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LGBTQ Executives On How We Can Make Our Offices More Inclusive

Lindsay Tigar  |  November 17, 2021

Managers: It’s past time to commit to diversity and inclusivity in your office. Here’s how to make your office a welcoming space for everyone.

If these days it seems that everyone you know is changing jobs, that’s because it’s almost true — there are currently more than 10 million open jobs in the U.S., and the economy added more than 500,000 jobs in October alone. Many of us are taking advantage of opportunities to gain a higher salary, a better title, or increased remote work flexibility from a new employer. And if you’re a new leader or hiring manager within a company, congratulations! You have a unique opportunity to drive fundamental change across company culture, business operations and more.

But of course it’s not just an opportunity — it’s a duty. Managers should strive to create a supportive and inclusive environment at all times, and are uniquely positioned to lead the charge for change. This week, we checked in with LGBTQ executives on how leaders can help create and support an environment where everyone feels welcome and at home. Because as we head into 2022, we truly can start to shape the workplaces + company culture we really want. (And if you’re helping drive change at your company, we’d love to hear from you, and feature you in an upcoming article!) 

Don’t Let Employee Identities Go Unrecognized 

It’s time to push ourselves to have important conversations around identity, says Seamus Reynolds, enterprise technical lead at Ovia Health

“For all of us, it can be uncomfortable asking people about identities that we’re unfamiliar with. But if your employees are expressing their authentic identities at work, it’s important for you, their manager, to talk with them about it,” they say. 

To address gender identity with an employee, Reynolds says a 1:1 conversation can be a safe, encouraging environment if you’re not sure where to start. They recommend saying something like, “I noticed you added a little trans pride flag to your desk, which is awesome! Is there anything I should know or ask you about that would help me better support you at work?” 

“This shows the employee that their manager is paying attention and that it’s okay to talk about their identity with their manager if they want to,” they continue. “Just remember that no matter how uncomfortable you might feel bringing it up, it’s probably a lot more uncomfortable for them to bring it up with you, their boss, so show them you see them by taking that first step.”

Re-Establish Community To Be Inclusive, Safe + Educational

As the world begins to re-open from the pandemic, managers now have the unique opportunity to re-establish community and culture, says Patrick Gevas, vice president at the GreenRoom Agency. Begin by asking your employees what they need, what will make them feel welcome, and what should change from the previous dynamic to be more inclusive, safe and educational. 

“Asking their people what was lacking from their office experience or culture would be a great way to understand the roots of issues that someone may not feel comfortable talking about, especially if they’re LGBTQ+,” he explains. All workers, especially LGBTQ+, need to feel safe in their workspace. Understanding safety in terms of a foundational need is so important.”

Be Mindful Of Pronouns 

Don’t be intimidated by getting pronouns right every single time if you’re just learning someone’s identity. Rather, lean into the conversation and make it your priority to be intentional, Gevas says. 

“For managers, it can feel very scary, for fear of either assuming wrong or addressing a person by the wrong pronoun. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable will go a long way towards understanding your team,” he says. “Many of those who identify as non-binary will kindly correct you if you misgender, so it’s so important to listen.”

One easy fix? Ask your team members to add their pronouns to messaging apps or email signatures so everyone can learn together, and support one another, no matter how they identify. 

Non-Gendered Single Stall Bathrooms For All 

Work bathrooms have to be used by everyone, but they’re not always made for everyone, Reynolds explains. “Gendered bathrooms are the overwhelming default in commercial buildings, but gendered bathrooms can present huge hurdles to trans and non-binary employees in the workplace,” they say. 

It might not seem like a meaningful change to promote inclusiveness in the restroom, but it illustrates clear support for those trans and non-binary employees. “If the only bathrooms are in a part of the building that you can’t change — due to them being shared, or restrictions in the office lease, and so on — remember that you can still always set your company’s policy,” they continue. “Make it company policy that employees are free to use whatever bathroom they want, and that no employee should be made to feel uncomfortable using any bathroom at any time.”

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