Pride Month is a great time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ communities and explore ways to make the workplace more inclusive for them. It’s also a great time to encourage allyship among employees. Although people in your workforce may put up a pride flag in the office every June, and may not be overtly biased, that's not enough to be an LGBTQIA+ ally at work. Continue reading to find out what it really means to be an ally for these communities, as well as strategies that will make your workplace more inclusive through allyship.
What Does Being an Ally Mean?
An ally is someone who defends the rights of LGBTQIA+ colleagues and advocates on their behalf to ensure they're treated fairly in the workplace. Allies also make a concerted effort to learn about LGBTQIA+ communities, so they gain a deeper understanding of the challenges their coworkers face and discover ways to be supportive.
It's important to note that being an LGBTQIA+ ally is not just for those who aren't part of these communities. People who are LGBTQIA+ can also be allies to each other—with lesbians supporting their gay colleagues, gay workers supporting the transgender community, and so on.
No matter who is doing it, being an ally is all about making the effort to be supportive and understanding of everyone in LGBTQIA+ communities. The following are some ways employees can become LGBTQIA+ allies in the workplace, which will go a long way toward creating an environment that is inclusive and equitable for all workers.
5 Ways to Be an Ally for Your LGBTQIA+ Coworkers
There are things all employees can do on a regular basis to support LGBTQIA+ communities. The following are five ways to be an ally for your LGBTQIA+ coworkers.
1. Educate Yourself About LGBTQIA+ Communities
You can't become an ally for any community unless you understand it. To become a good ally for LGBTQIA+ communities, start by educating yourself about them—including their histories, struggles, and triumphs. Find out what they go through both inside and outside of the workplace, as well as ways you can assist in making their experience more inclusive. Although you can ask your LGBTQIA+ colleagues questions, ultimately the onus is on you to learn what you need to know. Some good places to start this education are the websites for GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, and the ACLU.
2. Understand and Challenge Unconscious Biases
We know what conscious bias looks like and we know it leads to discrimination. However, it's important to realize that unconscious bias also plays a role in the mistreatment of specific groups. While you may not have conscious biases against members of LGBTQIA+ communities, there still may be negative beliefs hiding under the surface that influence your thoughts and behaviors toward your coworkers. Part of being an ally is understanding unconscious bias, challenging the biases you may have, and replacing these beliefs with inclusive ones.
3. Use Inclusive Language
The way you use language can telegraph to your coworkers that you support them and you're making an effort to be inclusive. One important way to do this is by avoiding gendered language in your daily conversations with coworkers. For example, if you're married, instead of talking about your husband or wife, refer to your significant other as your partner, which will make LGBTQIA+ colleagues feel more comfortable talking about their relationships as well. Also, use gender neutral greetings when addressing colleagues, which will help avoid making assumptions about somebody's gender before you know what their pronouns are. Instead of greeting your colleague with things like “Hello, ladies and gentlemen,” replace it with “Hello, everyone.” Another helpful tip is to share your preferred pronouns when introducing yourself, so it allows others to feel comfortable sharing their own as well.
4. Join the LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group
If your company has an employee resource group for LGBTQIA+ workers, join as an ally to find out more about how your colleagues experience the organization. You may be surprised to learn how differently you and your coworkers perceive your workplace and how the advantages you may take for granted every day are not available to LGBTQIA+ employees.
5. Listen to LGBTQIA+ Coworkers
Joining the LGBTQIA+ ERG is a good start in listening to your colleagues’ stories, but it shouldn't end there. You should always have open ears and an open mind to better understand LGBTQIA+ coworkers. Spend time networking with them and encourage them to talk about their experiences. But remember, they may not feel comfortable opening up to you, so don't pressure them to share. Just showing a willingness to listen can go a long way toward demonstrating that you're a good ally.
While celebrating Pride Month in the office is a great way to show support for LGBTQIA+ employees, being an ally is something that should be done all year round. These tips can help employees be allies every day, so they support LGBTQIA+ coworkers in meaningful ways that make them feel included in the workplace.
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