Seven ways you can be an LGBTQ+ ally at work
Author: Prishita Maheshwari-Aplin, Digital Mobilisation Lead at Stonewall
Over a third of LGBTQ+ people still feel they have to hide who they are at work.
This means they have to watch what they say, what they do, and where they apply. It's crucial that LGBTQ+ people have the same opportunities as everyone else to unlock their potential in their careers, and YOU can play a part by creating safe spaces in which everyone can thrive. Here's how you can help make a welcoming environment at your workplace, which in turn will lead to a healthier, more innovative and open culture for all!
1. Educate yourself and others
We all have things that we need to learn more about – this isn’t a personal failure, it’s an opportunity for growth! Take the time to find out more about the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community by reading articles, watching videos, and following advocates on social media. You can then share this information with your colleagues and help foster a culture of learning at your workplace.
2. Don’t expect to be perfect immediately
During this learning process, you may hit roadblocks or unintentionally say things that upset others. It’s OK to be kind to yourself during this journey and accept the learning curve. But it’s also important to be accountable and to make an active effort to change any hurtful behaviours in future.
3. Put your pronouns in your email signature
Putting your pronouns in visible places, such as in your email signature or next to your name on Zoom, signifies to all that you recognise the importance of pronouns to many LGBTQ+ people. It also allows those who may be less comfortable being out in the workplace to feel safer when sharing their own pronouns without fear of immediately outing themselves. However, it’s also important to remember that some LGBTQ+ people might not be happy yet to share their pronouns – they may be exploring their identity or just want to maintain a level of privacy.
4. Find out about reporting processes at your workplace
Be proactive in learning about any reporting processes at your workplace that can help you to be an active member of the community, rather than a passive bystander. Many LGBTQ+ people may not feel comfortable reporting incidents themselves, for fear of outing themselves or risking their job security. That’s why it’s important for allies to speak up when we witness inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.
5. Rally senior leaders to be active champions for Pride networks
Workplaces are the most successful at helping everyone thrive when a culture of inclusion trickles down from the top. Reach out and encourage senior leaders and directors to be vocal champions for inclusion and diversity networks! This helps LGBTQ+ employees feel as if their entire organisation supports them to be truly themselves at work.
6. Don't ask LGBTQ+ people intrusive questions
It’s never polite to ask probing questions about our colleagues’ lives, but LGBTQ+ people often get asked personal questions about topics from our sex lives to our bodies. It’s OK to be curious and to want to learn more, but it’s often better to wait for a colleague to offer the information themselves. If you feel like you really need to ask them a personal question in order to support them better, perhaps find the time to do so in private, or give them a heads-up so they have time to prepare.
7. Step back and ensure you're centring the voices of LGBTQ+ people
When taking action to support LGBTQ+ people, remember to recognise your own privilege and step back when needed. It’s so important for allies to use their voice to stand in solidarity with more marginalised communities – but it’s equally as important to know when not to take up space. Listen to LGBTQ+ people and platform others when appropriate and possible.