LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace: How to become an ally

As a manager, you’re becoming increasingly aware of how important it is to make sure members of the LGBTQ+ community feel included in the workplace. The more open and inclusive the workplace, the happier and more productive your team will be. Olivia Baker from Fondation Émergence gives some advice on how to become an LGBTQ+ ally.

Allies provide needed support

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary and other LGBTQ+ individuals would like to have allies they can count on in the workplace, that is, coworkers or managers who aren’t members of the community, but who care about their wellbeing.

“In 2019, we launched the ProAlly training program to help workplaces become more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people. We offer a training course as well as awareness-raising tools which help foster environments that are more open to sexual and gender diversity.”

Overcoming discrimination

Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is prohibited by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Unfortunately, though, it’s still very present in the workplace. “Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer face unique challenges at work. These start with the recruitment process.”

According to a study conducted by Léger Marketing in 2019, a third of Quebecers are reluctant to hire a trans person.* “While not all of the respondents are in a position to hire employees, this statistic shows that we have a long way to go when it comes to inclusion. Discrimination when it comes to career advancement is also present in Quebec companies, where members of the LGBTQ+ community are underrepresented in management,” states Olivia Baker.

Microaggressions

Even in 2021, LGBTQ+ individuals are being bullied and mistreated. This behaviour comes in many forms, including microaggressions.

“In today’s society, most people know that homophobia is unacceptable. However, it still persists in comments, jokes and intrusive questions. Sometimes this can appear in non-verbal forms, such as staring at a colleague who’s meeting their same-sex partner in the parking lot after work. And it’s difficult to address this type of aggression because individuals who behave this way very often don’t realize what they’re doing. One incident can be considered unintentional but, unfortunately, it’s often a recurring thing,” Olivia explains.

The power of inclusion

In Quebec, 1 in 10 people belong to the LGBTQ+ community.** That’s why managers have every incentive to practice inclusion, given that 10% of their workforce and clients are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, non-binary or other LGBTQ+ individuals.

Having to hide a part of yourself for several hours a day at work because you fear being bullied, judged or discriminated against can create anxiety. Conversely, many studies show that LGBTQ+ staff members who work in diverse workplaces are more fulfilled and productive.

In these times of labour shortages, companies that adopt good inclusion practices not only attract community members, but also their allies. “A mother who has a trans child, for example, will be more likely to join a company where she can speak openly about her family without fear of transphobia,” Olivia adds.

Coming out at work

Being a good ally involves many aspects, including being supportive when a colleague comes out of the closet.

“We often think that coming out at work has to involve some extravagant act, like bringing the entire team together in a room and announcing, ‘I’m gay!’ But in reality, this conversation usually happens more much informally. If a new female colleague says, ‘I went to a movie with my girlfriend this weekend,’ the best response would be to ask about the movie they saw. If the conversation isn’t about the person’s sexual orientation, the subject shouldn’t be brought up. If a colleague confides in you about making a gender transition, just be a good listener. Creating workplaces where everyone is free to be themselves fosters more team spirit and, at the end of the day, everyone wins!” Olivia concludes.

Becoming an ally is easy!

Want to become an LGBTQ+ ally? Here are some best practices to help you at work:

  • Demonstrate your openness by including your pronouns in your email signature, for example.
  • When you meet a new person, ask which pronouns they prefer. If you’re unsure, it’s better to ask the question to avoid using pronouns they don’t identify with.
  • Take the time to listen if someone opens up to you about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Also, ask them if they talk about it openly or if you should remain discreet.
  • Show your support for the LGBTQ+ community. If you see or hear someone making homophobic or transphobic remarks, tell them openly that you find such language offensive.
  • Learn about the different sexual orientations and gender identities.

Being a good ally means doing more than just displaying a rainbow flag on your desk during Pride Month. Your support is needed year round.

About the ProAlly training program

Created by the Fondation Émergence and presented by Desjardins, the ProAlly training program strives to create work environments that are more open to sexual and gender diversity. Providing your teams with training is a first step towards inclusion.

For more information: https://en.fondationemergence.org/proallie - External link. This link will open in a new window.

*Source: Léger Marketing, 2019.

**Source: La Fondation Émergence, 2018.

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