Pride Month Blog: Ensure Your LGBTQ+ Employees Feel Like They Belong
June 7 2022
At ChattyKathi, we place a huge emphasis on creating a sense of belonging in the workplace. But belonging is something that those in the LGBTQ+ community have only begun to feel in recent years. Knowing this, we took a survey of friends and colleagues who identify as LGBTQ+ to hear directly from them: What makes you feel like you belong? What do you wish your managers knew about cultivating a safe workspace for LGBTQ+ workers? Here’s what they had to say.
1. Self-expression and representation are crucial. Every person in the workplace should feel safe being able to share exactly who they are, no matter how they identify. It’s crucial for managers to not only create a space where that feels possible, but also work to actively ensure that those in leadership positions are representative of the workers they’ve hired.
“I wish there was a place to include my pronouns in my signature. After I suggested this in a yearly survey, the company came out with a policy that all emails had to be in a specific format and no pronouns were to be included. I'm happy to go by she/her, but I do prefer they/them and hope one day that people's gender identities and expression are accepted rather than seen as an inconvenience or a joke. I want to see more trans and nonbinary people feel comfortable in the work place and not suppress themselves.” – Anonymous
“I’m really lucky at my job actually because I’m not the only queer person and there are actually people in the community in Senior positions so I feel accepted and comfortable being open about my sexuality. I think that’s been a big part of it, because representation is so important. As a bisexual woman, seeing other bisexual women excelling in both the same field as me and at the same organization makes it a lot easier to be honest, find mentors, get advice, and do work that authentically represents my values.” – Gabriela Obregón Christie
2. Managers must work to understand their own biases. Managers have an extra responsibility to their LGBTQ+ staff because of the power they hold. And –while everyone should be doing the work to ensure that they are addressing their own biases – it’s even more important for managers to ask themselves the tough questions around gender and sexuality norms to ensure that hiring decisions, treatment of staff, etc. are not being impacted by your own implicit bias.
“Managers should understand the ways in which LGBTQ+ people are often silenced and treated differently in the workplace. I've seen gay coworkers being dismissed and turned down for promotions despite them doing amazing jobs and being stellar teammates. I think managers should take a look at their internal biases as it pertains to all marginalized groups and see if their decisions are being influenced by these judgments. Managers should also open surveys to see how they can improve. This allows teammates to address specific issues they face and create an opportunity for managers to grow and learn!” – Anonymous
3. LGBTQ+ employees should be given safe opportunities to share, but they shouldn’t have to be the educators of their non-LGBTQ+ coworkers As a manager, it’s crucial to do your own self-education and apply it in everyday interactions– and ensure that your staff is doing the same. Every time a manager uses inclusive language or intentionally ensures equitable representation of staff, they give a positive signal: this is a safe environment where LGBTQ+ employees are respected and valued.
“It’s not up to LGBT+ people to make sure that all programs are sensitive to and incorporating their community, but it’s hugely important to give people in the LGBT+ community the opportunity to create projects, opportunities, etc, where they see gaps. This all goes for POC [people of color] as well. There are gaps for these communities that aren’t addressed in the way we do things most of the time, and in order for them to be addressed we have to be flexible and allow new ideas to be explored and resource them.”– Gabriela Obregón Christie
Solutions to ensuring your team feels like they belong – no matter how they identify – can be as simple as allowing employees to include their pronouns so they feel seen and can be as important as self-reflection in the face of implicit bias. But it’s clear that, even in 2022, companies range across the board on their levels of acceptance of those in the LGBTQ+ community. As managers, we know you want to make sure that every employee feels valued and like they belong – so if you’re not part of the LGBTQ+ community, take the time to reflect, educate yourself and your team, and hold space for those who identify as LGBTQ+ to share and be heard.
*** We’d like to thank those who contributed to this article, whether you chose to remain anonymous or share your information – your voices are paving the way for more inclusive spaces where everyone can belong.