Championing diversity in the workplace is the new norm. Yet as a growing number of companies prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), fewer know how to go about building an inclusive culture. After all, committing to being more inclusive and knowing what steps to get there are two different things, and many businesses get lost somewhere between good intentions and real change.
In honor of Pride Month, we’re sharing actionable tips to help businesses ensure equal opportunities for the LGBTQIA+ community through more inclusive workplace policies, hiring practices, and brand building. These steps will help your company go beyond the celebratory show of solidarity in June by highlighting ways to achieve a deeper commitment to acceptance and equality, no matter the month.
Create a brand identity around representation.
It’s important to consider how your visual identity aligns with your brand values. The imagery you choose to represent your business, whether on your website, marketing materials, or other creative assets, can speak volumes.
Make it a point to select images that showcase diversity and challenge traditional gender norms and family structures. Not only does this commitment to inclusive marketing help demonstrate your values as a business, but it goes a long way in supporting societal equality and acceptance. According to research from GLAAD, a media advocacy group, a large majority of consumers agree that inclusive media increases their understanding of and support for the LGBTQIA+ community over time.
Respect personal pronouns.
The language you choose to use as a business can impact whether your employees feel understood and respected. That’s why it’s important to avoid making assumptions about pronouns and instead create a safe space where people can share their personal preferences. For example, you can encourage employees to share their personal pronouns on channels like Slack and LinkedIn, if they’re comfortable doing so. You can also provide helpful tips on how to appropriately ask about someone’s pronouns in conversation.
You should also remember that not everyone on your team will get this right all the time—and that’s okay. Utilizing pronouns outside of the binary, gendered structure often requires people to unlearn semantic habits they’ve grown used to, and that might take some people more time than others. As a company, your role is to create a culture of acceptance where people care enough to learn from their mistakes and are committed to doing their part in making everyone feel recognized.
Take a proactive approach to inclusive recruiting.
One way to attract diverse applicants to job openings is to demonstrate a clear brand commitment to inclusive hiring. Openly share your brand values, and make it known that your company doesn’t discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Review job postings to assess the language you’re using and address any unconscious bias that might be coming through.
If you’re finding it difficult to find LGBTQIA+ candidates through your usual recruiting methods, try widening your net. Consider posting open positions on diversity job boards, or attending career fairs and conferences—e.g., the ROMBA Conference—that facilitate inclusive recruitment.
Rethink your benefits.
Businesses of all sizes should consider how the benefits they can offer employees give the same level of consideration to everyone across the organization. For example, many companies’ existing parental leave policies cater largely to heterosexual, two-parent families where time off is meant to support women after giving birth. In reality, though, starting a family looks a lot different for everyone, and it’s important to offer benefits that reflect this and provide the same support to all parents equally. Support all employees equally by introducing paternity and adoptive parental leave in addition to maternity leave. If you can, offer reimbursements for surrogacy and adoption, as well, to support LGBTQIA+ and other employees starting families through alternative methods.
Your business can also offer more inclusive medical benefits, such as gender affirmation benefits. This coverage is critical to supporting the transgender community as it helps take care of gender reassignment surgery, hormone replacement therapy, and counseling.
Initiate thoughtful dialogues with your team.
Communication and education are an important part of building an accepting workplace. Make it a priority to facilitate important conversations within your company on an ongoing basis. For example, at Bluevine, we include unconscious bias training in our company’s onboarding process for new employees. This helps establish our values from the start and encourages open communication between our employees. It also sets the foundation for more informed discussions in the future. Another good idea is to share resources with your team (such as this guide to gender identity terms) to help people understand the language they should use when discussing different topics.
Consider creating employee resource groups (ERGs) and having designated leads to help guide diversity conversations. These groups are entirely voluntary but are an important part of giving underrepresented individuals a space to share their experiences, feel heard, and provide invaluable insight and feedback on company-wide DEI initiatives.
Support LGBTQIA+ organizations.
Another great way to support the LGBTQIA+ community is to get involved with organizations that foster safe spaces and social equality, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. Your support could be financial—e.g., a recurring contribution or donation based on a percentage of total profits—but doesn’t have to be.
For businesses that can’t make a financial pledge to support an LGBTQIA+ organization, consider other ways to get involved as a business. Work with an organization on a community service initiative—e.g., donating gear, goods, and services to organizations like Lambert House—or volunteer your time to charities like The Trevor Project that can always use extra help.
Commit to year-round inclusion and allyship.
While Pride Month is an important time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and engage in valuable conversations around inclusivity, equality, and representation, it’s hardly the only time. Building a truly inclusive business means standing by and advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights all year long, and not just when Pride Month rolls around. There are plenty of brands and businesses that publicly show support when it’s timely, yet don’t do the necessary work behind the scenes. While gestures like jazzing up your logo with rainbow colors or sharing Pride content on social media are a great way to show support during Pride Month, it’s important to commit to inclusivity year-round to build a business that genuinely stands for LGBTQIA+ equality.