Event takeaways: How to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

The DEI Palette Club’s second event, How to create an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace, gave us lots of valuable takeaways. We heard from speaker Hayley Creighton, Senior DEI Specialist for National Grid, who shared lots of actionable tips for making your workplace a safer and happier space for your LGBTQ+ coworkers. We’ve summarized what was shared in a few brief points so that everyone can make use of them, and not only during Pride Month.

When people feel like they can come to work and feel comfortable and confident to be themselves and valued, they collaborate easier, speak up more, and go the extra mile. Building an inclusive workplace means ensuring that this is possible for everyone. Let’s take a look at which actions you can take to make your workplace more inclusive for LGBTQ+ team members.

Use gender-neutral language

According to Hayley, one of the most common experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace is that when mentioning the word “partner”, coworkers automatically assume this is a person of the opposite gender. This puts the person mentioning their partner in a very difficult position - either they go along with it in order not to make the situation more awkward, and thus hide their true authentic self, or they correct their coworker. In the latter case, they often end up apologizing to the coworker for correcting them, even though it was the coworker who made the mistake of drawing an assumption. That’s why Hayley stresses the importance of using inclusive, gender-neutral language to avoid these very uncomfortable situations.

Encourage people to put pronouns in their signatures

You don’t need to start with massive gestures. This action takes little effort, but is very effective. To make sure everyone is referred to with the correct pronouns in written communication, simply ask everyone at your company to add their pronouns to their email signature. However, it’s important that everyone also understands why they’re doing this so that they identify with this action, so take time to explain it properly.

This pronoun table gives examples of some pronouns and their use in practice (this is not and exhaustive list):

Source: Springfield College

Review your policies

Another relatively simple step involves taking a look at your policies to determine if they’re truly LGBTQ+ inclusive. Are you using gender neutral language consistently? Does your parental leave policy cover same-sex couples? Does your healthcare policy cover those who are transitioning? Identify where there’s room for improvement and more inclusion.

Add inclusive prefixes to your systems

This is an area many tend to forget about, but as Hayley mentions, being able to select a prefix which represents who you are is incredibly important. Many existing forms aren’t at all inclusive and usually offer a choice of Mr., Mrs. or Miss. Review the prefixes in your systems and make sure that they at least include Mx., “prefer to self-describe”, and “prefer not to say”.

Have the option to use gender neutral toilets

Gender neutral toilets are a game changer. They offer a safe space to everyone who doesn’t feel comfortable in the environment of the binary gender toilets. In Hayley’s opinion, you don’t have to make all of your toilets gender neutral - just have them as one of the options.

Don’t engage in performative allyship

When Pride Month comes along, the only action many companies take is changing their logo or posting a flag on their social media. While it’s great to show you’re on board, it actually doesn’t contribute to the cause with anything very valuable. Gestures like these need to be combined with actions such as those listed above to have a real impact.

Hayley also encourages individuals as consumers not to engage in performative allyship by supporting companies not making valuable contributions. Do your research and find out if there’s anything more to their actions than a logo change, and if these companies are actually contributing to the cause.

Be prepared to make mistakes and be open to being called out on them

The most important thing according to Hayley is being able to learn from your mistakes. Nobody is perfect and mistakes happen sometimes. The key is owning up to them and finding a valuable lesson in them.

Initiate open conversations with your coworkers and don’t only stick to “safe” topics - Hayley recommends encouraging conversations on topics such as the word queer, the history of the movement, the experience of LGBTQ+ people of color (specifically Black trans women), the difference between gender and biological sex or the struggles of LGBTQ+ families.

Don’t give up on people who are less open minded

Not everyone may immediately be on board with your efforts. There are going to be some people who are less aware of the importance of your actions. Hayley highlights the importance of not giving up on these people. To get those less willing on board with the course, Hayley recommends the following actions as examples:

  • Getting the company’s senior leaders on board - make everyone see that those with the most power support inclusion efforts. A great way to do this, for example, is getting them to speak on a panel at an event. Help them out with preparing if needed.
  • Leverage allies - the power of allies is so valuable! Use this power and have them engage in conversations to get even more allies on board.

  • Specifically target white men - when it comes to DEI efforts in general, Hayley mentions that white men can tend to feel excluded and that they have nothing to add. However, getting them on board is absolutely key. Focus on targeting this demographic specifically.

A few book tips from Hayley

These takeaways are a summary of some of the insights shared, and we hope these practical examples of inclusion-building actions will prove helpful to you in your efforts. If you’d like to watch the whole event, you can access the recording on our YouTube channel here.

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