Why support for LGBTQ+ employees must extend beyond Pride Month
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace must extend beyond Pride celebrations and into long-term policies and changes a workplace can commit to making, says Ali Fazal, senior director at Hibob, an HR management platform.
“Changing your logo to a rainbow logo is one thing, and it is a very public expression of support for the LGBTQ community,” Fazal says. “But the worst thinking for anybody in a marginalized community is to feel like they’re being used for tokenism, as opposed to actually being cared about.”
Instead, employers should publicly commit to changing their hiring and diversity practices, and provide a way for employees to track their progress, Fazal says.
“Employers need to be making their stance on subjects like equity, equality, diversity and inclusion really overt,” he says. “Whatever it is you've decided to commit to doing, make sure you make that public and that you give your LGBTQ employees a place where they can track it and see how you're moving on that progress.”
Since the June 15 ruling by the Supreme Court, employees can no longer be fired or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation. The ruling was not just a win for employees, but for Fazal too.
“As a person of color and LGBT leader, it was a really big moment for me personally, because I felt like it was a sign of validation for where society has already been headed,” he says.
Fazal shared how the ruling affects workplace policies and how management can be allies to their LGBTQ+ employees during Pride month and beyond.
How does the Supreme Court ruling change the workplace for the LGBTQ+ population?
For companies, it's a really big step because it takes concepts like equity, inequality, and diversity and inclusion out of being “nice to haves” and makes them “must haves.” That really is how you impact widespread societal change — by taking things that are politically correct and are kind gestures and turning them into policy. When it’s dictated by the Supreme Court, it makes it impossible for companies to work outside of those lines. Particularly for trans people and trans people of color who experienced discrimination at a much higher rate than their LGBT counterparts and allies, this is a huge victory.
In addition to removing discriminatory practices, how can employers show support for their LGBTQ+ community and make them feel seen?
Employers need to be making their stance on subjects like equity, equality, diversity and inclusion really overt. For example, Pride Month looks a lot different this year than in years past. But companies can help employees understand the broader scope of Pride and turn that into a corporate action as opposed to a social action. In the same way that other holidays and cultural movements have become a really baked in part of company culture, it’s fair for employers to start incorporating Pride into their culture as well, beyond just changing their logo to a rainbow logo.
Make sure that you're putting out the pathways for your LGBT employees to really express themselves and bring their whole selves to work. One way that people can do this is by allowing employees to express their gender identities or preferred pronouns in the workplace. It's not a privilege. It's the decent thing to do to make sure that all your employees feel seen.
Another thing that you can do is make sure that you have an outlet for anonymous feedback. A lot of times reporting on homophobic or transphobic discriminatory or exclusionary behavior can be really hard, especially if it involves people in power or people who are higher on the food chain than you. The biggest gift a company can give is to show people how they can give anonymous feedback, prove that it is anonymous and then actually make changes and address the feedback that’s delivered.
How can companies take the social momentum we’re experiencing and continue to make changes toward more diverse and inclusive workplaces?
The prominence of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Supreme Court ruling means there are definitely more eyes on this than ever. The most important thing for companies to understand as they move forward is that this is no longer an issue of kindness or decency. It can have a huge economic impact on any business. Nobody wants to do business with companies that are breaking the law or have the potential to be breaking the law in the future. So this will impact the companies that are not following these regulations.
Every company's capabilities in terms of addressing a lack of diversity and equality for their employees is different. I would love to demand that every company in the United States make sure that they have a fully diverse executive team, board, shareholders and leadership team. But I don't know that that's realistic for every company. So whatever it is that as a company you've decided to commit to doing, make sure you make that public and that you give your LGBT employees a place where they can track it and see how you're moving on that progress.