How can my workplace become an LGBTQ2S+ ally?
What does it mean to be an ally of the LGBTQ2S+ community?
To be an ally isn’t a title or an identity, it is a commitment to taking daily action to better the lives of others with identities different from your own. Remaining current on topics related to gender and sexuality, being aware of our bias, and critically thinking about the messages we have received about gender and sexuality are some initial steps individuals can take to practice allyship. However, allyship requires learning about more than LGBTQ2S+ identities. It is also important to recognize that many people who are LGBTQ2S+ have other identities that face discrimination and marginalization. Ensure that your allyship includes learning about the impacts of racism, colonization, ableism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.
Some managers will ask, if they are a friendly employer with no bullying or harassment, aren’t they already an ally?
Unfortunately, research indicates that harassment and bullying is occurring in many workplaces across Canada (see list below). There are multiple reasons people who are LGBTQ2S+ wouldn’t report their experiences of discrimination in the workplace. We encourage businesses to complete a climate survey around LGBTQ2S+ inclusion to gain a more fulsome understanding of what is happening in their workplaces. There are a multitude of ways a company can collect information about their organizational climate, however there must be a call to action to resolve any issues identified or you risk losing trust with your team.
Before any company advertises they are an inclusive employer they need to ensure that their organizational culture, policies, and practices are in alignment with their external messaging. Imagine what it would be like to accept a job offer with an employer who claims to be inclusive, only to start and discover it was a misrepresentation of reality. Experiencing discrimination in the workplace, when you’ve been told it is a safer space, can impact a person’s mental health and well-being more than if they went in with the assumption that discrimination was a possibility.
Employers are terrified of making a mistake. What should they do if they make a mistake by referring to someone by the wrong pronoun?
Recognize your mistake, immediately apologize, and commit to progressive action moving forward. If your organization has not done so, provide training to all employees. It is imperative that leadership demonstrates their ongoing commitment to creating a safer workplace by actively participating in training and being a role model to others.
How is being an ally different or the same as being an inclusive employer?
Being an ally is an individual set of actions that people can take daily. Being an inclusive employer is about policies and practices that intentionally make the workplace safer for LGBTQ2S+ individuals and other marginalized people, and in turn safer for everyone.
What is the simplest thing a company can do to begin making a difference?
It all starts with a desire to seek information and taking steps to create a more inclusive organizational culture. The Centre for Sexuality provides LGBTQ2S+ inclusion workshops and consultations to assist organizations in sustainably implementing inclusive practices, policies, and procedures.
When you reflect on your experience, what have companies done to improve their workplaces for the LBGTQ2S+ community?
Organizations that have been most successful in implementing inclusive practices have recognized that there is urgency to creating safer work environments. As policies and practices are changed, management should be transparent with staff about the changes and why they are happening. Staff should be provided with training to build their confidence, comfort, and capacity to better support their LGBTQ2S+ colleagues. It can be an uncomfortable path at first as people are hesitant to discuss some topics. However, once staff feel comfortable and understand the rationale, the workplace is on the right path to transform their organizational culture. It takes several years for organizational culture to permanently shift, so training must be ongoing. Think about providing training annually and/or when onboarding new staff.
Can companies reach out to you for assistance?
Yes, absolutely. Through our LGBTQ2S+ Organizational Inclusion Audit we assist organizations in identifying where they can implement inclusive policies and practices. We help organizations create an action plan and provide consultation services to help them achieve their inclusion goals.
What is one message for employers looking to become an ally?
We become allies through the continuous and ongoing actions that we take. If your organization is committed to becoming safer and more inclusive to the LGBTQ2S+ community, outline the actions you will take, communicate your intended actions with staff to remain accountable, and celebrate every achievement along the way.
To learn more about the Centre for Sexuality’s training and information sessions, please contact:
Becky Van Tassel, Training Centre and Community Engagement Team Manager
Research and further reading:
Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion. (2015), In and out: Diverging perspectives on LGBT inclusion in the workplace. Retrieved from https://ccdi.ca/media/1070/20150528-report-lgbt-inclusion-in-the-workplace-en.pdf
BCG Centre for Canada’s Future. (2019). Beyond good intentions: Bringing an employee lens to diversity & inclusion in corporate Canada. Retrieved from https://media-publications.bcg.com/flash/dotbcg_other/BCG-CCF-Beyond-Good-Intentions.pdf