, several businesses sought the counsel of outside experts, and these initiatives have gained momentum over the past few years.
While some changes were welcome and long overdue for gay and trans employees, others are still waiting for businesses to uphold the new standard of workplace inclusivity. There is a lot that can be done to make queer and trans employees feel more welcome, safe, and appreciated, from recruiting procedures and staff trainings to providing inclusive parental leave and trans-affirming healthcare options. Creating a more inclusive workplace atmosphere is crucial, whether it be in person or virtually, and we’ve compiled some excellent strategies to bring about that imperative change.
1. Don’t Make Assumptions and Don’t Force People to Come Out at Work
Doesn’t this one seem quite self-evident? It’s still important to say. You should never out someone in relation to the first component of this, whether it be at work or elsewhere. For many LGBT people, determining whether or not to be out at work typically raises a lot of issues. The Nancy podcast on WNYC discovered in 2017 that many LGBT people “selectively out” at work for a variety of reasons.
Being out can lead to a variety of annoying, ignorant comments from employees who “mean well,” but aren’t particularly knowledgeable about queerness. In other cases, working outside might be plain dangerous, and outing someone without their knowledge can result in both mental upheaval and safety concerns for one’s physical well-being. Nancy’s anecdotal interviewee results are supported by hard data from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC): Only 4% more LGBTQ+ employees now report being closeted at work, up from 46% in 2008. Additionally, one in five LGBTQ+ employees claimed that coworkers suggested they change how they dressed (made more or less feminine or masculine).
It goes without saying that workplace cultures as a whole need to be altered. This means that you should be careful to respect the limits of LGBTQ+ coworkers; avoid outing them and refrain from assuming anything about the lives of openly or secretly queer coworkers, especially if you’re basing your assumptions on their look or gender presentation. Nikki Levy, the creator of Don’t Tell My Mother!, said to The Muse, “I’ve had to come out at every job I’ve ever had because I appear so’straight’.” Keep in mind that there is no one way to appear or identify as gay or nonbinary. The same is true for just about any other identifier, as well. Respect people for who they are, and give them the freedom to decide what information about themselves they want to reveal.
2. Continue Your Education and Invite Expert Speakers to Assist with Staff Training
Your LGBTQ+ coworkers should be listened to, but you shouldn’t count on them to teach you. It is extremely draining for queer and trans people to always have to explain their lived experiences. They shouldn’t be expected to respond to all of your questions regarding gender or queerness because the emotional labour involved is taxing on them. Listen to your LGBTQ+ coworkers if they offer knowledge or want to share their experiences, but don’t count on them to complete the task for you.
While it’s crucial to educate yourself, it could also be beneficial to have your entire company on the same page. Specifically, make materials available for employees to use, do unconscious bias training, and invite LGBTQ+ speakers who are professionally knowledgeable about diversity and inclusion-related topics to your company. Making LGBTQ+ coworkers feel secure, respected, and heard at work is not just a means to help straight and cis coworkers become better allies; doing so can also have a positive impact on queer and trans people’s mental health. The HRC discovered that 31% of LGBTQ+ employees experience stress or depression at work. While these sentiments may have a variety of causes, creating a more inclusive workplace and ensuring that all employees participate in it can help to safeguard the mental and physical health of LGBTQ+ employees.
Need extra supplies for your place of business? Organizations like GLAAD provide resources and information that you can use to create workplace policies and procedures as well as tools that employees may utilise to educate themselves.
3. Offer trans-affirming healthcare benefits and equal benefits for gay couples.
It is frustrating that LGBTQ+ people and their specific concerns are frequently ignored when discussing the health benefits. We’re sick of seeing queer and trans folx treated as issues, not persons, says the mission statement of FOLX Health, a recently created healthcare service for LGBTQ+ people, in direct reference to the obstacles and stigma that these people must deal with. Even though navigating benefits and healthcare-related issues can be stressful, it can be made worse if benefit plans aren’t created with you and your family in mind.
First, make sure that the coverage for your queer employees and their families is comparable to what your straight employees are receiving when it comes to adding dependents and partners to employee health insurance. another significant modification? Use inclusive wording that takes into account not only LGBT partnerships but also all genders when reviewing the terminology in your workplace’s life insurance, health benefits, and retirement policies. For instance, “maternity leave” was the term used for a long time to refer to parental leave, with the implication being that the parent giving birth and/or taking care of the newborn kid would be a cis woman in a heterosexual relationship. Here, there are two changes: Make sure to offer an equal amount of leave to all spouses, regardless of their gender, their partner’s gender, or whether they carried the child or not. Instead of using typical gendered terms like “mother” and “father,” use neutral language like “parent.” In general, gendered language should be eliminated from benefit descriptions, and “they” should be used in place of “he” or “she.”
Employers should also ensure that their benefit options and policy choices support and cater to the requirements of transgender, nonbinary, agender, and genderqueer people. According to Deborah Clegg, PhD, associate dean of research in the college of nursing and health professions at Drexel University, “There are more people who self-identify as nonbinary when it comes to gender.” We must recognise the health care challenges that many people face when they go to institutions that are unprepared to handle their requirements, especially as the population keeps expanding.
Employers should work to remove obstacles to accessible, safe healthcare, even though it’s vital to remember that not all trans people physically transition or desire hormone replacement treatment (HRT). Consider hiring a consulting company that specialises in LGBTQ+ equality if you’re unsure how to start making these changes.
4. Review Your Hiring Methods
Consider reviewing your hiring practises while you review your workplace regulations. Check your company’s job postings and other materials to determine whether you’re making any assumptions about the candidates that apply for your positions or the jobs itself. Find queer-inclusive networking opportunities, such as Lesbians Who Tech + Allies, that are appropriate for your industry and your employees’ professional development. Think about posting jobs on job boards like Pink Jobs and the Transgender Job Bank. Ask your hiring team to attend LGBTQ+ recruitment events.
You should also make it clear that you support diversity in the workplace and an impartial hiring process. Don’t assume anything about a potential applicant throughout the interview process; keep in mind that they might not feel comfortable coming out at all or even during the interview. Instead, make it a normal practise to go over your organization’s guiding principles and LGBTQ+-welcoming policies. And remember to evaluate LGBTQ+-inclusive resources when creating inclusive employment practises and job descriptions, including this manual from the Transgender Law Center (TLC).
5. Encourage and finance staff resource groups
“[Diversity and inclusion] efforts may wind up appearing more like diversity hiring programmes, without enough emphasis on equity and belonging once employees are in the door,” according to Forbes. While reviewing hiring procedures is essential, businesses should also continually actively empower their staff. Creating employee resource groups is a terrific method to accomplish this and demonstrate a dedication to long-term change (ERGs).
Described as “voluntary, employee-led groups that build a diverse, inclusive workplace consistent with organisational vision, values, goals, business practises, and objectives,” ERGs are for those who are unfamiliar with them. ERGs, or Workplace Affinity Groups as they were once known, were first created in the 1960s in reaction to persistent racism and prejudice in the workplace, claims Diversity Best Practices.
ERGs can drastically change how a company empowers and maintains its employees by promoting more inclusive policies, professional development activities, and other initiatives. Offering money and support for employees’ concerns can also make a workplace safer and more welcoming for everyone. These places not only help give employees a voice regardless of their job in the firm. The best part is that an ERG can convene face-to-face or via Zoom, which is fantastic news for companies that run remotely.
6. Make the Use of Pronouns and Gender-Neutral Restrooms Commonplace
Workplaces should foster a culture where people of all genders are given the resources and encouragement they need to succeed, free from others’ opinions or preconceptions. Traditional gendered (and binary) places can be difficult to navigate and, in some cases, dangerous for transgender, nonbinary, agender, and genderqueer people. The prime instance of this Restrooms. Offering gender-neutral, gender-inclusive, and/or all-gender restrooms, all of which should contain in-stall trash cans and sanitary supplies, is an easy method to handle this issue.
It might be challenging to identify strategies to foster a more inclusive virtual office culture even though many of us work from home. Even if it’s challenging, there are still practical strategies to bring about long-lasting change and a more welcoming workplace. Encourage your workers to use their preferred pronouns in their email signatures, Slack bios, Zoom names, HR profiles, and other appropriate places. This is one of the simplest methods to promote diversity. By doing this, the practise becomes more commonplace and less of a focus is placed on trans, nonbinary, agender, and genderqueer people having to initiate conversations or use pronouns first.
The fact that there are many different genders and that some people don’t identify with any particular gender should always be kept in mind. Although pronouns can be used to indicate a person’s gender identification, not everyone uses pronouns in the same way. That is, nonbinary people may use the pronouns they/them, but they may also use he/him, she/her, or ze/zir pronouns, to mention a few. Be sure to correct yourself if you misgender someone or fail to use their pronouns, but don’t dwell on it; the last thing a queer or trans person wants is to help you feel better about a mistake. Out cautions, “Remember, intention is not impact. The best apologies are those that don’t offer rationalisations or discount the other person’s feelings.
7. Protect your coworkers.
Anytime you witness or hear discrimination at work, you should speak out against it. For instance, the HRC reports that a startling 53% of LGBTQ+ employees say they have overheard comments about lesbian or gay persons. Even if the jokes are not made in front of your LGBTQ+ employees, you should call the perpetrator out and report the incident(s) to HR. It shouldn’t simply be individuals who are being targeted who confront bigots since their harm is immeasurable.
According to Charlie Arrowood, Director of Name & Gender Recognition at Transcend Legal, “if you hear a coworker misgender a trans person or give them the wrong name outside that person’s presence, call them out, if you know the trans person is out to them and it is safe to do so.” The bottom line: Change that lasts and matters is brought about by speaking up and advocating for others.
8. Support Pride Month events, but do it in a more informed manner.
Every June, LGBTQ+ people and their allies celebrate Pride Month. To celebrate, a flurry of businesses rainbow-ify their logos and release mountains of rainbow-themed merchandise. This change is a two-edged blade since it fosters greater acceptance both inside and outside of the workplace by making Pride Month more widely known. However, “corporate Pride” also commercialises queerness and obscures the fact that it started as a riot.
The ultimate symbol of allyship, as many people believe it to be, isn’t seeing one’s straight and cis coworkers march in Pride. It’s critical to keep in mind that Pride is about being supportive, speaking out for your peers, celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, and recognising Pride’s founding as a force for reform in the face of widespread prejudice and police violence. It’s also not just about partying. Make sure your business is dedicated to assisting the LGBTQ+ community throughout the year, not just in June when it’s fashionable (and profitable).