Happy Pride! Along with warmer weather, schools winding down, and the longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere), the month of June is famous for being Pride Month. Born as a commemoration of the New York Stonewall uprising on June 28, 1969, Pride Month has become an occasion for the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies to come together in celebration of love, acceptance, diversity, and self-pride.
In honor of Pride Month, we sat down for a chat with Ashley Schwedt, Director of IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Anti-bias) at LifeLabs Learning, to better understand how learning and development professionals can support their LGBTQIA+ colleagues, and generally celebrate Pride.
The acronym describing who is a part of the queer community is always evolving, and is different based on community, geographic location, or environment. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual is how I would define LGBTQIA+. These identities are tied together by the oppression they face based on sexism and binary gender norms, and yet there is so much diversity of identity and experience within the LGBTQIA+ community.
These identities are tied together by the oppression they face based on sexism and binary gender norms, and yet there is so much diversity of identity and experience within the LGBTQIA+ community.
There are three main categories of challenges LGBTQIA+ employees face:
Spousal/dependency benefits, access to (and funding for) gender-affirming care, family and fertility benefits, and availability of queer benefits providers are just some examples of inclusive healthcare benefits for LGBTQIA+ employees. If companies don’t provide inclusive benefits packages, LGBTQIA+ employees have to choose jobs not just based on fit, role, and culture, but instead based on benefits offerings.
If companies don’t provide inclusive benefits packages, LGBTQIA+ employees have to choose jobs not just based on fit, role, and culture, but instead based on benefits offerings.
Inclusive language, correct pronoun usage and common pronoun sharing, awareness of the challenges LGBTQIA+ employees face, and micro intervention norms can all make LGBTQIA+ employees feel more able to show up as their authentic selves at work and have the psychological safety to actually work effectively. Without an inclusive culture, LGBTQIA employees are more prone to disengagement, attrition, burnout, and chronic stress.
Promotion opportunities, access to LGBTQIA+ mentors or coaches, non-discrimination policies and accountabilities, and employee training can all support an inclusive culture for LGBTQIA employees. If inclusive systems don’t exist, the onus of inclusion is all on individual employees rather than on the organizational systems as well. It’s like expecting homophobia to end, while maintaining policies and laws that discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people.
A huge role! Most of the above practices are housed within People Ops or HR—things like benefits, training, and non-discrimination policies. The People Team is also responsible for keeping a pulse on the company’s people, which means not relying on “majority” as a metric, but actually centering folks who are the most impacted and most often on the margins.
People Teams should seek feedback from Employee Resource Groups, receive and take action on that feedback, analyze demographic data in Engagement Surveys, and monitor the diversity of candidate pipelines. Without being intentionally tapped into the experiences of employees with diverse identities and backgrounds, the People Team won’t be able to cultivate a truly inclusive culture.
Allyship isn’t a title someone can ascribe to. It is an ongoing and intentional process of practicing inclusion. Allyship doesn’t happen passively. It is an active practice. Being an ally means doing reflexive work—pausing to understand how our privileges and oppressions impact how we interact with society and each other.
It means learning about the experiences of LGBTQIA+ people through books, podcasts, events, articles, or shows. It means doing your own work before asking an LGBTQIA+ person to do the work for you. It means learning how to be more inclusive and minimizing the risk of committing microaggressions. It means being open and receptive to feedback after committing a microaggression. It means intervening when microaggressions occur. It means advocating for LGBTQIA+ inclusion without needing recognition for the advocacy.
It means doing your own work before asking an LGBTQIA+ person to do the work for you.
And allyship isn’t something that can be turned off outside of work. For example; what happens if you notice a family member is doing a “gender reveal” party? Maybe you know that gender is different from sex assigned at birth, but how do you navigate that situation? Allyship can look many different ways, but at the core, allyship is about using your privilege for good. Existing without being critical is, in itself, a privilege.
At the core, allyship is about using your privilege for good.
Thanks, Ashley, for sharing your insights! If you’re looking for more resources on the topic, check out our on-demand webinar with Ashley on how to leverage employee training to craft a holistic DEI program, GLAAD’s Tips for Allies of Transgender People, or the Tedx talk, The necessity of normalizing queer love.