an interview Marc Lesner, Investigo

Inclusion is an inside job – how to build a culture of LGBTQ+ allies in your workplace

We want to feel that we can bring our true selves to work every day, and we should believe that we can do this without fear of judgment. For many people in the LGBTQ+ community, this can seem impossible – the fear of discrimination is still very real.

Imagine feeling that you have to hide who you are every single day. Let’s face it – if we don’t form part of the underrepresented group, we’ll never truly understand what it’s like to deal with discrimination, but we can become an LGBTQ+ ally to promote change. Allyship isn’t about joining a cause for the sake of it – it’s taking the time to listen to the challenges others face and giving our voice when it matters.

This blog is a quick-read summary from our TIG Culture magazine article, ‘Building a culture of allies,’ which you are welcome to download here.

Be an Upstander not a Bystander.

So, where do we start? Often, the first step is educating ourselves so that we can pass this knowledge on. Most prejudice comes from ignorance rather than malice. When we act as LGBTQ+ allies, we are actively making connections, increasing the wider understanding, sharing experiences, and bringing these into the mainstream.

We spoke to Marc Lesner, who heads up the Pride pillar of The IN Group’s DEI committee. He has seen first-hand the positive impact of LGBTQ+ allyship from outside the community.

“The importance of that kind of allyship,” he said, “cannot be underestimated. Allies who interact closely with the underrepresented group start to experience the feelings and thoughts of that group and develop a better understanding of what they may be dealing with. They can then, in turn, serve to make the situation real to others outside of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The Quest for Inclusion

No one’s asking us to be a champion in rainbow armour. In fact, being an ally isn’t about putting ourselves at the centre of the story. Often, just listening is a good starting point – which may lead to using what we’ve learned to introduce policies and initiatives that meet everyone’s needs. Stonewall has a strategic approach that begins with listening to their lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer employees. It offers networking groups for LGBTQ+ employees to meet, discuss their challenges and together, safely escalate issues to senior leaders to effect change.

We all need to take the time to reflect on our own biases and personal prejudices that may influence our decision-making at work. Earlier this year, The IN Group provided training on the changing nature of discrimination and privilege, to help people see the world from different perspectives. The feedback from these sessions will help to inform their approach to DEI over the next year.

Real Change Champions

Give your people a voice. Let them know that they have the freedom to express themselves and build welcoming communities. In 1999, an Amazon employee who wanted to connect with other LGBTQ+ colleagues created an email list he called ‘glamazon’ – a contraction of gay and lesbian Amazon.

Today, Amazon has more than 40 glamazon chapters around the world, from Seattle to Sydney, and participated in more than 100 Pride celebrations across the globe this year. Make sure all your employees know they’re being taken seriously.

Negativity Impacts Us All

Working in a toxic environment can make everyone feel helpless. Remember that we have the power to change negative culture, regardless of our level or position. As daunting as it can seem, a small movement really can start an avalanche. Don’t be the bystander – be someone who holds their coworkers accountable for bad behaviour. Small steps that lead to positive change can turn a toxic workplace into a supportive environment where all employees are able to do their best work.

Our Executive Director, Derek Mackenzie, a long-time advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, recently launched ‘Campaign’, an LGBTQ+ recruiters’ network. It’s the UK’s first peer-to-peer business network for the recruitment industry. They advise businesses on how to make their workplaces inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees, aiming to empower allies to make a positive change in their workplaces and promote a sense of togetherness – which is covered in our full Culture article on LGBTQ+ workplace allies, which you can read here.

We All Stand Together

It is a shame that we are still talking about the right to be yourself in the workplace. When a non-LGBTQ+ colleague openly stands up as an ally, that’s when things can change. Listening to and supporting colleagues who may feel isolated with understanding and tolerance can really make a difference.

Some businesses are bringing about change in extremely creative ways. Making allyship a cultural cornerstone starts with an inclusive mindset, particularly from your leaders. Listening, talking, and uniting are all key to accelerating that change. When we make something everyone’s problem, that’s when everyone can work together to solve it.

Looking for more about LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace? Click through to read the full article here.

Unlocked: Culture

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