June is pride month, a time for LGBTQ+ individuals to celebrate who they are and who they love as well as a time to remember the progress of the gay rights movement and consider what still lies ahead in the move towards equality. Even when it is not June, our LGBTQ+ coworkers should feel comfortable being themselves in the office year-round. In 2019, 46% of LGBTQ+ people reported hiding who they are at work for fear of making others uncomfortable or being stereotyped, among other reasons. For this pride month, consider if you are a good ally at work.
An ally is someone who is not a member of a marginalized group, but makes a conscious effort to support, understand, and stand up for those who are. There are several things you can do to improve allyship and inclusivity in your workplace.
1. Educate yourself
One of the most essential parts of being an ally is educating yourself about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. There may be terms, pronouns, history, policies, and systemic discrimination you are unaware of. The Human Rights Campaign has a great online resource for those who want to become better allies. You become a better supporter and advocate when you are educated and aware.
2. Acknowledge your own biases
Bias is a part of human nature, but we cause less harm to others when we are aware of our implicit biases and actively resist them. One way to do this is to reflect on what prejudices and stereotypes you may be unconsciously harboring or even acting on. Consider what assumptions you are making about others and why, then work to unlearn them through education and mindfulness.
3. Show your support
Speaking of assumptions, we should not assume our coworkers’ pronouns or sexualities. It can put someone in an uncomfortable and sometimes even dangerous position where they need to decide between correcting you or letting it slide and hiding who they are. Gender-neutral language can be a powerful tool in creating an inclusive work environment. Gendered salutations like “good morning ladies and gentlemen” exclude any nonbinary members of the group and are easy to replace with neutral phrases like “good morning everyone/team”. You should also avoid assuming someone has a husband/boyfriend or wife/girlfriend and use more inclusive terms like “partner”, “spouse”, or “significant other” if you do not know. If you are unsure of someone’s pronouns, use they/them until you do know their correct pronouns. Another simple thing you can do to show you are an ally is to add your pronouns to your email sign-off. Doing this normalizes pronoun inclusion and shows your coworkers that you respect and honor pronouns.
4. Acknowledge your privilege and use it for good
Being cisgender or heterosexual comes with privileges as you fall within what society considers “the norm”. A good ally is aware of their privilege and acknowledges that it provides them with a platform that others may not have access to. There may be situations where it is unsafe or uncomfortable for LGBTQ+ employees to call someone out at work or speak up. Do not be a passive bystander if you witness discriminatory or homophobic behavior at work, and use your platform to stand up for your LGBTQ+ coworkers. Take action, be an active listener, vote thoughtfully on policies that affect equality, and educate others when given the opportunity.
These are just a few measures among many you can take to improve allyship in your workplace. For many of us, work is where we spend most of our time, and we need to make sure our LGBTQ+ colleagues feel not just safe, but welcome and celebrated.
– Morgan Gorecki, Senior Creative Account Manager at smartdept.