Here, Walter Vice, Product Owner at Ceridian, shares how organizations can take impactful steps forward to better support the needs of LGBTQ+ employees.
Ceridian is truly a global organization with teammates and offices located in far flung corners of the world. Though, when first asked to write a piece on the importance of organizational support for the LGBTQQIP2SAA+ experience in a global workforce, I was overcome with a sense of apprehension.
Who was I to provide a “global” perspective or to speak on behalf of everyone in the alphabet? My experience only accounts for one letter in the ever-stretching acronym. Take other demographic attributes into account and my voice becomes even more exclusive. For this reason, I opened the conversation to the Ceridian Australia team to share their perspective during Pride Month – the perfect time and setting for me to send out the proverbial bat-signal in technicolor.
While everyone has various experiences and comes from different backgrounds and geographical regions, the team and I came together to share our stories and found a few overlapping themes. Overwhelmingly, the sentiment we agreed on was to think globally and act locally. As a diverse group, we agreed that individually we can only speak to our own lived experiences, though collectively we believe that organizations all over the world can better support the LGBTQ+ workforce by focusing on the following areas.
Words have power. Identify unconscious biases and existing barriers.
While being your authentic self can be a relief, it can also be terrifying and tiresome all at the same time. Whether it’s accepting a job at a new company, transitioning to a new role, or even having someone new join the team, there is always a need to introduce yourself to someone new, which can nerve-racking for many people.
The process of continuously reestablishing oneself can be even more difficult for those that have experienced uncertainty and doubt in the past or who have heard about unpleasant interactions that have happened to a friend, for example. This is why organizational support is key. Samuel Robertson, Enterprise Business Development Executive at Ceridian says, “Corporations have a responsibility to support diversity and inclusion as much as they do our economy.” The first step in supporting the LGBTQ+ workforce is to remove unconscious biases or implicit biases that may exist.
Challenges exist even in working environments that prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion. For example, employees may be faced with questions on a day-to-day basis that can put them in an uncomfortable position to answer. Employers can highlight the importance of communicating with colleagues without using demographic identifiers such as gendered terms. Instead of, “Do you have a husband or wife?” encourage people to say, “Do you have a partner or significant other?”
Our orientation does not amount to the sum of our parts. Whether it be race, religion, gender, age, ability, pronouns, or orientation, using demographic identifiers when referring to someone can be othering. A respectful approach is to try striking the balance between indifference and apathy. The key here is avoid trivializing individual identities and respect various orientations and self-identifiers. You don’t have to make mountains from molehills — just do your part in helping others feel more comfortable.
Be a champion, take accountability, and pave the way for employees.
Champion inclusivity and practice it daily. It makes a huge difference when others witness leadership, management, or their colleagues feeling secure with their own identities. Sharing your truth can make it easier for others to share their own, and can create a ripple effect. This approach can help normalize the conversation and reduce the effects of stigma.
To support the workforce in showing up to work as their authentic selves, leaders need to foster an environment of openness and acceptance for their people to feel secure. Respecting people’s boundaries – for example, giving employees space to share what they want about themselves instead of prying – is paramount to creating this type of inclusive working environment.
Don’t focus on perfect, focus on improving over time.
Impactful change doesn’t happen overnight. You may not know what terminology or pronoun to use when referring to a teammate, for example, and this takes time to learn. Has someone corrected you on your use of a pronoun? Did it feel unexpected? Take ownership of the mistake and move in the right direction for the future instead of taking it offensively. Our advice is to treat this with the same respect and dignity you use when asking someone’s name or being corrected on the pronunciation of a name. On the flipside, be equally gracious with correcting a mistake. Remember to be proportional and consider both the context and the intention behind it.
Ultimately, there’s no rulebook for supporting the LGBTQ+ workforce, and each organization will need to identify their own unique challenges and provide the right support to their people to ensure long-term success. Senior Software Developer, Samantha Tidmarsh, says, “Even when you're trying, you can get it wrong and that's okay. Don't let that stop you from trying again and doing better next time.”
Keep an open mind and reflect on how your organization is supporting your people. Be mindful of what you can do to foster a comfortable and supportive space – not just for your people but for your own learning too.
A special thanks to Ali Amirsardari, Ruby Glew, Thomas Lee, Adam Mutch, Samuel Robertson, and Samantha Tidmarsh for contributing to this blog.