Beginning with a launch in November, leading up to the main event in February, it falls in line with the abolition of Section 28.
Section 28 was legislation that prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities across the UK. For example, libraries couldn’t stock LGBT+ books, and teachers were not allowed to discuss what was considered ‘pretended family relationship’.
While you may think this abolition must have happened centuries ago given how far things have advanced in recent decades, the section was actually abolished this side of the millennium (2000 in Scotland; 2003 in England and Wales).
LGBT+ History Month is intended as a means to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against the LGBT+ community, while also celebrating its aims to make the community more visible.
Although things have come a long way, there is still much progress to be made, particularly in the workplace. It must be more than just a tick-box exercise with a Tweet or a generic email.
There are several different ways for employers to show their support without being tokenistic.
Here are six ways that employers can really support the LGBT+ community, and ensure their employees can thrive at work.
1. Encourage open discussion
The first one is simple: get talking. By having a conversation and finding out about one another, it can help others to learn about the LGBT+ community in a better way.
Put aside some time for employees to come forward – both within and out of the community – to truly talk about yourselves.
Questions can be submitted (anonymously if that helps) which can fuel a discussion around the month and the community as a whole. Often, people refrain from asking questions in the fear that they might say the wrong thing or offend – in actual fact, it’s better to ask to receive clarification than just to shy away from something altogether.
2. List your pronouns
It might be a simple addition, and something that doesn’t have to be initiated by this month specifically, but listing pronouns is a way of showing inclusiveness.
Not only with other employees within the organization, but it sets a standard with any external contacts including suppliers, stakeholders and partners.
This can be on the company website, email signatures, in social media bios and on communication platforms such as Zoom, Slack and Teams.
By sharing your own pronouns, it encourages others, especially if they are hesitant, to disclose their own and feel comfortable doing so.
3. Actively celebrate and educate
It’s time to put your money where your mouth is. It’s easy to share a company-wide email to all employees, but it is more important to invest time and effort into educating and informing the entire workforce of the reasons behind celebrating LGBT+ History Month.
You might even use what you learn from the open discussions to focus your efforts.
For example, you might want to create a one-pager that outlines exactly why it’s important and what it means to members of the community. This could include statistics (some of which will probably come as a surprise) and specific dates that are so crucial to the LGBT+ community.
4. Work with inclusive partners and suppliers
You can show your commitment to the community by working with other organizations that have diverse and inclusive workforces and practices.
If you’re looking to hire for a new vacancy, you might use the D,E&I-focused platform like Diversifying.io. Or, if you’re looking for a marketing agency, you could look for one that celebrates its own LGBT+ workforce in a positive way.
In fact, a study from The Hackett Group found that 20% of spending directed towards diverse suppliers delivers up to 10% of annual sales, so not embracing inclusive companies as suppliers could lead to revenue losses.
5. Engage with the community
Ask your LGBT+ employees to help you immerse yourself within their culture. Whether that’s attending a drag brunch or show, watching a queer film or reading some lesbian literature, you can learn so much about the struggles by simply searching for it.
Find out what your employees are interested in and take time to educate yourself about their culture.
Not only will you be able to engage in a much deeper level of conversation, but your employees will respect you for it – which can only be a good thing for retention and overall job satisfaction.
6. Pick a cause
It might be fundraising or raising awareness (or both), but you can get involved by supporting and championing causes that are important to the LGBT+ community. There’s a whole range of charities and organizations that offer support to help the community worldwide, and always welcome additional support.
Again, you can ask during an open discussion and discover what your employees are passionate about. It’s easy to hear about the everyday struggles of the community, with many of these having their own fundraising events attached to them.
By doing this, you really showcase that you’re serious about the community and supporting them with more than just words.
It’s important to recognize that, if you’re serious about supporting the LGBT+ community during this month then it deserves time and effort to be spent on it.
Actions really do speak louder than words on this occasion and it’s worth conducting your own research to better your understanding, whilst supporting employees to do so too.
While this month is a great place to start your journey with supporting the LGBT+ community, it should extend into every other time of the year. Your support shouldn’t just be a performative action that returns to square one as soon as March begins.
Consider the long-term effects, and implement it into your wider business strategy.
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