Adrien Gaubert, co-founder of myGworkThe LGBTQ+ Business Community.
Corporate support for Pride is growing, but is it an authentic or performative alliance? Many companies jump into the Pride month festivities. Whether it concerns sponsoring a float or giving workshops, we are increasingly seeing an active role. However, not all of them go beyond performative alliance and address the real, painful workplace discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community.
from myGwork latest research about the experiences of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary professionals revealed that 70% experience discrimination in the workplace. This is higher for people with intersectional experiences from marginalized communities and ethnic minority groups. The survey found that 70% had left an employer because they failed to provide inclusive and equitable workplaces. These statistics mirror the results of other surveys conducted by LGBTQ+ charities such as Stonewall, that found it that “almost one in five LGBT people (18 percent) looking for work said they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity when trying to get a job in the past year.”
These studies show that organizations still struggle to create inclusive workplaces that can retain diverse talent. Our customers also tell us that no company can afford to let their underrepresented employees walk out the door. So how can organizations really celebrate work with pride and tackle discrimination in the workplace?
1. Have those difficult conversations about discrimination
As our recent research found, LGBTQ+ professionals with intersectional experiences tend to experience more discrimination. Leaders and managers not only need to be aware that discrimination can come from different quarters, especially for employees with intersectional experiences, but also need to start addressing those difficult and uncomfortable conversations about discrimination. Organizations should have an open dialogue about what discrimination actually is and how it differs by community. This includes making it clear to other employees which words and terms may be considered discriminatory and the negative impact of these words on their colleagues.
Of course, creating a safe space to have those difficult and awkward conversations in the first place is key. Conducting research to find out which groups are affected will also yield the insights needed to have those conversations.
2. Encourage exposure of discrimination and provide appropriate policies and training to deal with it
At the most basic level, professionals need to know what to do if they or their colleagues are discriminated against. Some of our customers encourage employees to report discrimination. They actually have a policy named after this practice. These kinds of policies can encourage open and honest conversations. In addition to implementing policies that encourage bullying or unacceptable behavior towards colleagues, it is important that leaders seek the knowledge and competencies to deal with discrimination, as well as intersectional experiences.
3. Offer company-wide LGBTQ+ education
Educating colleagues across your organization on LGBTQ+ issues is essential. There are many opportunities throughout the year to raise awareness of the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month is one that most employers are celebrating right now. However, organizations should work more closely with their employee resource groups (ERGs) throughout the year to highlight the challenges facing specific groups in the LGBTQ+ community. LGBTQ+ History Month, Lesbian Visibility Week, IDAHOBIT, Trans Awareness Week, and National Coming Out Day are just a few examples of events leaders can put on their calendars throughout the year to better educate their employees about LGBTQ+ issues and highlight what they are doing to eliminate LGBTQ+ discrimination inside and outside the organization.
Corporate ERGs are one of the safest platforms to provide LGBTQ+ education. However, those who do not have an LGBTQ+ network can turn to external organizations to support them with their LGBTQ+ training needs. (Full disclosure: My company offers LGBTQ+ training.)
4. Value differences and encourage authenticity by celebrating LGBTQ+ role models
Identifying role models from different walks of life is a great way to encourage authenticity at work and help employees appreciate differences. Many of our LGBTQ+ professionals often lead their employee networking groups and share their experiences to dispel stereotypes and myths about the LGBTQ+ community.
Vocal LGBTQ+ role models can not only encourage authenticity, but are often key to helping closeted LGBTQ+ professionals feel safe enough to show up at work. In fact, one of them myGwork’s recent surveys found that more than two-thirds of Gen Z LGBTQ+ graduates and college students would quit their jobs if they couldn’t be at work. Still, Stonewall found that “more than a third of LGBT staff (35 percent) hid or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the past year because they feared discrimination.” Role models are therefore essential to support younger LGBTQ+ professionals in dealing with discrimination and helping them get ahead at work.
5. Celebrate works with pride and promote authentic alliance
Leaders have the power and responsibility to encourage authenticity in the workplace, where employees can work with pride. But a safe environment where employees aren’t afraid to put themselves out there at work requires consistent, year-round commitment from the top, with ongoing training to dispel prejudice and celebrate differences. Celebrating Pride Month to encourage work with pride is a great start, but it’s important to provide ongoing educational programs and initiatives. View my recent gotechbusiness.com article about creating an authentic alliance.