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Let’s Celebrate Our True Colors: Part Two
Best practices and expert tips for a more queer-inclusive workplace
Cultivating an inclusive workplace culture is rooted in understanding your employees. What inspires. What demoralizes. What challenges. What engages. Do LGBTQ+ people flourish in your organization? Are they able to bring their whole self to work, to show their true colors?
Sexual identification and gender identity (SOGI) give metrics you can relate to the recruitment, promotion and retention of queer folk. It arms you with concrete numbers to advocate to leaders and set tangible goals.
Rather than start from scratch, FE.MIN.UITY’S Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) specialists Dr. Sara Saska – who uses the pronouns she/her/hers, and Keith Plummer – who uses they/them/theirs, advocate using proven policies and practices to guide your own. Here are 22 top tips and best practices Saska and Plummer recommend:
Honor and normalize people’s gender identification
- When choosing an HR information system make sure there’s some level of customization on your end or the vendor’s that allows you to include some of the gender designations that go beyond the traditional gender binary.
- Anytime you put out a self-identification inquiry include fields so people can clarify aspects of their gender ID. This can include anything from job application forms and corporate communique to employee benefits and equal employment opportunity reporting.
- When collecting data on prefixes and titles in HR documentation or for your sales and marketing databases or any sort of conference or event requiring registration, include the honorific Mx. alongside Mr. Mrs. and Ms.
- Include fields to list pronouns and chosen name/s – which may be different from an individual’s legal name.
- Remember behind every pronoun is a person. Using someone’s pronouns is one of the best ways to show validation, dignity, and respect. Encourage leaders and employees to include their pronouns in introductions, email signatures, video conferencing usernames, name tags, and company bios. Commit to correcting your colleagues when they misgender someone.
- Use the singular “they” or rephrase the language you use to avoid using he/she on forms, employee handbooks, written policies, and the likes. In cases where using “they” may have a liability associated with plurality, consider alternative words like the applicant, the employee, the individual, or the person.
Related: How to Celebrate Pride Month at Work.
Co-create your culture through inclusionary measures
- Use climate surveys, something WorkTango’s Surveys & Insights platform can support you with. These surveys can be sent organization-wide or tailored to specific geographic regions and divisions. Build-in questions to capture data on queer experiences in your workplace. If your company operates in a variety of countries, data privacy regulations vary from one country to another. Make sure your approach is secure and legally compliant. IBM for example makes it possible for employees in 40 different countries, covering around 87% of their workforce, to provide their own self identified sexual orientation and gender identity.
- Communicate aggregate findings. Sometimes in order to protect folks, you may need to get a little crafty and bake their experiences into your recommendations. In other words, find other pathways to make sure information that’s important is conveyed and shared strategically while still protecting individuals.
- Use inclusive language day-to-day. True it does ask something of you, but you never know who you’ll be signaling to that you want to be inclusive. You never know who you might be uplifting just by adopting inclusive language. It’s going to take practice. But it’s meaningful practice.
- Extend your inclusive approach to restroom facilities. All things being equal, employees should be able to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Ideally, if infrastructure and resources are available, create “all gender” multi-stall bathroom and change room facilities, or minimally, convert single-stall restrooms to an “all-gender” facility. Identify restrooms on all building maps with “all gender” facilities clearly indicated.
- If your organization has dress codes and grooming policies make sure guidelines don’t use gendered pronouns. Simply spell out specific rules (by clothing for instance: black pants or skirt, white shirt or blouse)
Incorporate gender-inclusive communication in your recruiting and general branding
- Make a good first impression right from the get-go by using gender-neutral language in your job postings.
- Feature your commitment to DE&I generally and queer-inclusion specifically in your policies and practices and share this information on your Careers page.
- Support organizations that do really good work in the LGBTQ+ community; be vocal about that. And active.
- Whether it’s internship programs or employee referrals, onboarding or other training mechanisms for your people, keep your lens on LGBTQ+ inclusion.
- Embrace intersectionality. Be inclusive with your pride symbolism. The rainbow-colored flag most of us are familiar with has evolved to represent the broader queer spectrum. Forbes recently published a piece about the Progress Flag, describing how it features black and brown stripes to represent people of color, and baby blue, pink and white to include the trans flag in its design. Companies around the world have been adopting the Progress Flag in their branding including companies like Pfizer and LinkedIn. Make a positive statement by doing the same.
- When it comes to employee resource groups (ERGs), create intersectional programming and make sure it has an executive sponsor, someone who’s an influential and respected leader that can be a designated mentor and advocate to the executive team to ensure the LGBTQ+ voice is actually heard.
Ensure employee benefits programs are queer-inclusive
- Essentially all domestic benefits afforded to spouses should be equivalent for domestic partners, covering things like healthcare and workplace leave, survivor and retirement benefits.
- Recognize the diversity of family arrangements and reflect this inclusion in your family leave policies and benefits. Chosen family may include close friends—the equivalent of family, partner, extended kin, in-laws—or unrelated persons in someone’s care. Include non-birth fathers, mothers and adoptive parents in parental leave policies.
- Select healthcare plans that are trans-inclusive and cover gender-affirming treatments, therapies and surgical procedures.
- If you offer fertility benefits inclusivity should cover social infertility or infertility that’s shaped by a person’s relationships and circumstances rather than a purely physiological diagnosis (for instance being in a same-sex partnership.) Extended coverages should also address fertility preservation for transgender individuals prior to any gender-affirming therapies or procedures, such as freezing eggs, sperm or embryos, and queer-specific procedures like reciprocal IVF, when one person’s egg is fertilized and implanted into their partner’s uterus.
Do your homework and offer international assignments with sensitivity
- While typically considered a career boon, international postings can be a risky matter for LGBTQ+ employees. In Russia, 80% of LGBTQ+ professionals aren’t out, 72% in Singapore, 70% in China and 67% in India. Some of these and other countries that don’t allow or recognize queer rights may be key markets for your organization. Do risk assessments and be fully cognizant of the fact that covering gender identity or sexual orientation can have adverse psychological repercussions. So, when it comes to international assignments emphasize that individuals will not face any career judgements if they decline an international post. For those that do, provide LGBTQ+ employees and their families with active immigration support. Compensate for tax breaks that same-gender couples might not be eligible to receive, and make sure their healthcare is available or can be continued.
By sowing an open mindset among leaders, managers, and employees, by embedding these sorts of policies and practices into your DE&I initiatives, all people in your workplace (not just those who identify under the LGBTQ+ umbrella) will thrive and grow – enriching the cultural roots of your organization.
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