Pride Month is the perfect time to learn how to better foster inclusivity in your company.

The need for LGBTQ+ allyship could not be more pressing: In the US, nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in 2022 alone, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union. This recent wave of discrimination doubles as a call to action for companies to renew and reevaluate their support of LGBTQ+ employees — especially given that 69 percent of 688 LGBTQ+ people surveyed by Indeed in March 2022 believe employers should be doing more to support their community.

“The issues facing the LGBTQ+ community are always top of mind for us at Indeed, not just during June Pride,” says Jessica Jensen, Indeed Chief Marketing Officer and the executive sponsor of iPride, the Indeed LGBTQ+ employee resource group. “I encourage leaders to spend time thinking about the weight of the world these days on all their employees, including their LGBTQ+ community, and how we can support them and help them be resilient.”

Here are eight ways your company can cultivate an inclusive, empathetic and diverse workplace to help your LGBTQ+ employees — and every employee — feel they are valued and that they belong.

Learn the Lingo

Educating ourselves sometimes means going back to the basics to understand what we don’t know. Start by refamiliarizing yourself with the differences between sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. (Here’s one resource from Indeed to get you started: “Allyship at Work: What Is Gender Identity?”) From there, you’ll have the foundational knowledge to understand the differences between gay and queer, cisgender and transgender, nonbinary and pansexual, etc. Organizations like GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign and The Trevor Project provide excellent and accurate online resources for understanding these terms. What’s more, be patient with yourself as you learn, and don’t be afraid to ask friends or loved ones who are more familiar with LGBTQ+ identities for help.1

Understand Why Pronouns Have Power

Being an LGBTQ+ ally involves affirming an LGBTQ+ person’s gender identity, which includes respecting the pronouns they say best represent them. Adding your pronouns (for example, “she/her” or “they/them”) next to your name in email signatures and other communication channels (Slack, Zoom, Teams) does just that: it acknowledges we shouldn’t assume a person’s gender identity (and hence, their pronouns) based on name or appearance. And because email signatures are highly visible, it’ll encourage people to add their pronouns when they’re ready — or at least ask why it matters. Read more about gender-neutral pronouns here.

Uplift, Don’t Tokenize LGBTQ+ Peers

According to a 2021 Indeed survey of 491-full-time LGBTQ workers, 46 percent of respondents who were not out at work said their identities are “not anyone’s business” or “not relevant.” Sexual orientation and gender identity are highly personal, and everyone experiences them differently. Companies shouldn’t assume their LGBTQ+ employees want to represent “the queer voice in the room,” lead Pride initiatives, or step in to educate their peers about allyship. Such expectations can make some LGBTQ+ people feel tokenized or overextended. (Every company should strive to have diverse voices in every room, organically.) You also might consider augmenting these volunteer opportunities with additional benefits, such as a stipend or more paid time off, that recognize the value and perspective that LGBTQ+ people bring to the table.

Allow Gender-diverse Employees to Express Themselves Authentically

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation found that 20 percent of LGBTQ+ workers “have been told or had co-workers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner.” These comments invoke stereotypes and disparage people for coming to work as their true selves, especially nonbinary, queer or gender fluid people. Each of us expresses our physical selves in unique ways — from our hair and makeup to our jewelry, shoes and the color of our clothes. An important step in promoting inclusivity is to ensure your policies don’t uphold gender-based discrimination and outdated stereotypes about masculinity and femininity.

Stand Up to Hurtful Language and Behavior

Nearly one in two LGBTQ+ people have heard or read intentionally hurtful anti-LGBTQ+ remarks in their workplace, according to Indeed data. One of the most effective things an ally can do to combat workplace discrimination — from microagressions to hateful speech — is stand up against it. When you allow a peer to disparage LGBTQ+ people or make hurtful comments, you become complicit and signal to everyone in the room that such conduct is okay. But when you call out and correct instances of a co-worker’s intolerant speech, especially in group settings, you empower others to do the same.

That said, many employees often don’t have the tools or knowledge to do so. Instituting LGBTQ+ allyship training into your onboarding process or leadership program ensures that employees have a shared foundation for identifying and addressing harmful behaviors. The United Nations and Human Rights Campaign also offer helpful resources for codifying inclusivity into your standards. 

Check Your Benefits

What benefits does your company offer, and are they as relevant to LGBTQ+ employees as they are to cisgender straight employees? These may include benefits for mental health, family planning, adoption, parental leave and medical leave, to name a few. Evaluate what you offer prospective employees, not just in terms of equitable pay but equitable impact as well. If you don’t have these benefits, do you have a reasonable answer as to why? 

See Beyond the Rainbow

Pride is a time to celebrate people of all identities. The most well-known Pride flag, created by the late Gilbert Baker in 1978, now features a five-color chevron to represent transgender people and people of color. It’s called the Progress Pride flag, but it’s just one of many Pride flags allies should know about. Asexuals, bisexuals and other communities have their own versions. This comprehensive resource from the University of Northern Colorado can tell you more about the various Pride flags and their histories.

Give Your Pride Campaign a Cause

Many companies celebrate Pride by uploading a rainbow logo to their social media profiles for the month of June — and not much else. Low-lift and seemingly low-impact gestures like this are called rainbow-washing or rainbow capitalism. Companies should show up more authentically, give back to a cause that benefits LGBTQ+ communities and use their platforms to effect change. Did you hire LGBTQ+ people to create your Pride campaign this year? How can your employees participate in community-building activities that benefit the local queer community? Are you using your channels to spotlight the leading issues impacting LGBTQ+ people? If you created a consumer-facing Pride campaign, does it benefit an LGBTQ+ nonprofit or organization? Explore how you can use your platform to positively impact the communities we celebrate during Pride Month and beyond.

“Pride Month is the right time to ask how you and your company can become better allies all year long,” Jensen says. “Leading with empathy and compassion will not only demonstrate your commitment to LGBTQ+ workers but it will help create a workplace that is more inclusive, productive and happier for all employees.”

Article Sources

1 This article uses the acronym LGBTQ+ in accordance with GLAAD’s Media Reference Guide, 11th edition.