This article was originally published here on the Forbes website. This is a repost of Sander’s regular column.
One of the most encouraging developments in the world of work is growing support among workers for their LGBTQI+ colleagues. Backed by corporate efforts to effect social change, people increasingly want to belong to an organization that promotes diversity and inclusion internally and externally. Along with this trend, they are also interested in being allies to their co-workers. In fact, recent Randstad research shows that the percentage of workers who value promoting LGBTQI+ inclusion in the workplace is nearly twice as high as those who don’t.
Celebrating Pride is more important than ever as the LGBTQI+ community faces rising challenges around the world and risks losing progress made since the Stonewall riots that began the movement. The good news is that workplaces everywhere are evolving toward better policies and practices.
Even so, people of all orientation and gender identification still face considerable challenges in the workplace and society. To overcome these barriers, the help from allies outside the community is needed to change attitudes and behaviors that will go a long way to advancing the Pride movement.
But what does it mean to be an LGBTQI+ ally in the workplace? These are colleagues who sympathize and advocate for members of the community and their causes. In my experience as someone who came out early in my career, having supportive and helpful coworkers — as well as friends and family — enables me to comfortably bring my full self to work every day. Knowing this is a privilege not all workers enjoy, I am passionate about advancing these rights through the efforts of the LGBTQI+ community as well as our allies.
By coming together, we bring about meaningful change and accelerate progress toward equity and inclusion for all. Pride serves as a catalyst and springboard for allies to get behind the movement beyond participating in once-a-year events.
why allyship is important
Allyship drives higher organizational performance and workforce cohesion by addressing unconscious and overt prejudices and practices. Workplace allies often support the efforts of not only LGBTQI+ employees but the rights of other workers at risk of being marginalized. According to Harvard Business Review, allies systemically help improve workplace policies, practices and culture. Studies have also found allyship drives engagement, increased happiness, improved productivity, a greater sense of belonging, feeling safer, higher retention, reduced stress and career advancement.
Employers can empower their people to become good allies, but it’s up to individuals to determine how their thoughts and actions can contribute toward the cause. Actively advocating for greater equity and inclusion are often hallmarks of effective allyships, and there are five ways to do this.
- Be respectful and don’t make assumptions. One of the most important considerations is to respect people’s orientation and identification. Sharing negative comments even privately exacerbates a culture of bias and exclusion. Just as important, avoid fitting people into stereotypes; rather, see each other as individuals not bound by their identity or orientation.
- Learn through research and personal interactions. A hallmark of a great ally is knowing the issues and challenges affecting the LGBTQI+ community. Being empathetic and supporting colleagues requires knowing their needs and how to contribute toward them. Do this by learning about the key concerns of the community and having personal conversations with colleagues.
- Validate each other’s experiences and perspectives. While the community may be united in their goals, how to attain them will differ among individuals. Stop and listen to LGBTQI+ coworkers when they share their thoughts and offer support when the situation calls for it.
- Take action against exclusionary policies and practices. Being a good ally requires more than empathy; sometimes it calls for speaking up against biases. Actively advocate for change where justified, and let colleagues know you stand with them in thought and action.
- Help voices of the community get heard. Change is only possible when those who need it have a voice. Amplify the viewpoints of coworkers as an act of solidarity and to bring attention to their needs. This is one of the most powerful mechanisms of support.
Studies have also found allyship drives engagement, increased happiness, improved productivity, a greater sense of belonging, feeling safer, higher retention, reduced stress and career advancement.
Celebrating Pride is more important than ever as the LGBTQI+ community faces rising challenges around the world and risks losing progress made since the Stonewall riots that began the movement. The good news is that workplaces everywhere are evolving toward better policies and practices. At the same time, employees are also more open and supportive of their colleagues’ orientation and identity. By actively participating in the Pride movement, allies are strengthening the voice of the community and accelerating changes that will lead to a more equitable and inclusive workplace.
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