LGBTQ+ History Month is a time for us to reflect on the past and consider what we can be doing to make sure our workplaces are inclusive and supportive moving forwards. Dean is a member of our LGBT+ Network at Sopra Steria and shares his thoughts.
As a gay man, growing up was difficult in many ways. Not knowing why I was "different" but feeling that way impacted my mental health, none of which I realised until I was a lot older. Throughout my school years, I would spend most of my time hiding who I really was; anything that would make me stand out, I would stop doing. This carried on into my teens and early 20s, even though I came out at 15.
My own life experiences have always made me very interested in the history of the LGBTQIA+ community, our progress and what we have gone through.
The LGBTQIA+ community has a rich and complex history, marked by periods of persecution, discrimination, and struggle for equality. However, despite facing numerous challenges, members of this community have always found ways to come together, form supportive networks, and push for change. A part of this progress for change is how people feel able and supported to be fully themselves at work. But this doesn’t happen by coincidence. Workplaces have to take steps to ensure the work environment is truly inclusive to LGBTQIA+ employees.
There are several ways that I believe workplaces can help support LGBTQIA+ colleagues and applicants; these are:
Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment: This includes having policies and practices in place that promote equal treatment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Workplaces can also provide diversity and sensitivity training for employees to raise awareness and understanding of LGBTQIA+ issues.
Providing benefits and protections: Ensure that all employees, including LGBTQIA+ employees, have access to the same benefits and protections, such as health insurance, parental leave, and protection against discrimination.
Supporting LGBTQIA+ employee resource groups: These groups provide a supportive community for LGBTQIA+ employees and can also serve as a resource for the company in its efforts to create a more inclusive work environment.
Raising awareness and educating employees: Encourage employees to attend LGBTQIA+-related events, such as pride parades, and provide opportunities for education and dialogue around LGBTQIA+ issues.
Challenging and addressing discrimination: Create a zero-tolerance policy for discrimination and harassment and provide clear avenues for reporting incidents and seeking support. Take swift action to address any reported incidents and follow up with employees to ensure they feel safe and supported.
Overall, creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment for LGBTQIA+ employees requires a sustained commitment from the organisation and ongoing efforts to raise awareness and understanding. If companies ensure that they are actively actioning the above, this will help in the equality fight, not just in the workplace but in society overall.