Over the last couple of decades, the idea of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) has broken ground across organizations around the world to become something much more than an abstract concept on paper. A large number of businesses have benefitted, first-hand, from embracing DE&I – gaining novel perspectives, innovative ideas, and a variety of cultural viewpoints to add value to their approach and functioning.
Though DE&I has emerged as a consistent area of focus for organizations throughout the year, we would be remiss if we did not celebrate how a grassroots movement has played an immense role in taking the concept of DE&I from a mere vision to the reality of what it is today – the month of Pride.
What is Pride?
The Pride Movement, or the Rainbow Movement, as it is often called, celebrates the dignity, acceptance, and equality of various communities that identify as queer, socially different, and a minority. What started in 1969 as a riot in Stonewall, has now turned into a whole month of events that commemorate the uprising and embrace the LGBTQIA+ community.
While the global Pride celebrations are carnivalesque in nature, the community itself has seen steady, sophisticated growth in an organizational context. There are now companies across the world that identify themselves as “LGBTQIA+ Friendly Employers” or “LGBTQIA+ Inclusive Workplaces”. These companies pride themselves on not just employing a diverse workforce, but also on having policies that cater to these specific communities.
How has Pride impacted the global workforce?
Despite growing acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community at workplaces around the world, the numbers don’t paint a rosy picture. The community has a representation of less than 1% across Fortune 500 companies. Further, a recent study showed over 43% of employees who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community haven’t revealed their orientation at their workplaces, owing to the conventional heteronormative society we live in. They also admit to not talking openly about their orientation due to the fear of homophobia, losing out on promotion opportunities, and workplace exclusion.
However, things are changing for the better. Across organizations, every June, there has been the introduction of what is called ‘the Rainbowing’ of their insignia, to show they stand in solidarity with the LGTBQIA+ community. Those of us who spend half our waking lives on social media can’t miss knowing when the month of Pride arrives, as we see many companies change their logos and banners to include the pride flag. While this is a small step, it is in no way an insignificant one.
More impactful is the trend of various companies reworking their policies and making special accommodations to foster belonging and make it a safer space for the LGBTQIA+ community to embrace their self-affirmation.
For instance, Google has included a multitude of policies to make diverse groups of employees feel more welcome in their company. In June, “Gayglers”, as the groups call themselves, come out and lead various campaigns, resource groups, and even parades to help spread awareness about the importance of Pride in workplaces. They even went a step further and created a host of voluntary training sessions called “Culture Add” for their employees across all their offices to help them equip themselves better with the various ways to create a “For All” workforce. Google has even innovated its products to help the LGBTQIA+ community make their lives just a little bit easier and feel included. For example, after conducting a survey and finding out how uncomfortable the transgender community feels while walking into a public restroom, Google decided to include a feature on their maps to point members of the community toward gender-neutral public restrooms – a massive step in the right direction.
What can we do (as coworkers) to make members of the LGBTQIA+ community feel included?
Inclusivity in an organization boils down to how each individual employee can contribute to it. While it is important to acknowledge diversity around one’s workplace, it is crucial to understand it first.
There are very simple ways each employee can be an ally to Pride, and be welcoming of their colleagues who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Understand what the acronyms stand for: Basic awareness begins with understanding what each letter in the acronym stands for and acknowledging the presence of their coworkers who belong to the said community. Queer literature plays a very important role in clearly distinguishing one letter from another, and can be helpful in driving awareness at an individual level.
- Use the preferred pronouns: For as long as we have known, we have only been taught gender binary pronouns. However, not all people prefer the pronouns they were born with. A simple step like putting up your pronouns on your social media profiles, and asking people of the community what pronouns they go by, is a significant move toward being more inclusive at your workplace.
- Restructure HR policies to include gender neutrality in your workplace: Employees must take initiatives to educate themselves about gender neutrality, and implement their learnings in their daily conversations. HR must reinforce these policies to eliminate any form of exclusion or discrimination, regardless of how unintentional it might be. Policies like these help in long-term employee retention. Studies show when a diverse group of employees feels they are treated fairly at a workplace, they are 5.4 times more likely to stay in that company in the long run.
- Include gender-exclusive language in the hiring and onboarding process: Right from a job ad or a job application form, till the onboarding of a new employee, companies must use non-conforming or gender-fluid language to make those who belong to the Pride community feel more welcome. If including various pronouns is a hassle, then companies are usually advised to do away with all of it. While asking potential employees whether they are a “Ms” or a “Mr” might be a long-drawn tradition, knowing this piece of information does not really make a difference in an inclusive workplace environment.
We have to remember that Pride is much more than just a marketing stunt that organizations use to boost their reputation in June every year. For Pride to grow its roots into the global economy, one has to start from scratch – by acknowledging and hiring members of underrepresented communities, by bringing in initiatives that encourage all the employees of the organization to understand the inherent differences in each other, and by coming together as an industry, forming resource groups and consortiums to work solely on improving the diversity of workplaces.
The biggest difference that anyone can make though, is moving away from an environment where we all are just trying to fit into a checkbox or conform rigidly to a specific standard. This not just opens up our minds to various schools of thought that differ from ours, it also helps us connect with people who champion the cause they believe so strongly in – with ultimate pride.