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5 Ways to Ensure Your Workplace is LGBTQIA+ Inclusive


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June is globally recognized as "Pride" month, and every year at this time there is a tidal wave of companies changing the colors of their logos to reflect a rainbow in order to show their support of LGBTQ+ individuals. Even though this only lasts for a month, it is important for a company to practice inclusion strategies in perpetuity.

Studies have shown that a workplace without an emphasis on inclusion and diversity can quickly create an unhealthy workplace for its employees. This type of environment can significantly negatively impact a company's reputation and profitability.

Many companies place an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, however more work is required than simply claiming a pro-diversity position. A companies’ success is related to their resources put into diversity and inclusion initiatives. Some examples include: Microsoft, Nike, Target, Gap, Amazon, etc. What exactly do these companies do to promote diversity and inclusion, especially when it comes to LGBTQ+ individuals? Below is a list of researched practices that will encourage a diverse, inclusive workforce for your growing company:

1. Start with the CEO

If your business is small that probably means that the CEO is one of a few employees. It is important to have a clear vision for your company while still in its infancy. One great tool to use when starting a company is the Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard. This test reveals if you carry any unconscious biases without realizing. Once aware, you can work to be more aware of how these biases may affect employees. Remember that being the CEO is more than just being the boss, it’s being the face of a company. If you are seen exhibiting behavior that is intolerant or noninclusive it will reflect in your employees’ work. Being aware and willing to learn are the most important things for a CEO’s desire for a healthy work environment.

2. Create inclusive symbols and spaces

Without identifying with the LGBTQ+ community, it can be shocking to see how exclusive certain spaces and symbols can be. Think of a symbol as any physical artifact around the office. For example, take a look at the artwork in the office. Does it only depict straight couples? Add some pieces that showcase non-traditional couples or settings, place some magazines or coffee table books that feature LGBTQ+ individuals, or even showcase the rainbow pride flag. Having unisex bathrooms also eliminates the potential embarassment of someone choosing which bathroom to use against their will, leading to a healthier work environment.

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3. Ensure proper language use

Language is often overlooked as being detrimental to the wellbeing of an individual. Offensive language or crass jokes at the expense of LGBTQ+ individuals lead to an unhealthy workplace. It is valuable that the employees understand the harmfulness of microaggressions. A verbal microaggression is a subtle phrase or word uttered about or towards a marginalized group in order to make them feel excluded or “othered.” These can seem relatively benign, but over time can cause massive issues in a workplace if not addressed properly. Some examples of microaggresssions include the failure to use someone’s proper pronouns, refusal to acknowledge an LGBTQ+ person’s partner or spouse, or even calling certain things “gay” as a pejorative. Ways to prevent this are normalizing people saying their pronouns during meetings or adding them to email signatures. This can also be done during interviews, ensuring you are not hiring anyone who is accustomed to using this type of language.

4. Be open to employee feedback

One successful way to measure the level of comfort and inclusion felt by LGBTQ+ members of your company is through acquiring feedback from employees. Do not be afraid to approach employees and have them provide (whether anonymously or not) potential solutions to problems of inclusion in the workplace. It is a common practice for someone who does not face discrimination to act without the input of those that do leading to practices that are unhelpful for LGBTQ+ individuals. Research claims that employee satisfaction and production decreases when they feel like they are the only member of their demographic in a room, so try doing what you can to alleviate that isolation.

5. Start an inclusion council

Much like the board of a company comes together to discuss big decisions related to the companies’ success, an inclusion council comes together to deliberate on ways to continue the companies’ improvement through diversity and inclusion. An inclusion council is a “group of employees, including senior leaders or executives, that acts on behalf of the company to jumpstart and manage the diversity and inclusion process” (NBC Bankers). This is a way to ensure that all marginalized voices are heard at your company. An inclusion council approach will see success as long as the leadership of the company is involved and takes the project seriously, accenting once again the importance of a strong CEO devoted to diversity and inclusion principles.

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There is no better place to create a healthy work ecosystem than a startup or small business. Weaving principles of diversity and inclusion into your organization from its inception helps for those principles to continue to be represented regardless of how large your company becomes. Let’s remember that along with being successful entrepreneurs, we have a duty to be kind and tolerant human beings!

Author: Paxton Dodd

Paxton is currently working towards his Master's degree in Communication at Purdue University. He has spent the last year teaching and taking courses along with freelancing. He is interested in creative marketing and data analysis.