America and the LGBT community will now start our long-term journey of recognition, grieving, and healing from the trauma of losing 49 souls to an act of violent hatred on June 12 in Orlando. Perhaps the strongest ally in the recent struggle for LGBT rights, America’s business community, is also a stakeholder in this experience.
From Target to PayPal, many corporations have found a bold voice as common-sense advocates for LGBT equality under the law and in the conscience of the American people. Our national tragedy in Orlando and its impact on America’s LGBT identity will be felt and must be acknowledged by our business community. This should extend far beyond fleeting social media posts and moments of silence.
Businesses and brands that have joined the movement for LGBT rights, and those who have not, should take this time to examine and act on the ways they include ALL, both internally and externally. Here are some ways this can be done:
Engage With Your Surrounding Communities
Corporations should create meaningful opportunities for employees to engage with the diverse communities that surround their workplaces. While volunteer projects can be a vehicle for this experience, “field trips” and off-site company events that purposefully promote a greater understanding of other people and cultures can be just as impactful.
There are thousands of LGBT-focused nonprofits across the country that could benefit from a corporate partnership. Businesses should also consider hosting happy hours and corporate events at LGBT businesses or a company outing to a queer performance.
Understand What Diversity Means in Your Corporate Culture
Every company is different. Corporate leadership should proactively engage with their employees to understand how issues of difference manifest themselves in the workplace and how these differences can be celebrated. This means more than anonymous surveys. Leadership should be designated to facilitate an ongoing discussion about diversity amongst employees, which should then contribute to future planning around corporate inclusion.
This also means leadership must stay current about broader cultural shifts in how we understand the concept of diversity. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, generation, disability, personality type, and thinking style are all dimensions through which diversity can be explored (just to name a few).
LGBT and ally employee groups offer a chance to engage directly with LGBT employees and understand their experiences. Additionally, these groups allow LGBT employees to express their identity in a way that may not be available in everyday interactions at work.
Be Aware of Relevant Current Affairs and Address Them Internally
Whether it’s pending policy or serious breaking news at the local, national, or international level, businesses must be aware of what is happening outside of their doors and how these occurrences impact employees through different lenses. Corporate leadership must take proactive measures to address external factors internally, discerning what issues should be addressed to which employees through what form of communication.
It is important that language about sexual orientation and gender identity are included in company policy and that this policy is reiterated to your employees on a regular basis, particularly as anti-LGBT laws continue to arise throughout the nation.
Social media, communication with policy makers and community leaders, interactions with customers, transactions with other businesses, professional organizations, newsletters, and the physical space around your place of business are all important venues for expressing inclusion. It is important to incorporate an all-encompassing approach to expressing your appreciation for diversity.
Being an ally organization to the LGBT community means taking pride in this role. Celebrate our history, march in the parade, advocate for our rights, and fly the rainbow flag every chance your business gets.
Businesses and brands are like people – each with distinct personalities, backgrounds, responsibilities, and opportunities. Weaving inclusion and openness into your personality makes you more attractive, and will open your doors to new prospects for growth each day.