Workplaces are more colorful and diverse than ever, allowing more populations to interact with new ideas and mindsets for innovation and creativity. Inclusive work environments present generations with new family dynamics and identities, and LGBTQ+ employees need support from their administrative and managerial teams.
It all comes down to changing language and incorporating procedural updates and services that make the work environment less gendered and more accepting of stereotypically non-traditional families.
Work documentation, including training manuals and benefits explanations, is riddled with gendered language perpetuating cultural assumptions about family dynamics.
Maternity leave descriptions are she/her pronouns and procedural documents use phrases like “his or her” when referring to employees. Intersectional language is non-negotiable. These examples exhibit close-mindedness on behalf of an employer that aligns with a toxic identity binary — especially for nonbinary or intersex staff.
Leading staff members can take time to proofread and rewrite these documents for gender neutrality with replacements like “they,” “partner” or “employee.” Businesses may wish to hire sensitivity readers or enlist the assistance of diverse staff to improve these texts.
Offering Diverse Benefits
As stated, paid leave often includes language that supports gender stereotypes and heteronormative family dynamics — and the United States doesn’t even have paid parental leave for anyone. For example, how would polyamorous families or LGBTQ+ couples navigate parental or adoption leave unless it was spelled out clearly in workplace technical documents? Options like IVF require numerous health appointments and potential upsets, among possible legal interactions that could disrupt an employee’s schedule.
Did the company choose a health insurance provider that assists those who are transitioning? Are there mental health or counseling resources for employees to use in the event of dysphoria or bullying, especially when 39% of LGBTQ+ workers in the UK have been bullied by coworkers?
Providing rights to these diverse households will make office morale higher and tenured employment more tempting as people understand they’re appreciated instead of discriminated against. It’s particularly essential for people of color or with disabilities, as there are more struggles for these marginalized groups.
Outline Staff Expectations
Relaying to all staff that the workplace doesn’t tolerate discrimination is critical. Not all employees have the same access to LGBTQ+ information, so providing seminars for diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) education can lay the foundation for a safe, judgment-free workplace. HR could ask for the help of local LGBTQ+ employee resource groups, nonprofits, and centers to speak.
Workers who hear hate speech or rude comments should feel empowered to notify HR, especially if the HR department demonstrates that there are genuine consequences for it instead of brushing it off. These prevent insensitive, persistent comments and questions from those who don’t understand to LGBTQ+ individuals, which could make them feel harassed in the workplace. This includes misgendering people or using incorrect pronouns.
Ideally, it will increase empathy between coworkers of all identities, especially when 88% of the estimated 11 million LGBTQ+ individuals in the US are employed. It can also start to dismiss the cultural default assumption that all of someone’s colleagues are in heteronormative relationships with traditional family dynamics — when plenty are not.
In reality, they should practice patience and awareness with all identities of coworkers. No coworker should feel pressured to be in a relationship if they identify as asexual, nor should people wonder about someone’s private surgical procedures if they are a child-bearing trans man.
Celebrate With Families
Work-sponsored donations to local LGBTQ+ shelters and posters advertising the city’s Pride festival normalize exposure to these events and resources to previously unfamiliar staff. It can assist LGBTQ+ staff members to feel more comfortable being openly out at work — though there should be no pressure to be — instead of feeling like they’re creating a persona, which can lead to mental health concerns.
Just as offices celebrate Veteran’s Day for veteran staff members with email newsletters and a potential gift or company-paid meal for those employees, LGBTQ+ events can have the same expectations for families to revel in.
Sincerity when publicizing these joys is critical. For example, a company that hoists a Pride flag during June shouldn’t openly express disdain when pro-LGBTQ+ legislation passes in Congress. Additionally, companies must voice concerns when the rights and freedoms of their LGBTQ+ staff are in jeopardy because of discriminatory or homophobic regulations. If actions don’t align with words, employees will accuse a company of rainbow washing, which could damage its reputation.
Supporting Families of All Types
There are many employees in non-traditional family dynamics, whether someone’s guardians are part of the LGBTQ+ community or they are, employers can foster an accepting environment that promotes diversity and education. Little changes like pronoun edits in manuals to providing emotional support for staff will set precedents for the new minimum standard of workplace inclusivity.
Devin Partida writes about investor technologies, big data and apps. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.com.