By Corinne Owen and Danny Meyer
This June marks the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots – a moment that sparked a national turning point for gay rights. This was a time when homosexual acts were illegal in 49 out of 50 states and restaurants and bars were routinely shut down for having gay employees or serving gay patrons.
Today, Pride Month coincides with the remembrance of that historic moment to lift up the voices and promote the equality and increased visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual people (LGBTQIA+) in the United States.
As we continue to navigate a virtual world and hope to return to “normal” soon, it is vital to remain committed to allyship to the LGBTQIA+ community. Although allyship is important everywhere, its importance in the workplace is vital so everyone feels like they have a seat at the table to bring their best selves. Practicing inclusive language, honoring preferred pronouns, and leading by example are just a few ways in which companies can show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community every month of the year.
One way to be an ally is to be aware of and avoid anti-queer microagressions, like assuming sexuality based on gender performance or demanding “proof” of sexual orientation. In addition to avoiding these microagressions, you and your company can also practice allyship by proactively using “microrecognitions” – instead of simply avoiding certain topics or language, you can actively use inclusive language and symbols. Here are a few examples of what that can look like at your company:
- Use the word “partner” instead of “husband” or “wife” to invite your employees’ significant others when sending invites for a company event
- Address the audience with gender neutral terms like “folks”, “everybody”, and “you all” instead of “you guys” or “ladies and gentlemen” in the context of a training session or a larger meeting
- Use a person’s first name instead of addressing them as “Ms., Mr., etc.,” unless specifically asked to do otherwise
Using inclusive language like this creates an environment that allows your coworkers and clients in the room to be seen as they want to be seen. This language ensures that everyone is included in the conversation instead of being inadvertently left out.
Language is powerful and your words matter – use them to create a workplace that’s welcoming to all.
Asking for and honoring people’s preferred pronouns is another easy step toward inclusion. Although it may seem easy to assume others’ pronouns, in reality you can’t always know or assume simply by looking at someone. Recognizing and using someone’s preferred pronouns shows respect for their gender identity.
- Add your pronouns to your name on your company’s video conferencing platform
- Display your pronouns on LinkedIn
- Respectfully ask a colleague’s preferred pronouns. This opens the door for individuals to share and normalizes the conversation.
We are all going to make mistakes. Either correct it in the moment or acknowledge it after the fact. Above all, don’t express how hard this is for you or lament how bad you feel for messing up. This puts the onus to comfort on the misgendered person, and that’s not their responsibility.
Honoring others’ pronouns shows that you respect their identity and humanity. Ensure that people feel seen and acknowledged – the workplace is a great place to start.
LEADING BY EXAMPLE
So how can you take these concepts and help make them a reality at your organization? The truth is that no matter your position, there are ways for you to be an effective ally. As an executive or manager, showcasing leadership buy-in to the above principles provides an example for others to follow and emphasizes the importance of inclusivity at the organization.
Sendero’s COO, Ruth Farrar, continues to be an advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community. On how to be an ally as a company leader she says, “What we do and say as leaders is far more powerful than any company policy or statement. In addition to creating an expectation of inclusive language at an organizational level, getting comfortable using it personally is powerful, as is modeling inclusion in your daily interactions – the stories you tell, the pictures you share, the relationships you nurture. Your behavior sets the tone for it to become more natural for others.”
As a junior employee, commit to making an impact by promoting inclusivity in your daily interactions, encourage others to do the same, and get involved in your organization’s DE&I committee or club.
The smallest actions, when done consistently over time, can have a massive impact on commitment to an inclusive environment. Across all levels of an organization, we must all play a part.
When it comes to allyship, our primary responsibility is a consistent commitment. Allyship is important both in our professional lives and our personal lives. Focusing on our language, prioritizing inclusivity, and taking the step to lead by example are just a few ways we can all make our workplace – and world – an inclusive and welcoming place for all.