The first of June marks the beginning of Pride Month for large and small businesses alike. Many companies dawn rainbow-colored logos, hang multi-colored flags in their offices, and host Pride celebrations in their workplace.
However, these actions have been criticized by activists for being performative and inauthentic. While many companies show outward allyship, their internal actions sometimes have proved anything but.
This has been coined as “performative allyship” or “rainbow capitalism” – when companies promote support (and sometimes financially profit off of it) without using their privilege and resources to help produce change and progress that benefits the LGBTQ+ community.
According to Harvard Business Review, companies shouldn’t discontinue the use of pro-LGBTQ+ messaging during Pride Month to avoid being performative, but they should be holding themselves accountable to ensure that meaningful actions are matching their words.
A great place to start is by actively showing support for LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace not just during Pride Month, but all year-round.
According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, 46% of LGBTQ+ employees are closeted at work. This was mostly due to the possibility of being stereotyped, making people feel uncomfortable, or losing connections with coworkers.
These unwelcoming environments can affect the retention rate among LGBTQ+ employees – 1 in 10 LGBTQ+ workers have left a job because they didn’t feel supported at work.
Here are a few ways to keep your workplace inclusive and properly support LGBTQ+ employees – even after June 30.
Outsource with diverse, local companies
If you are needing to outsource products or services to another supplier, purposefully seek out local businesses that are managed and owned by people with diverse racial backgrounds, and/or identify as LGBTQ+.
This is a great way to monetarily-fund and raise up diverse local businesses and support your community. In Nebraska, the OutNebraska Resource Directory is a great place to start your search. It features a list of LGBTQ+-owned and LGBTQ+-friendly businesses in the area.
Language is powerful and often, unintentionally, excludes large groups of people. It’s important to be conscious of the words and phrases we’re using to be inclusive when speaking with one another and ensure you aren’t making someone uncomfortable.
One way to implement inclusive language is by learning the pronouns of your colleagues. A great way to naturally start this conversation is by including your pronouns when introducing yourself: “My name is Jill and my pronouns are she/her.”
You can strengthen the use of pronouns to become more widespread by encouraging employees to use their preferred pronouns in the Slack profile or email signature.
What if you unintentionally misgender someone and use incorrect pronouns? The best way to handle it appropriately is by calmly apologizing as soon as you are able, thank them for correcting you, and be more conscious of your language going forward.
There are many phrases that are commonly used in our language that are heteronormative in nature. Instead of using the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” try “valued employees” or simply, “folks.”
Offer inclusive benefits
There are many employer benefits that are offered for straight employees, but often don’t extend to LGBTQ+ employees. An example would be offering parental leave for non-birth parents or adoptive parents (here’s more about parental duties and the remote office environment) and ensuring that your health insurance plans cover gender-affirming procedures and treatments.
Listen and take action when LGBTQ+ employees give feedback
If employees don’t feel heard and valued by the leaders in your company, real progress will never occur. When employees give feedback on negative experiences that they’ve had or ideas on how to make your workplace more inclusive, REALLY listen to them.
Don’t dismiss their perspectives, just because you haven’t had the same experiences. Take note of their feedback and make sure to take action on that information.
With the growth of outward support of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, it’s important to hold your company accountable to act on its promise of allyship and commit to change in your workplace and community. Making small steps to make sure your office environment is inclusive and Pride is a priority year-round can help authenticate your messaging, avoid performative allyship, and make positive changes in your community.