When I came out, I didn’t know about the milestones that the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community would achieve in the years to come. For me, days like June 26, 2015, when the Supreme Court of the United States voted that marriage is a fundamental right for all, stand tall as moments that forever altered the trajectory of what I can achieve.
Every June, Americans celebrate the culmination of these milestones with Pride Month. It’s a time for people to honor who they are – and it’s an opportunity for companies to reflect on how they recognize the diversity of their employees. As our office headquarters celebrates San Francisco Pride, we wanted to share a few ways that businesses around the country can recognize LGBTQ employees throughout the year.
It’s important for LGBTQ employees to have a safe space where they can openly discuss community activities, current events, and anything else that’s going on in their lives. These groups bring employees closer together and provide a space where they can plan company events.
Depending on the size of your company, employees may want to create a club that mirrors a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). A GSA “provides a safe place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and work to end homophobia and transphobia.” A similar club at work would provide a space for LGBTQ employees and their supporters to come together and form a community.
There are a number of LGBTQ organizations in the U.S. who are looking for volunteers. Find a leader at the company who’s excited to manage a community involvement initiative to ensure each employee’s efforts work toward a common goal. This person will reach out directly to organizations, and she or he will be responsible for scheduling, social promotion, and getting participants excited. Here are some of the LGBTQ organization in the U.S. that serve as a great starting point:
GLAAD: “GLAAD rewrites the script for LGBTQ acceptance. As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. GLAAD protects all that has been accomplished and creates a world where everyone can live the life they love.”
HRC: “The Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide. As the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization, HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ people are ensured of their basic equal rights, and can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.”
The Matthew Shepard Foundation: “The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s longstanding mission is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through local, regional and national outreach, we empower individuals to find their voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate that lives within their schools, neighborhoods and homes.”
Pride at Work: “We seek full equality for LGBTQ Workers in our workplaces and unions. We work towards creating a Labor Movement that cherishes diversity, encourages openness, and ensures safety & dignity. We aim to educate the LGBTQ Community about the benefits of a union contract for LGBTQ working people, and to build support and solidarity for the union movement in the LGBTQ community.”
While there are typically more opportunities to give back to the LGBTQ community in urban areas, companies in any region can make their stances known. Check this list of LGBT-related organizations and conferences to see if there’s an opportunity that matches what your company is looking to join.
Employees shouldn’t feel “in the minority,” or invisible, at any point in the year. That’s why businesses should take a year-round approach to embracing all forms of diversity. What does that mean? Companies that embrace diversity year-round foster a culture of unrelenting acceptance. Employees should feel comfortable being themselves without any fear that doing so could impact their chances of getting a promotion or raise.
Company leaders are the starting points for this type of environment. If an employee reports an issue, do something about it; if someone makes an employee feel uncomfortable, take that person aside and start a conversation to understand why. Taking a year-round approach to recognizing diversity starts with listening, and it grows as a daily commitment to creating a truly great place to work.
Related reading: Common LGBTQ Issues in the Workplace (and How to Solve Them)