It’s one thing to say that your workplace is inclusive – it’s quite another to openly demonstrate and show your support of marginalised groups such as the LGBTQIA+. The creation of allies at work will result in an open, welcoming and truly inclusive workplace, where staff retention, morale and productivity are continually high. Surely that’s the goal of every modern employer?
Unfortunately, the Human Rights Campaign found that 46% of those identifying as LGBTQIA+ avoid coming out to their colleagues and employers, for fear of exclusion, unconscious bias and openly negative treatment.
The presence of allies in the workplace helps reduce this bias and negativity, making an LGBTQIA+ individual feel welcomed and supported. Your role, as an employer, is to create a culture of allies in the workplace, where all employees are treated equally, regardless of their identity.
It’s worth noting, however, that there’s a difference between active and passive allies. A passive ally may support and acknowledge LGBTQIA+ inclusion but stop short of standing up and speaking out. We need active allies in the workplace, openly supporting marginalised groups. The more visible the active ally in the workplace, the greater the sense of inclusion.
Your goal in the workplace should be to create an environment of inclusion, equality and respect, where all people feel comfortable expressing their identity. The best way to achieve this spirit of inclusion is by being an ally to marginalised groups. Speak up, stand up and stand shoulder to shoulder with your marginalised colleagues. Do this by:
- Never ask or assume someone’s identity. Let the person share this information when they’re ready. They may never “come out” – that’s okay. Just let people “be”, treating them as the individuals they are.
- Use gender-neutral language around the workplace. Avoid terms such as “policeman”, “mankind”, “manpower” and “air hostess”, for instance. Don’t know if your language has a gender bias? Use this helpful tip from the United Nations: ‘Reverse the gender: Would reversing the designation or the term from masculine to feminine or vice versa change the meaning or emphasis of the sentence? Would it make the sentence sound odd?’
- Get to know people who identify as LGBTQIA+. Read up on LGBTQIA+. Watch movies and listen to podcasts. Immerse yourself in the culture.
- Call out homophobia, transphobia or queerphobia whenever it arises. Speak up!