Despite Pride parades and festivals being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, this month has been a fruitful one for the American LGBTQ community thanks to a June 15 Supreme Court decision affirming that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans discrimination based on sex, protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In a 2015 survey conducted by GLAAD, “more than 40% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced employment discrimination, harassment or mistreatment.” Even with the court’s decision, LGBTQ discrimination still exists within the workplace, so this Pride month, take some time to consider the following ways in which your organization — whether a company or association — can become a more inclusive space for LGBTQ members.
Use gender-neutral language
Business settings have been slow to move away from using language that assumes employees are both heterosexual and cisgender, which means having a gender identity that matches your biological sex. If you don’t know the gender identity of the individual’s partner, referring to them as the member’s husband or wife might make them uncomfortable if they are not out about their sexual orientation in the workplace. Replacing gendered terminology with words like partner or significant other in the workplace will help shift an organization’s culture to be more inclusive of LGBTQ people.
Institute an LGBTQ resource group or committee
In order to give LGBTQ members a voice in your organization, you should form an LGBTQ Employee Resource Group or committee. Typically, these groups will be spearheaded by a member of the executive team who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community, but if there is no such person on your team, there is sure to be an employee or member who would be willing to take on the role as facilitator. That way, your organization has someone who can provide feedback brought up in the group’s meetings to the executive team. However, it’s important to remember that although people may be interested in participating, they may not want to come out publicly. As such, the group’s membership should remain private as to not out any members.
Make Events LGBTQ Inclusive
From conferences to webinars and everything in between, sessions and events themed around the LGBTQ community can build an inclusive environment within your company or industry. Especially as more Millennials and Gen-Z join the workforce, they will be expecting sessions themed around diversity — including LGBTQ inclusion — because it is what they’ve experienced up to this point. Collegiate associations have been hosting LGBTQ-themed sessions and events for years, and those organizations have managed to create a more comfortable environment for those members. Groups like the National Association of College and University Residence Halls, the largest student-run organization in the world, always includes an LGBTQ dance/mixer at their annual and regional conferences. They also encourage conference attendees to include their pronouns on nametags to ensure people are called by their proper pronouns, making the conference experience more comfortable for all. With their ability to bring people together both in-person and online, associations are in the unique position to educate the members about the struggles LGBTQ people have faced in their industries.
Support the local LGBTQ community
Even though it’s the most common time to celebrate LGBTQ rights, Pride month is not the only time you can show support for your local community. Though it’s always a good idea to be a sponsor for your local pride festival, you can also use your social media and internal communications system to show your association’s support of the community when significant dates like the anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting or National Coming Out Day occur. There are also local and state-wide LGBTQ non-profits that promote equality and hold events throughout the year. Even if your association is a national or international entity, your regional chapters can still find local organizations, or you can support national organizations like GLAAD, The Trevor Project or the Human Right Campaign, to name a few. This can be done through financial donations, volunteering time, attending events and programs, or mobilizing employees/members to support inclusivity initiatives.
Even as the United States and other countries reckon with their relationships with race, it is also vital to educate members on diversity as it relates to sexual orientation and gender identity. After all, if there is any time that’s best to reaffirm your association or company’s support of its LGBTQ members, it’s Pride month.