“An inclusive work environment is important for us to be able to truly tap into the potential that diverse teams bring,” says Ruchira Gokhale, head of consulting solutions at Interweave Consulting, an organisation that specialises in ensuring gender diversity and inclusion in workplaces, “The potential here refers to the diversity of thoughts, ideas and perspectives that are the bedrock of innovation.”
Gokhale admits that while the link between creating a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ employees and corporate performance may not be an obvious one, but when one considers the stress or effort involved in concealing one’s true identity and the resulting impact this may have on one’s effectiveness in the workplace, the connection becomes more obvious.
As Pride month inches towards an end, we should not forget that it’s important to be an ally for the rest of the 11 remaining months too. If you’re not sure how to go about it, Gokhale has got some easy-to-follow pointers for you…
Don’t assume anyone’s sexuality, straight or otherwise: “Do not assume heterosexuality; 5-10 percent of any community identifies as LGBTQ+,” says Gokhale. This also includes not ‘outing’ someone who is just ‘out’ to you.
Introspection is key: You need to work towards understanding your own biases and prejudices before you can be a true ally. “Knowing your shortcomings as an ally will help you work on ways to overcome these,” says Gokhale. Being authentic is really important, “Process your true feelings; it is important to be authentic in your support, and it is okay to let someone know that you are still learning about this topic.”
Don’t ignore the pronouns: Pronouns are a small but important tool of empowerment and ignoring someone’s preferred pronouns is harmful, “Be mindful to use inclusive language, with special attention to pronouns,” she says.
Stand up to bullies: This one goes without saying, but it’s important to use your privilege as a cis-het person to look out for your LGBTQ+ coworkers. “Watch for and confront hostility/inappropriate behaviour at work, especially those stemming out of explicit/implicit homophobia,” says Gokhale. You can also do this by condoning, and not sharing, homophobic jokes and not being passive when someone is gossiping about a person’s gender identity or sexuality.
Advocate for better policies for LGBTQ+ community in your workplace: Perhaps the most important way you can support the community is by making sure the workspace is legally and physically safe space for them. “You need to ensure that your workplace has a strong set of policies that promote inclusion, such as Equal Opportunity, Anti-Harassment, and Grievance Redressal, all of which are basic rights.”