There have been many questions surrounding the best practices in creating a more inclusive and involved workplace throughout businesses, especially regarding the LGBTQIA+ Community. We have experienced major leaps and made progress throughout these last few years, however as with anything, there is, and always will be, room for improvement.
From a personal point of view as a member of the LGBTQIA+ Community myself, I would always remind colleagues that identities are complex and that we should always be encouraged to participate in open-minded discussions. I often find that people are too afraid to ask questions, no matter how well-intended, because they are afraid of saying the wrong thing or accidentally coming across as offensive. To those people I say: There’s no way forward unless we are prepared to make a mistake or two, learn from it, and move on.
Sincere, unbiased curiosity makes for wonderful conversation and if you happen to stumble over, or get someone’s pronouns wrong, the acknowledgement of that along with a genuine attempt to get it right the next time is worth more than a thousand apologies. Learning to say Spouse or Partner instead of assuming Husband or Wife is easy. The comprehension of (and respect for) the fact that some struggles surrounding certain individuals are deeper than they appear will allow for the safe space people need to be engaged and productive members of their work team.
Unfortunately, many LGBTQIA+ workers aren’t open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work because they’re worried about hearing homophobic jokes, being stereotyped, and feeling excluded. According to an important survey conducted by the Trade Union Congress with LGBTQIA+ people, “of the 68% who said they had experienced sexual harassment, 66% did not tell their employer, sometimes because they were afraid of being “outed” at work”.
At Bidvest Noonan, our ED&I Council has defined the ED&I policy to ensure all employees comply with our core values and respect our valuable differences. We also have developed some guidance documents to raise awareness about the best practices throughout the organization regarding Gender Reassignment and Sexual orientation. We want to make sure that our people are equally valued as employees and individuals. To be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, we strongly encourage everyone to actively call out discrimination in the workplace, report to managers or higher management, and let individuals know what they are doing is not right and that we, as a business, will not tolerate hate crime.
But it is not all doom and gloom. It has progressed massively over the years, and the LGBTQIA+ community has become more accepted worldwide than ever before. Even countries that have never approved of it are looking at sanctioning bills that protect the LGBTQIA+ community. More and more individuals and companies are embracing pronouns, PRIDE, and educating employees in the workplace on stonewall, how to be a good ally, setting up ED&I councils, etc. The more we talk about it, and the more it is a part of everyday life, then I believe we are continuing to head in the right direction.
As Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete in the U.S professional sports, once said – “Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start”.