Although the benefits of inclusion are clear, many LGBTQ+ individuals continue to face unique and significant barriers to full inclusion. So much so that half (50.4%) of LGBTQ+ workers in the US haven’t come out to their supervisors and a quarter (25.8%) aren’t out to anyone at work.
As drivers of change within their organizations, business leaders have a crucial role to play in creating work environments that welcome LGBTQ+ people and help them to thrive. Here are 4 key actions leaders can take to support the success and wellbeing of their LGBTQ+ colleagues.
1. Address your biases
You can’t become a better LGBTQ+ ally unless you recognize your biases and actively work to eliminate them. Business leaders must begin their road to allyship by acknowledging that unconscious biases might influence their decision-making processes when it comes to hiring, developing, redeploying and eventually parting ways with workers. We can’t fix our unconscious biases in a single act; we have to continually work to ensure that they don’t become a detriment to us and our organizations.
Education is a key component of this process. Consider taking an Implicit Association Test (IAT) to learn about your biases and engage with LGBTQ+ inclusion programs to foster a culture of lifelong learning. Regularly reflect on your own beliefs and assumptions, challenging any that jar with the things you’re learning in your DE&I training. Now you’re ready to lay the groundwork for better LGBTQ+ inclusion.
2. Enable authenticity
Being a good ally means creating and defending spaces in which LGBTQ+ people can be their authentic selves without fear of judgment or exclusion. Embrace diversity of thought by encouraging LGBTQ+ employees to express themselves and challenge the status quo. And take every opportunity to celebrate diversity by recognizing the unique backgrounds, experiences and contributions of LGBTQ+ individuals in your organization.
Allyship as a leader means encouraging others to be authentic, but it also means walking the walk by being authentic yourself. Business leaders are in a unique position to enable supportive environments by acting as an example. Coaching and mentoring are great tools to bring authenticity out of workers. If you demonstrate your own authenticity by sharing personal experiences that showcase confident vulnerability, you’ll give others permission to do the same.
3. Facilitate conversations
Open, honest, and regular communication is vital for promoting an inclusive environment and fostering a culture of allyship. Establish communication channels such as employee resource groups, diversity committees and town hall meetings where employees can discuss matters of LGBTQ+ inclusion openly. Be prepared for difficult conversations and adverse opinions; unfortunately, not everyone is an ally to the LGBTQ+ community and leaders need to know how to manage these conversations calmly and constructively.
Remember that there are two sides to every conversation. Show up to the forums you’ve created and actively listen to the views and perspectives of LGBTQ+ people. Practice empathy and validate their feelings and experiences. Show your LGBTQ+ colleagues that you’re serious about inclusion by asking for feedback, gathering insights on areas of improvement and then, most importantly, publicly act on them to drive meaningful change.
4. Work on your own skills
Allyship for business leaders requires a continual process of lifelong learning. The work of an ally is never done; you have to keep developing your own skills and knowledge to continue being an effective champion of LGBTQ+ inclusion. We’ve already mentioned education for identifying biases, but continual education is just as important. A strong leader must know how to lead without bias, collaborate across boundaries and build psychological safety, amongst other key skills.
Stay informed about DE&I trends, issues and best practices, attend webinars and conferences, and engage with experts in the field. Cultivate networks with diverse individuals and communities both inside and outside your organization. These will give you valuable insights and connections. Seek out other senior allies or, even better, LGBTQ+ leaders you can learn from. Try to make change everywhere you go - use your influence to promote DE&I initiatives and advocate for the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people. Your voice as a business leader carries weight: use it for good.
Leaders who practice good allyship in every aspect of their role will set themselves and their organizations up for success. By addressing bias, enabling authenticity, facilitating conversation, and continuously working on personal skills, business leaders can become better allies and contribute to creating inclusive and equitable workplaces.
Do you want to make your company more inclusive and harness the full power of DE&I? Are you a leader looking to become a stronger Ally? Get in touch and speak to an LHH expert today.