More than a parade–How LGBTQIA+ inclusive is your workplace, and how you can make it better
Pride month is back, as is our social media with a million ways of making spaces inclusive. We witness the revolution of the LGBTQIA+ breaking out of their harrowing history. Some from lived experiences, some from shared experiences, and the rest from Google. It is always a learning experience to drive the most actionable solutions home.
Amidst all these solutions-driven commentaries, we shouldn't lose sight of the fundamental problems. We spend over 60% of our lives in our workspaces, and our efforts should drive them to be inclusive.
Let's start critical conversations around the hiring processes for the queer community. We must introspect and inspect the causes of disparities and find inclusive solutions.
I know I speak for many HRs like me when I say that Pride Month clouds us with questions on how we operate. Especially with its promises of diversity and championing inclusion.
Here are the top 5 worries around LGBTQIA+ inclusivity that created mental wars for many of us this month:
1. Competency. The word has enough baggage and bias attached to it. Beginning with women, it extends to LGBTQIA+ communities and many other 'minority' cultures. The vicious cycle of 'defining competency' and 'scope of creating competency' feels never-ending.
For example, Person A is the first person in his family to go to college, and he has struggled to make it to college. Person B's grandparents were doctors, and his struggles through college have been trivial. How do we measure competency across such different life experiences? Especially since meritocracy is one of the determining hiring factors.
2. Inclusive Hiring. The queer community often feels that they're recognised only during the Pride month. Pink-washing is a detested phenomenon by the community, and why wouldn't it be? Making workspaces look more 'woke' and 'accepting' are often mere optics.
Inclusive hiring evokes a crucial question. Are we saying, 'Your sexuality or gender doesn't matter. If you're fit for the role, we'll hire you. If an issue arises, we'll take it up, case-basis.'
Or, 'We want to create an inclusive workspace, whether we have queer people on our teams. You would feel physically and psychologically safe working here when we have you with us.'
3. Clothing. We categorise clothing into formals and casuals. But often miss the cultural and community aspect of these terminologies. When it comes to clothing, there is always the possibility of lacking objectivity.
For example, Person B has a 'flamboyant' dressing sense and speaks in a particular community lingo. Will it be cultural/communal acceptance or blanket corporate mandates?
4. Gender-Inclusive Language. This seems easier said than done, not in workspaces but also in our everyday lives. Many of us are learning the pronouns that individuals associate with. It is okay to take some time to understand and align with their preference for pronoun usage. But, it is never okay to deny their right to address them as they identify.
It begins with HRs pitches to the candidates - keeping it inclusive with images and words. We can start with using common pronouns and names instead of gender-specific pronouns. In fact, we should never assume anyone's pronouns, and we must get used to asking people for their preferred pronouns. Visual representation of different communities also adds value.
5. Queer-friendly leadership that champions inclusion. It is intimidating for queer people to reach out to sexist and homophobic managers. It creates psychological distress when conversations envelop mockery, humiliation, and undermine said individuals. However, to mitigate homophobia and any unwarranted disparaging remarks, it’s important that the leadership serve as allies and examples of inclusivity to the team. One must remember that culture always works on a top-down approach and not vice versa.
So, how do we create an organisation that has queer-friendly leadership? This is where who we are as people and our value-systems matter. A culture-fit round to check their value systems, kindness and empathy should be a bare minimum practice. Community champions and allies should partake in these rounds to build inclusive organisations.
The next step..
For many companies, Pride Month, like clockwork, has been a time to reiterate their commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workforce. Companies have taken a strong stance on having a harassment-free workplace. However, it’s time that companies reassess their policies from an equity driven stance to foster queer friendly workplaces all year round, not pride month.
Much contemplation and efforts go into creating a safe and inclusive workspace. And here's why we owe it to ourselves and the community to create inclusive spaces.
- The onus should always be on the privileged to pave paths for the socially, politically and economically marginalised.
- Different experiences and mindsets bring perspective, varied working styles, and solutions.
- The end goal of every organisation is to be of service and cater to its clientele. Organisations should have policies that push for inclusion and diversity. There must be no tolerance for any sort discrimination both in policy and practice. Research-backed studies prove that diverse companies attract better talent and drive better results.