Pride Month Offers Opportunity to Put Inclusion into Practice
Businesses, schools, cultural organizations and individuals around the world will celebrate the perseverance and contributions of members of the LGBTQIA+ community and look for ways to foster greater inclusion and belonging for everyone throughout June.
While it’s great to show the rainbow in company communications, you may have even greater impact by using this time to prompt an objective look at how you are meeting the needs of underrepresented employees, customers and other stakeholders. When those who have often been marginalized feel seen and respected, you are likely well on your way to creating a culture where everyone can contribute fully.
The first step is listening
“As human beings, one of our deepest desires is to belong,” resiliency and wellness scholar, Robyne Hanley-Dafoe, Ed.D., recently wrote in Psychology Today. “We all want to feel seen, heard, and understood.” One way to make that happen is through deep listening.
Hanley-Dafoe cites an array of research that shows effective listening can generate high-quality connections and a sense of togetherness, and that workers’ needs can sometimes be fulfilled through conversation alone. But even when action is needed, effective listening helps ensure that the right actions can be taken. Poor listening, on the other hand, can lead to decreased productivity, job dissatisfaction, low commitment, burnout and even leaving a job for another organization.
Listening has a lot to do with helping people from marginalized communities feel included and gain a real sense of belonging. So, before rolling out your rainbow décor, talk with team members to learn more about what activities would be most welcome. If you have an Employee Resource Group (ERG) for LGBTQIA+ members, this is a great place to start.
Conduct an internal review
Another meaningful activity that might be prompted by Pride month is a thorough evaluation of discrimination and diversity policies. While the benefits of diverse workplaces have been well established, people with diverse backgrounds or who are part of minority communities continue to experience discriminatory behavior in the workplace, even unintentionally.
Taking a comprehensive look at practices, policies and procedures is a large undertaking that may take months and will benefit from input from diverse voices. But launching such an effort during Pride month is a great fit. Dive into how job descriptions are written, where they are posted, how resumes are screened and how job candidates are interviewed and hired. Move on to how people are promoted and benefits around healthcare, paternity leave and even ways in which workplace events, travel and celebrations may inadvertently exclude or make uncomfortable LGBTQIA+ members. Consider conducting employee focus groups to uncover experiences with unconscious bias.
Host an inclusion workshop
Another great Pride month activity might be training to help the entire team better understand current terminology, pronoun use and how to promote feelings of inclusion and belonging among all colleagues. An important element of such training can be helping allies learn how to use their voices to provide clear support for LGBTQIA+ colleagues. When leaders participate and model such behavior, it provides both permission and the expectation that discriminatory remarks and behaviors are unacceptable and that creating an inclusive environment requires ongoing work.
Volunteer or donate
You can also provide tangible support by hosting a day of service during June when employees can opt to share their time and expertise with groups that support the LGBTQIA+ community. Your organization could adopt such a group to provide ongoing support throughout the year or direct a company contribution to help fund the work of these important organizations.
Share the history
Pride month commemorates the Stonewall Uprising that involved a series of spontaneous protests in 1969 in response to a police raid of the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village and ongoing harassment of the gay community. A year after the uprising, to mark the anniversary on June 28, 1970, the first gay pride marches took place in several large cities across the U.S. Today, Pride events are held every June around the world.
While strides have been made, the Center for American Progress (CAP) in 2022 reported that half of LGBTQIA+ people still report experiencing some form of workplace harassment or discrimination due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Reports range from casual slurs used in the workplace to office conversations that make assumptions about a colleague’s orientation or gender, healthcare policies that don’t explicitly support same-sex couples taking parental leave, gendered dress code policies and promotion of religious beliefs that are anti-gay. In the UK, a 2021 study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that LGBTQIA+ workers reported higher levels of workplace conflict than heterosexual, cisgender workers.
Discrimination also continues in other areas related to housing, education, healthcare, law enforcement and in personal relationships, according to CAP. Not surprisingly, three in five LGBTQIA+ adults reports that discrimination had a moderate or significant impact on their mental well-being in the past year. Along with celebrating, it’s important to recognize that significant hurdles continue to exist.
Show your support
Finally, yes, go ahead and fly a rainbow flag; wear buttons, pins, stickers and brightly-colored clothing; participate in a parade; post on social media; book a speaker; and consider Pride month special offers and products related to your organization.
In the end, the greatest support you can provide is to be there every day listening, working to eliminate conscious and unconscious bias, removing discriminatory policies and practices, and working to ensure a culture where everyone is included and feels they belong.