Business management

How to be a better ally – all year round

As we celebrate Pride month, we look at how businesses can make sure their LGBTQ+ allyship is embedded all year round.

By creating workplaces that are inclusive and welcoming to everyone, companies effectively become agents of change and accelerators of social acceptance, while reaping the benefits that a diverse and inclusive workforce brings to the business. There is a clear difference between creating a Pride-aligned marketing campaign for the month of June, and being a true LGBTQ+ ally for 365 days of the year. So, how can businesses become better allies?

Put your support into policy

Online builders’ merchant EasyMerchant is constantly reinforcing its campaigns for creating an inclusive workplace for its LGBTQ+ employees and holds regular meetings to discuss the implementation of its total ban on discrimination, harassment and mistreatment.

Business development lead Stacey Kane says: “These meetings are more like conversations and forums, a safe space for all employees, especially LGBTQ+, to raise their concerns and voice their opinions. The information that comes out of these is relayed to HR so they can work on setting up policies and rules that outline our position on LGBTQ+ rights.”

Employees are encouraged to support and celebrate Pride events and are given time off to exercise their right to support the LGBTQ+ community. “It's important for business leaders to be vocal in demonstrating their commitment to stand up for LGBTQ+ rights, as this creates a welcoming environment for everyone and helps to boost diversity,” says Kane.

Model an inclusive mindset

Business founders can set the tone for diversity and inclusion, and ensure that it’s embedded in the company culture from the outset by modelling an inclusive mindset and the language and behaviour that their teams are expected to follow.

Inclusion and diversity are cornerstones of the culture at software bootcamp Makers, whose manifesto commits to always protecting the minority in the first instance. Head of diversity initiatives Haylee Potts says: “Establishing this in the early stages is vital for hiring and establishing a diverse team from day one so that you’re not playing catch-up. Promoting diversity is not just positively recognised; it’s essential for good business. Small businesses succeed when they reflect and support the society they serve.”

Use your voice

Skincare brand UpCircle, a pioneer of ‘by-product beauty’, which sources ingredients from upcycled waste, uses its platform to highlight issues the team feel passionate about. This month the focus is on Pride, when the company will be sharing resources, including books, podcasts, and TV series on LGBTQ+ history to educate the community about the history and significance of Pride month.

Promoting diversity is not just positively recognised; it’s essential for good business. Small businesses succeed when they reflect and support the society they serve

Haylee Potts
Head of diversity initiatives, Makers

Co-founder Anna Brightman says: “We use our authentic voice to speak up on things that we feel passionately about that go beyond the parameters of the skincare industry. Activities like these demonstrate the impact that small businesses can have as agents of change.”

To ensure that all individuals are hired solely on merit, the company also endorses anonymous recruitment, which removes identifying details from job applications, and is committed to working with a minimum of 50% of LGBTQ+ creators in all of its future partnerships.

Show as well as tell

Graphic Change Academy is an LGBTQ+ run online training company that helps businesses use visual skills to run meetings and connect more effectively. Founded in 2006, the company actively promotes inclusion in its written and visual content, seeing it as an opportunity to share good practice.

Director Cara Holland, who runs the business with her wife, Natasha, says: “We know that language and imagery has the power to include or exclude people, so we talk about inclusion and diverse representation in all our courses, and consciously use imagery that is inclusive. However, we regularly get feedback from people saying how happy they are that diversity and inclusion are talked about explicitly, which makes me think this is still not the norm.”

Educate yourself

Business owners can make their workplaces welcoming and accepting of lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff by thinking about where and how they advertise for staff, and about the language and imagery that is used in the workplace. “In particular, don’t make hetero- or cisgender-normative assumptions,” says Holland. “By proactively asking people their pronouns or the gender of their partner you demonstrate an inclusive mindset that will help people feel accepted.”

Disclosing sexual orientation in the workplace is a matter of personal choice based on how much of their private life someone chooses to share with colleagues or employees. As Anthony Kielty, business intelligence and management lead at Vita Health Group, explains, there are things that team-mates and line managers can do to support people and make them feel comfortable.

“Do your research to understand LGBTQ+ history, including rights and civil rights movements,” he suggests. “Often, demonstrating an ability to understand, learn and research shows the commitment to want to become an ally.”

Call out discrimination

Witnessing discrimination in the workplace may be uncomfortable, but people need to do more to support each other and have the courage to speak up whenever they see or hear it. “If you have a conversation with someone and it concerns you, elevate your reports to the appropriate person and make a plan for dealing with them,” says Kielty.

As a business, supporting local community events, including Pride initiatives, being present at conversations about inclusiveness, and just being open in communicating enthusiasm will make a difference to the community.

However, best practice doesn’t just come from the top, and shared responsibility among everyone working within the team, regardless of their background, ethnicity, sexuality or gender, is key to setting an example of inclusivity. This can be done through encouragement, strong anti-discrimination policies, listening to staff and diversity training – actions that should be taken all year round.

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