In the best workplace cultures, every employee feels valued and supported by their employer. However, for the LGBTQIA+ community, this is often not the case. Many remain closeted at work and do not feel safe speaking out against discrimination. Companies who want to maintain a collaborative and enthusiastic workforce must work to uplift their employees, regardless of how they choose to identify. We've put together a list of things LGTBQIA+ want their employers to do and how employers can support them.
It's important for employers to grant their employees the basic rights and freedoms that belong to everyone. This ensures that LGBTQIA+ employees can maintain their dignity without harmful stigma. Fostering a workplace culture based on basic principles like equality, dignity, fairness, and respect is an important way to do this. A woman who chooses to wear a men's suit to work, for example, should be able to do so without issue. Defying harmful gender stereotypes is not an excuse to be treated poorly by colleagues or management.
Businesses should also ensure that there is no discrimination in the workplace by reviewing their recruitment and employment policies. Working conditions and benefits should be balanced and fair, employees' privacy should be respected, and harassment should not be tolerated. The right practices should be established to ensure compliance with human rights standards is monitored and communicated to employees.
A diverse workforce allows companies to benefit from different points of view and ways of approaching things that come from varied life experiences. Employers should celebrate this diversity so that every employee feels appreciated and supported for their contributions. One way to do this is to include events and holidays that celebrate gender and inclusivity on the company events calendar. Some examples include International Day of Visibility in March and Pride Month in June.
To help celebrate Pride Month in the workplace, employers can let gender diverse employees wear Pride clothing or add a Pride flag button to their uniform. Companies can also include gender-diverse employees in creating new training or recruiting materials that show their commitment to diversity. For example, if there is a photoshoot, employers should ask gender-diverse employees to participate.
Striving to create a more gender-neutral environment in the workplace will help LGBTQIA+ employees feel embraced and respected. Employers can do this in several ways, including establishing unisex toilets. A unisex toilet needs to be larger than a single-sex toilet to ensure all genders are accommodated. Any items or décor that enforce gender stereotypes should be removed. For example, avoid pink and blue bath towels, and if you provide sanitary products, do not label them "for men" or "for women."
Using gender-neutral language is another way to make gender diverse employees feel seen. An example of this is using the word "partner" to refer to employees' significant others rather than "husband" or "wife." Training can go a long way in helping teams understand the difference between sex and gender and different types of gender. Employers should also encourage the sharing of pronouns in the workplace. This can easily be done in meeting introductions, on nametags, or through email signatures.
Dress code policies that avoid gender stereotypes can better accommodate members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace. Employers have the right, of course, to establish guidelines on what employees wear for safety and professionalism. However, these guidelines should be flexible enough to help every employee celebrate their identity. Employees should also feel comfortable in how they choose to express their identity. By allowing employees to dress comfortably and authentically, employers can ensure their workers bring their best selves to work and better focus on their jobs.
When developing dress code policies, employers shouldn't mandate anything that enforces gender stereotypes. For example, do not insist that female employees wear heels and pencil skirts. Do not create gender-specific policies either, like allowing women to wear earrings but not men. Any gender-based language, like "men with short hair," should also be avoided.
LGBTQIA+ employees should not be discriminated against, but neither should suppliers, distributors, or customers. Companies should use their leverage to prevent abuse by their business partners. Where possible, businesses should also work to end human rights abuses in the regions or countries in which they do business. By consulting with local communities and organizations, employers can correctly identify what steps they should take to achieve this.
Some companies turn their logos into a rainbow or have men's T-shirts made for Pride Month. Fostering a more inclusive workplace takes more than just that, though. Employers must take the time to listen to their LGBTQIA+ employees and take action on areas that need improvement. This is the only way to truly support their workers. These are some of the things that LGBTQIA+ employees want and need from their employers to feel safe and comfortable in the workplace. By engaging in meaningful conversation with LGBTQIA+ employees, employers can further understand their individual concerns and wishes. Every employee deserves to feel valued and supported, regardless of orientation or identity.