Being an ally is something that we should thrive for. We spend more than half our day in our workplace, which means that our work friends and co-workers are the people we meet and see the most during the week. However, not all workplaces are as diverse/inclusive as you want them to be. Diversity and inclusivity are essential, and now that we’ve just come into the new year and 2022 is starting.
Diversity and inclusivity in the workplace have many advantages for both employers and employees, and it has a lot of benefits. Creating a diverse workplace is not a fad; it has tangible and direct benefits and decreases employee turnover. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn more about the importance of being a better ally in your place.
1. Use your privileges to defend yourself
The culture in many workplaces is not always very understanding. There may be individuals who call someone a name, give them the wrong name, or make homophobic or transphobic jokes. This can be especially uncomfortable if the person doing these actions is someone in a position of power. Very often, LGBTQIA+ people feel exhausted because they always have to be the person denouncing such behaviors.
So why not try to recognize and discourage discriminatory or sectarian behavior the next time it happens in front of you? Whether in person or via text message, you can start by stopping the person, explaining what they did wrong and how that can hurt someone. For example, if someone calls your colleague by name during a conversation, you can interrupt the person by saying, “Their name is XYZ,” and then continue talking.
2. Respecting boundaries
Gender and sexuality have always been taboo subjects, especially in the workplace. But in your zeal to support queer and transgender people, you shouldn’t inadvertently expose or embarrass them. If someone has confided in you about their identity, don’t share it unless they have decided to do so. Between colleagues who will later become friends, it may be common to talk about sex life and dating, but don’t push anyone to give details or ask random questions like “When did you first realize you were gay?”
If you have any doubts, ask if they would be willing to answer questions about a specific topic. Playing hide-and-seek, coming out to family, transitioning, etc., are potentially triggering conversations for queer and transgender people, so it’s best to be cautious and not push yourself if they don’t agree.
3. Address your pronouns and respect the names
Whether in your email signature or your Zoom display name, adding your pronouns can be a subtle way to help create a more gender-sensitive workplace. It takes the pressure off your queer and transgender colleagues, who may be the only ones doing this to avoid being misnamed. It also helps avoid a culture where people’s gender is assumed, which leads to them being misgendered.
The process of officially changing names for gay or transgender people can be very lengthy. Don’t wonder why a person’s “official name” doesn’t match the name they use. Treat their names and pronouns as a fact of life. The earth revolves around the sun. It is XYZ. These are all facts. The workplaces also need to be flexible so that people can choose the name on their ID card and in their emails and not automatically use the name on their official ID card.
4. Initiate diversity and change policies
If you’ve been given a seat at the table or certain decision-making power at work, try to broaden your perspective to make it as inclusive as possible. Don’t be afraid to give preference to someone who may know more than you or bring in new voices. For example, if you have the opportunity to work on an ad for the LGBTQIA+ community, but you are cishet.
Accept that you need people with life experience to contribute and weigh in. It cannot be stressed enough that if you bring in outside resources like awareness readers or queer and trans people, you need to compensate them for their time and effort, especially if you will benefit from the end result- socially or financially.
Several trans people have stressed the importance of gender-neutral washrooms in the workplace. But large-scale changes like this are rarely considered when only a small minority of people demand them. If you are in a position of power, you ought to take the time to educate yourself and advocate for inclusive facilities like these. If not, make your point loud and clear so that community members aren’t the only ones fighting for it.
5. Use gender-neutral or gender-sensitive language
So often, we hear phrases like “Hello, ladies and gentlemen” or greetings like “Hey, guys,” even in the workplace. For people who don’t actively think about this, it’s hard to realize how different gendered language is and how it can exclude people who don’t fit the binary system. Start with yourself if you want to build an inclusive and diverse company culture.
Use neutral terms like “people, team, everyone, friends.” If you pay more attention in general, you will soon be able to remove phrases like “other gender” from your vocabulary. Think about the last time you wrote an email to someone you didn’t know and used “Ms.” or “Mr.” – how did you come to that conclusion? If you want to use a more nuanced and gender-neutral term, then use Mx.
Tell us in the comments what you want to read next and if you want to read more about being an ally in the workplace.