By Audrey Ford, Eric Peterson, Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale, and Taylor Greene
June 25, 2019
Allyship is not only about engaging and building relationships, it’s about self-awareness, bearing witness, and taking action. Earlier this month, we discussed tips and strategies to open yourself up more to a stronger, more productive allyship with the LGBTQIA community. This week, we’re focusing on additional LGBTQIA-ally behaviors that create a safer, more inclusive work environment for your peers.
Be ready to bear witness
Always be ready to bear witness to what’s going on in the worlds of your LGBTQIA friends, family, or coworkers, and hold space for them. When listening to their experiences, listen with an open mind and heart rather than listening to respond. Listening for understanding is putting your own needs for validation aside, to truly listen without judgement and preparing the next thing you’re going to say.
When you do share, make sure to reflect on what you’ve heard. Phrases you can use include:
- “What I’m hearing you say is…”
- “What I’m understanding is…”
- “What’s coming up for me when you say X is…”
This can help to avoid any murky assumptions or expectations.
Listening is critical, but a true ally also steps in and acts to ensure everyone is feeling included and valued.
Organizationally, ask yourself a few questions:
- Does my organization have policies and practices that ensure equitable treatment of LGBTQIA employees? The HRC Corporate Equality Index is a good starting point for reference.
- Do we have easily accessible gender neutral restrooms available? In the absence of this, inviting all staff to use the restroom they’re most comfortable with is a good start.
- Do our organizational diversity efforts include language beyond race and gender? Adding language that refers to sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and religion in your conversations about diversity allows everyone to frame conversations more effectively.
On an individual level, or in group settings, ask yourself:
- Have you noticed a new queer employee at your company not being invited to social gatherings? Be the one to invite them.
- Does my office or cubicle include signage indicating that this is a safe area for individuals to share their authentic selves? Often LGBTQ individuals are looking for signs (e.g. an LGBTQ-themed book in your bookshelf, discussion about a recent pro-LGBTQIA commercial) that indicate it is safe to be open with you.
- Have you or your colleagues or friends misused or assumed someone’s pronouns? Take care to honor the person’s pronoun, and be willing to respectfully remind those who repeatedly “forget.”
- Have you heard biased or outright homophobic comments uttered in a common area at work? If so, be the one to say something. Whether it’s pulling someone aside, or reporting the incident to HR, you have to be willing to speak out and take action that homophobia is unacceptable. Showing up as an ally means taking the risk to fight for someone else’s rights, even if it doesn’t affect you personally.
- Have you, whether intentionally or unintentionally, pigeonholed queer colleagues according to stereotypes? Recognize the diversity within the LGBTQIA community. Each letter is different and intersectional identities play a huge role in each person’s experience.
Finally, celebrate Pride Month! Like other calendar markers, it’s an opportunity to do something proactive to let all staff know that your organization or team is LGBTQIA-inclusive. Even a tiny rainbow flag on the boss’ office door during the month of June sends a very powerful message to everyone about the values of your team and organization.
Audrey Rose Ford is a queer womxn and serves as a Project Manager at Cook Ross. Audrey oversees all aspects of client engagements, ensuring high quality and timely deliverables. Audrey has held a variety of project management positions in both the for-profit and non-profit spaces, working in organizations as diverse as Microsoft and PBS NewsHour.
Eric C. Peterson, MSOD is a gay cisgender man who serves as Senior Consultant with Cook Ross Inc. He is a recognized facilitator and educator in the diversity and inclusion space with over 18 years of experience in Unconscious Bias, diversity and inclusion, learning strategies, and organization development.
Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale is a Principal Consultant with Cook Ross. She is an African American cisgender lesbian with more than 30 years of experience leading learning-based interventions in over 48 countries across 5 continents. She provides transformative consultation to organizations and leaders across industries including finance, manufacturing, technology, education, and healthcare.
Taylor Greene is an Instructional Designer with Cook Ross. She is a queer woman who applies her expertise in organizational culture, strategic communications, and branding to create customized solutions that meet the needs of each Cook Ross client.