While it’s important to prioritize inclusion all year round, Pride month is a particularly great time to deep dive into your efforts and identify ways to create a more inclusive work environment. While decorating your office with rainbow flags or even hosting an event is a fun and celebratory start, Pride represents something much larger — it is a reflection of the progress that’s been made and a commitment to continuing the work that needs to be done to achieve equality and inclusion.
As an employer, you have the opportunity and power to effect positive change toward these goals. To help you get started, we’ve gathered five ways to make your workplace more inclusive.
1. Provide education
Underlying inclusion is always education, which is why you should make it as easy as possible for people at your workplace to learn about the history and struggles of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as how to identify and disrupt personal bias.
One way to do this is to provide training sessions for allies to learn from third-party DEI consultants or trainers from LGBTQIA+ community. For example, you can invite trainers from organizations like The 519 and Friends of Ruby into your workplace to host workshops or lunch and learns.
Not only is education a powerful tool for growth and development, but for your LGBTQIA+ employees, seeing their coworkers make an effort to learn can go a long way in making them feel safer and more included at work.
And for those who want to learn at their own pace, there are plenty of external sources to point employees towards to educate themselves, such as the Pride at Work LGBTQ2+ workplace inclusion program.
2. Create a dedicated team and space
Launching an employee resource group (ERG) for your LGBTQIA+ employees and allies, as well as having a dedicated safe space at your workplace is vital for a few reasons. For one, it’s somewhere where your employees can go to start or have conversations with other members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It’s also a place allies at your workplace can go to learn directly from other employees within the community.
Plus, dedicated groups and resources to support your LGBTQIA+ employees can ensure that your inclusivity efforts go beyond just the month of Pride. You can do your part by providing the budget and any resources necessary, but it’s important to make sure you are taking a step back and instead empowering your team to plan events, hold weekly get-togethers, and do whatever else they deem necessary to improve inclusivity at your company.
3. Use the right language
Language is a big part of the inclusivity equation, as people can often alienate members of the LGBTQIA+ using language without even realizing it.
For example, it might be common to use “she” and “he” or “ladies and gentlemen” in your company messaging, but this excludes people who don’t identify as either, such as non-binary or gender fluid people. To be more inclusive, use “they,” or address your employees more generally using phrases like “Hey, everyone!” or “Hello, folks!”
This extends to people who have transitioned at your workplace and go by a different name and gender than what was assigned to them at birth. In fact, addressing transitioned employees using their old name, or “dead name,” can be very hurtful and take away from their journey to embody their new identity. To make sure employees are never dead named or misgendered, encourage all your employees to make their preferred name and pronouns known in email signatures, IM bios, and wherever else conversations are taking place at your workplace.
4. Bake inclusion into your policies and programs
The ongoing changes in federal legislation to protect sexual orientation and gender identity, both at the workplace and elsewhere, is a huge step in the right direction, but it doesn’t alleviate the responsibility of employers to create and enact their own protection policies.
Concrete, enforced policies give LGBTQIA+ employees assurance that at their desk, in the lunchroom, on Zoom, and anywhere else within the confines of your workplace, that they won’t be harassed or treated unfairly; or, if they are, all support will be on their side.
Beyond protection policies, another way to support the community through HR programs is to update your benefits package to be more inclusive, such as family planning benefits for same-sex couples and parental leave.
5. Speak up against intolerant behaviour
Ideally, things like your public stance and inclusive policies will make it very known that any kind of harassment or unfair treatment won’t be accepted, and, as a result, it won’t happen in your workplace.
But in the unfortunate case that it does, it’s your responsibility to make it very clear where you stand on the matter — with the victim and against the behaviour. For example, if an employee reports instances of misgendering, jokes at the expense of their gender or sexuality, or generally offensive comments, action your support by reprimanding — or even removing entirely — the perpetrators.
If you experience repeated instances of this type of behavior, it might be indicative of a larger issue in your workplace that might be allowing that type of behaviour to continue. For example, if you notice that you consistently have issues with employees hired from a particular source, try switching that source up to a more LGBTQIA+-friendly one such as a student organization in your area.
The ways in which you can show support for the LGBTQIA+ community are truly limitless, but we hope that the tips above are enough to help you get the ball rolling towards creating a truly inclusive workplace.
ML6 is a recruitment and talent advisory firm located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). We provide customized solutions to support our clients throughout the employee lifecycle. We help our clients attract and retain talent by advising on people programs, processes, and best practices.