LGBTQIA+ Allyship in the Workplace: 5 Ways to Support a Culture of Inclusion

Tuesday, June 6 2023

Did you know that the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime? It’s no surprise, then, that the place in which you work and spend so much time can have a big effect on your life and your well-being. That’s why more and more people are seeking to land jobs with workplace cultures that can positively affect their well-being.  

For members of the LGBTQIA+ community, this can be challenging, but allyship in the workplace can play a key role in helping change this. Whether you’re just starting out in your career, a manager, or in the C-suite, here’s what you can do to help create and support an inclusive and safe workplace culture for the LGBTQIA+ community and all employees.  

Why LGBTQIA+ allyship matters in the workplace 

The movement toward cultural inclusivity has made significant progress over the years, however members of the LGBTQIA+ community still face discrimination and intolerance, including in the workplace. 

The Center for American Progress (CAP) reported that in 2016, 11-28% of LGBTQIA+ workers reported losing a promotion because of their sexual orientation, and 27% of transgender workers reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion in the previous year. A National Transgender Discrimination Survey also found that 50% of trans employees experienced harassment at work. 

Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to grow and succeed in the workplace, and to feel comfortable and accepted by others. In order to ensure workplace equality and diminish discrimination and intolerance, it’s important for workplaces to establish cultures of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). You don’t have to wait for your manager or company to tell you how — it can start with you. 

How to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community in the workplace

Being an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community can be a great start in bringing more equality and inclusivity to your workplace. This means making the commitment and effort to recognize your privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, or other unique positions of power) and working in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. There are many ways to be an ally to LGBTQIA+ community. Here are a few tips for being an ally in the workplace: 

1. Be willing to learn and grow

Education is key to being an ally. If you’re a new ally, do your research on key terms, acronyms, and the history of the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S. Learn about issues like prejudice, discrimination, and violence that affect the LGBTQIA+ community, and be sure to get your information from trusted sources such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign. It can also be helpful to stay tuned in to both local and national news around events that affect the LGBTQIA community so you can stay in the know and offer your support. 

Remember that it’s okay to not know it all and to even be confused on some things. It’s important to be willing to continue to educate yourself and grow. Listen and learn from other allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and share what you’ve learned with others. Just having conversations with coworkers can help spread awareness and allyship throughout your workplace.

2. Include pronouns as much as possible 

Correctly using someone’s pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity and demonstrate inclusion in the workplace. In fact, using inclusive language for LGBTQIA+ youth and adults drastically decreases experiences of depressionsocial anxietysuicidal ideation, and other mental health concerns. 

However, you can’t always know what someone’s pronouns are just by looking at them. That’s why it’s important to ask someone what their pronouns are if you don’t know. Try asking, “What pronouns do you use?,” or “Can you remind me what pronouns you use?” It’s also helpful for all employees to include their pronouns in their email signatures, Zoom meetings, and during introductions at meetings and other work-related events. 

3. Use inclusive language 

What you say matters. Many groups, including the LGBTQIA+ community, are harmed by exclusionary language. However, exclusive language such as gender-biased terms that favor male involvement and symbolize male dominance are still common in the workplace. For example, a board chair is typically identified as a “chairman” when “chair” could be used instead. 

Gender-loaded language reinforces inaccurate assumptions about men and women’s roles in the workplace. Moreover, gender-loaded language completely excludes nonbinary colleagues, which can cause them to feel unaccepted in workplaces and keep them from succeeding in their roles. This is especially true in workplaces that haven’t adopted pronouns and other vocabulary that affirms nonbinary people’s identities. 

Creating and sharing a guide on the dos and don’ts of inclusive language can help educate employees and mitigate the use of words that may be harmful to the LGBTQIA+ community and others. If your workplace doesn't currently have an inclusive language guide, consider suggesting it to your manager or someone in leadership. 

4. Hold others accountable

It can feel awkward to call someone out for saying the wrong pronouns or using non-inclusive language. However, it’s an important part of being an ally in the workplace. If you hear colleagues use any sort of discriminatory language, slurs, or stereotypes, speak up and explain why it’s not okay. If you’re not comfortable speaking directly to someone, talk to your manager. The same goes if you see gender-biased terms being used in job descriptions or in other workplace materials. Let leadership know how this can be harmful and why it’s important to make changes to ensure a culture of inclusivity. 

5. Suggest/host LGBTQIA+ educational forums

If you’re a manager or hold a leadership role at your workplace, it’s just as important to educate your staff as it is to educate yourself on pronouns, gender/sexual identity, and LGBTQIA+ history. You can do this by suggesting or holding LGBTQIA+ educational forums for your staff, or even better, your entire company. Allow employees who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community to share their experiences, stories, and suggestions on how to establish a stronger DEI culture. Consider inviting LGBTQIA+ advocates and public speakers to host a workshop for your employees to further their education and understanding. 

It’s important to also check in with your employees on how they’re feeling and what they think can be improved. Collect feedback on a regular basis and make changes and improvements as needed to help ensure everyone feels supported and included. 

Allyship for the LGBTQIA+ community inside and outside of the workplace 

Allyship in the workplace is a key step toward diminishing discrimination, stereotypes, and prejudices against the LGBTQIA+ community, but you don’t have to stop there. For example, learning how to support someone who comes out as LGBTQIA+ and the community year-round can further spread allyship and support a culture of inclusion at work, in your social circles, and throughout your community. 

Being an ally means helping to make being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community a safe and comfortable experience. However, sometimes extra support is needed, especially if mental health concerns arise. If you or someone you know is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and experiencing a mental health concern, therapy can help. SonderMind can connect you with a licensed therapist who specializes in treating members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Just let us know what you’re looking for from therapy, and we’ll connect you with a therapist who meets your needs. 

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