Being an ally at work

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8 months ago by Sophie Stones

Being an ally at work

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This June was Pride month, a time to celebrate LGBT+ culture, the things that make us different and the struggles that have got us to where we are now. However, whilst more allies than ever donned their rainbow apparel this year, it’s important to remember that ally-ship isn’t just for gay Christmas.

Companies across the world ARE making attempts to make the workplace more inclusive to all, however research shows that a lot of policies barely scratch the surface. Having an inclusion policy is no use to anybody if it isn’t embodied in the culture. Last year when the Metro asked, “have you heard homophobic banter in the workplace”, 82% responded that they had. And whilst some may believe it’s all “just a joke”, it could be one of the reasons 53% of LGBT individuals remain closeted at work.

Obvious to some, however rarely implemented, speaking out when overhearing jokes at others expense, can make a huge difference to morale in the workplace. However, in a study of 3000 people, 49% of respondents admitted to being “too afraid to stand up to homophobic ‘banter’ in case people assumed they were gay themselves.”

It’s the subtle things that can symbolize to LGBT+ employees that they are a welcome addition to the team, with Power of Out 2.0 reporting that LGBTQ individuals look for up to 10 signs that their workplace is a safe space to be out. These 10 signs could be anything from employees talking about an LGBT+ film, to an openly out executive, or even just inclusive affirmations.

Nic Mooney of LGBT Foundation tells us to “make a visible effort to create an inclusive environment that is more LGBT-friendly. Show this through personal actions, such as taking an interest in relevant events to the community,”; an action many companies took by sponsoring and participating in the Pride parade.

Often registered as a problem is over-curiousness. Whilst being interested can be a good thing, it’s important to remember boundaries. LGBT+ individuals can often be exposed to inappropriate questions about their personal lives and their bodies, questions that would never be asked of straight cisgender coworkers. Megan Key, Equalities and Diversity Manager at National Probation Service, explains that in this digital age, there’s no excuse for such invasiveness, writing, “don’t ask the individual colleague to explain what LGBT means, go away, find your information, that’s your starting point.”

Although it may be getting easier for LGBTQ individuals to come out in their personal lives, we need to ensure that these changes also extend to their professional lives. That responsibility belongs to us all.