February marks LGBT+ History Month! LGBT+ History Month is a yearly commemoration and remembrance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and non-binary (plus) history.
A recent study showed that 41% of LGBTQ+ employees have left a job due to being bullied in the workplace. In 2023, this is unacceptable. You should not be driven out of work for being yourself. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone feels included, understood, and accepted and that you encourage your employees to support this too.
In this blog, we will take you through the origins of LGBT+ History Month, the importance of celebrating LGBT+ History Month and provide suggestions on how you can be more LGBTQ+ inclusive in the workplace.
But before we begin, don’t worry – we know that full LGBTQ+ inclusion will not happen overnight. Your LGBTQ+ inclusion policies will naturally adapt, develop, and change over time; inclusion is a continuous process and an end goal. Just keep at it!
WHAT IS LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH?
LGBT+ History Month is a celebratory period for the UK to raise awareness of different sexualities and gender identities in the LGBTQ+ community. We can raise awareness by remembering, celebrating, or educating others about those who have paved the way for the LGBTQ+ community and those who are still fighting for equality across the world today.
In the UK, LGBT+ History Month is annually celebrated in February as it corresponds with the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1986. This legislation was designed to stop the promotion of homosexuality by local councils, districts or city councils within schools and other organisations. This had a dramatic effect on the resources available for LGBTQ+ identities and stopped many people from receiving the appropriate support for any LGBTQ+ related issues.
WHY IS LGBT+ HISTORY MONTH IMPORTANT?
LGBT+ History Month is important because it allows us to celebrate how far we have come in terms of societal acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. We can honour the LGBTQ+ trailblazers who fought for a more equal world and commemorate the positive influence and contributions that LGBTQ+ identities have made.
Though, it should equally be used as a time to reflect on the contemporary prejudice that different sexualities and gender identities still face across the world. LGBT+ History Month provides us with the space to promote positive conversations and dismantle hateful propaganda.
HOW TO BE LGBTQ+ INCLUSIVE IN THE WORKPLACE
1. HAVE A STRONG INCLUSION POLICY
First things first, it is incredibly important that your workplace policies are fully inclusive.
Your policies should cover equality and diversity and utilise a comprehensive inclusion strategy. By implementing a strong inclusion policy, you are showing that your business supports its employees regardless of their gender identity or sexuality while simultaneously setting a clear inclusion standard that everyone employed at your company must uphold.
Inclusion really does start at the top, so having inclusive management strategies is a must. You should set clear inclusion goals and be committed to hiring a diverse workforce.
2. USE INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE
You should never make assumptions about your employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Promoting the use of inclusive or gender-neutral language within your business will show you acknowledge there is a vast range of identities and lived experiences that deserve respect through everyday language.
For example, you should try to use umbrella terms such as “spouse” or “partner.” Umbrella terms can cover a range of possible identities, as opposed to fixed nouns such as “husband” or “wife” which are much more constrained. This is especially important when talking to new employees who may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexuality or gender identity yet.
The use of inclusive language should not stop at casual conversation; your company can drive this internally and externally by incorporating gender-neutral language across all company contracts, emails, bulletins, and social media posts.
3. PROMOTE A FRIENDLY AND HEALTHY WORK ENVIRONMENT
There is a range of equality and diversity training courses available. You can enrol your employees on LGBTQ+ Awareness Training courses as part of their onboarding programme or as part of their professional development to ensure they can better understand minority identities.
If any disagreements arise, it is your job as an employer to deal with the incident accordingly while being compassionate to your employees. You should support them but try not to ‘call out’ political incorrectness – people make mistakes and should be provided with the opportunity to learn and grow. Instead, you should push for better personal and professional development.
You should provide regular performance reviews to ensure that employees (LGBTQ+ or not) know that they are accepted, their work is appreciated, and they fit in. Regular performance reviews are also important to quickly identify any issues in the workplace.
4. SET UP AN LGBTQ+ NETWORK
Creating a safe space for your employees to openly voice their opinions allows you to provide a greater sense of community within your business. This could look like a specific LGBTQ+ network or a more general equality, inclusion, and diversity working group. It is important that you make these spaces open to everyone. Both LGBTQ+ identities and allies should feel comfortable joining; not everyone in your company that identifies as LGBTQ+ will be ‘out’ so it is crucial that your safe spaces are clearly designed for everyone. There should be no pressure to discuss any personal details or identifiers.
These networks are a great place to speak to your LGBTQ+ staff and ask how they think you can make your company more inclusive. Though it is not their responsibility to educate the team on LGBTQ+ issues – they probably do this enough in their personal life, so make sure you are researching and finding resources to share yourself.
Related reading: How to set up an LGBTQ+ Network group.
5. RESPECT LGBTQ+ HISTORY AND EVENTS
Lastly, take the time to respect important dates for LGBTQ+ communities. You could do this by attending relevant talks, organising fundraisers, or throwing a good old-fashioned party… We LOVE Inclusive Employers’ Diversity and Inclusion Calendar – you’ll never miss a date again!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF LGBTQ+ INCLUSION IN THE WORKPLACE?
By implementing an LGBTQ+ inclusion strategy, you are promoting acceptance in the workplace – and acceptance provides all your employees with a sense of belonging.
Recently, Forbes reported that 47% of millennials actively seek out employers that promote diversity in the workplace. So, not only are you creating a better environment for your current employees, but you are also showing potential employees what to expect.
By promoting that you are an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace you will naturally attract a more diverse talent pool. Diversifying your employees is proven to have a range of benefits, such as greater retention, increased productivity, and maximised innovation and creativity.
If you are able to donate this month, we recommend supporting Stonewall. Stonewall support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and asexual people (plus) across the world. You can donate directly on their website, or buy directly from their shop where all profits fund their amazing charity work.