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YouthActionNet Blog

Building LGBTQ Inclusive Workplaces

Nicole Sterling | September 26, 2016

I am Nicole Sterling, a Point Foundation scholar currently studying public relations, advertising, and marketing at Towson University in Maryland. I’ve done work in the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community and co-created Allie the Ally, an organization aimed at generating support for people in the LGBTQ community at an international level. I have also done research on how people’s perceptions of the transgender community shifts based on the television they watch. I am excited to have interned at the International Youth Foundation (IYF)  this past summer on the YouthActionNet team, where I learned more about international youth development, paying particular attention to how it intersects with LGBTQ issues.

From attending a gender workshop my first week on the job, to meeting YouthActionNet fellows fighting for LGBTQ rights around the world, I have learned a lot. Today I want to share a few tips on creating an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace.

Why do we need inclusive workplaces?

It is important to build an LGBTQ-inclusive safe space within the workplace because today’s workforce is incredibly diverse in race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender identity and sexual orientation. According to the Business Case for Diversity, it is key to address the needs of the workforce so that employees feel comfortable and respected. If workers don’t feel their basic needs are being met and feel safe at their job, this could cause the work environment to be hostile. Employees work more efficiently and effectively when they are happy in their workplace, so having an LGBTQ-inclusive environment is an important step in ensuring that all staff can do their best each day.

Here are 4 ways to create an inclusive workspace:

1. Learn the community

It helps to start with understanding the meaning of sexual orientation and gender identity terms; making sure everyone in your workplace is on the same page and can use the terms correctly will lay a strong foundation for equalityand also help avoid confusion or unintentional offences.

One go-to resource for gender identity and sexual orientation terms is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC is the largest LGBTQ civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization based in the United States. The mission of the HRC is to have a world where LGBTQ people have equal rights and can be open, honest and safe at home, work, and in the community. The HRC defines gender identity as “one's innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither – how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves.” One's gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assigned at birth. HRC defines sexual orientation as an inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people.

2. Provide staff training

Training helps to ensure equality mindfulness among employees. Providing training to employees will build more awareness of the LGBTQ community and provide tools to ensure a nondiscriminatory workplace. Different types of training for employees could be gender workshops, policy training, or seminars on appropriate dialogue and ways to respond when offended. Other resources that would be beneficial would be a list people to discuss problems with within the organization, in case they arise.    

3. Support the community

Public engagement is a way for an organization to show its support for LGBTQ-inclusive practices in the workplace. This could include supporting an LGBTQ rights organization, holding fundraising events, offering internship opportunities, or services like mentoring/coaching. IYF is a perfect example of an organization that is taking steps to be more inclusive, as they have collaborated with the Point Foundation to offer me this internship and afford me the chance to explore and connect with youth-led LGBTQ rights initiatives around the world.

Some other steps that I've witnessed IYF take include:

  • Gender awareness workshops for all staff
  • Collaborating with LGBTQ organizations to reach more diverse individuals during the Laureate Global Fellowship selection proccess
  • Blog posts promoting gender inclusiveness

I believe it is important to integrate these inclusive practices so everyone in your workplace is accounted for, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In the future, I plan to further explore the leadership roles that youth are taking in the fight for inclusiveness and equality, and how the variations in LGBTQ communities around the world influence these efforts.