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Allyship At Work: How Business Leaders Can Become Better LGBTQ+ Allies

By News Creatives Authors , in Small Business , at January 1, 1970

Adrien Gaubert, cofounder at myGwork, The LGBTQ+ Business Community.

Being an authentic LGBTQ+ ally can mean the difference between your staff staying or going, especially for younger talent. Studies confirm the younger generation, such as Gen-Z, is the most diverse yet, with many more placing themselves somewhere on the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Stonewall’s latest survey shows that just 53% of U.K. Gen-Z respondents are exclusively straight, and 40% have a pattern of attraction described as queer.

Understanding this generation of LGBTQ+ professionals and making them feel they belong through allyship could be crucial to retaining them. myGwork’s study also confirmed that over two-thirds of LGBTQ+ graduates would leave their jobs if they couldn’t be authentic and open at work.

Although many professionals want to be strong allies, many find themselves without sufficient knowledge to do so confidently. Many fear asking clumsily worded questions or worry about using the wrong pronouns or deadnaming. The lack of LGBTQ+-inclusion training in the workplace doesn’t help. myGwork’s recent poll (conducted on LinkedIn in January), which received over 500 responses, revealed that six out of 10 employers don’t offer any LGBTQ+ inclusion training to their staff.

Including pronouns in your email signature or wearing a rainbow lanyard is not enough to show real allyship to the LGBTQ+ community. Educating yourself and your workers is fundamental. So how can leaders become better allies and encourage others to do the same? Here are four ways to hone your LGBTQ+ allyship credentials.

1. Take a formal qualification/training to become a better, more authentic LGBTQ+ ally.

For those seeking to become better allies, it’s worth checking out any formal training. Many universities, LGBTQ+ charities and organizations now provide allyship courses virtually or through workshops. (Full disclosure: My company offers one.) These courses should be able to improve your understanding of the importance of allyship in the workplace and how to be a better LGBTQ+ ally.

It’s important to find relevant and practical LGBTQ+ training that works. Some general diversity trainings may not do much to challenge or stamp out ingrained prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions, so try to look for those offering more experiential and engaging courses and those that aim to drive behavioral change. If they offer certifications that workers can add to their resume/LinkedIn profile to showcase their “allyship” credentials to their employers/clients, that could be a huge plus.

These courses will also help you to learn more about inclusive language and how to use it. For example, they can help you avoid making assumptions about a person’s identity.

2. Use key events, such as LGBT+ History Month, to deepen your understanding of the challenges faced by the community.

The LGBTQ+ community has a rich history. Participating in LGBT+ History Month—whether you observe it in February (in the U.K.) or October (in the U.S.)—will give you an understanding of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ people both at work and across society. This will help you familiarize yourself with key events, such as the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the first Pride march, as well as help you to understand the historical struggles the LGBTQ+ community has faced.

Leaders can also use the time to reflect on the future and think about what more they can do to promote inclusivity, particularly at work. Consider participating in key community events and conferences to deepen your understanding of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ colleagues.

3. Set up an LGBTQ+ network/employee resource group (ERG) if you don’t already have one.

There are many benefits to setting up an LGBTQ+ ERG, fully backing it as a sponsor and providing adequate funding and resources to show that you take diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion seriously. Many C-suite leaders across practically all industries have told me that setting up an LGBTQ+ network or ERG, and more importantly, supporting it by being an active ally, has been hugely educational because listening to this group’s needs and providing adequate support helped to fast-track their understanding of what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally.

4. Use the plethora of external resources to boost your knowledge about the LGBTQ+ community.

Many LGBTQ+ charities and organizations offer LGBTQ+-related workshops, panels and podcasts that you can access for free to boost your knowledge about the community and get yourself up to speed about the issues they face in the workplace and wider society. It’s also worth checking out LGBTQ+ documentaries or movies offered by many media companies. Following leading LGBTQ+ influencers on social media, such as top LinkedIn LGBTQ+ voices, will also provide an additional boost to your knowledge about the challenges faced by the community.

In short, ongoing and year-round education is fundamental to being an effective LGBTQ+ ally. The above will help you to better educate yourself and become a great role model to other potential LGBTQ+ allies, which could encourage them to step up and contribute to creating a more inclusive workplace.

Forbes Business Council is the foremost growth and networking organization for business owners and leaders. Do I qualify?


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