How to be an LGBTQ+ ally in the workplace for employees

How to be an LGBTQ+ ally in the workplace for employees

By Flossie Palmer

Diversity is with us everywhere we go – from the faces we pass on the street to our very own identities. It is then only natural that diversity should be an integral part of the workforce.

By ensuring that workplaces across all sectors are inclusive and represent the diversity of the UK itself, we are making space for new perspectives and fresh ideas to be welcomed from previously unheard voices, as well as cultivating greater consideration for them. It is vital that we pave the way for implementing greater equality for all in the workplace to set a precedent for the future working world.

For this reason, Purplefish teamed up with The Diversity Trust, a community interest company (CIC) based in Somerset, to embed ensure equality measures into our work culture. The course offered a safe learning environment that allowed time for open discussion and self-reflection around the topics of equality, diversity and inclusion. However, progress should never stop on the path to achieving equality in the workplace, even after training.

Bristol Pride celebrated earlier this year, creates dedicated time and space for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate their identities and serves as a colourful reminder of our personal duty to uplift the LGBTQ+ community. However, the change and awareness must last longer than Pride Month itself.


So what is an ally, and why is becoming one important?

An ally is a heterosexual, cisgender person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality and LGBTQ+ social movements in order to challenge the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community. However, it is simply not enough to passively support the LGBTQ+ community – active allyship is more important than ever.

There is still progress to be made to secure the everyday workspace as a safe, inclusive space for LGBTQ+ employees. According to research conducted by CIPD in 2020, 40% of LGBTQ+ employees and 55% of transgender employees have experienced conflict in the workplace relating to their sexual orientation and gender identity. When compared with the 29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees that have experienced personal conflict in the workplace, these statistics reveal a stark inequality in the treatment of employees from LGBTQ+ backgrounds. It is time for this to change.

Allyship in the workplace is vital for ensuring equal work opportunities for all, as well as a space in which all employees feel comfortable to express themselves. Unsurprisingly, happiness boosts productivity and morale, meaning workplace inclusion is mutually beneficial both for business and most importantly, for employees.

So, how can you become an ally for both your LGBTQ+ colleagues and the community?

Language and Terminology

The Purplefish team began their training with The Diversity Trust by familiarising themselves with the correct terminology to use when speaking to those from LGBTQ+ backgrounds to show respect for the person’s identity and sexuality. This can be as simple as using someone’s correct gender pronouns – pronouns should not assumed and are not the same for everyone! In fact, Stonewall found that 15% of transgender employees are still not addressed with their correct gender pronouns and name at work.

When in doubt, asking what someone’s preferred pronouns are is the best way forward, as well as a basic sign of respect. If you make a mistake, apologising and being reminded of someone’s pronouns will set you back on the right path. Just remember, it is always better to be corrected than to not know at all!

Self-Reflect & Stand Up!

Holding yourself accountable is essential to becoming an ally. Recognise the gaps in your knowledge and fill them by educating yourself on LGBTQ+ history, the progress made in fighting for equal rights and any current events or campaigns you can get involved in. Although Pride is intended for the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate who they are, allies are also welcomed to support and uplift them.

As an ally, you are supporting from a place of privilege; you are not a victim of the same discrimination. Ultimately, your voice is more likely to be heard than those of your LGBTQ+ colleagues, so recognise your privilege and use your platform to speak up for those who are unable to.

Understanding Intersectionality

To greater understand individual LGBTQ+ experiences, acknowledging intersectionality is a must! The discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ people can encompass other individual characteristics beyond just gender identity and sexuality, such as disabilities, race, religion, age and class.

This often means that LGBTQ+ people will experience ‘dual discrimination’. For example, one in ten BAME LGBTQ+ staff have been physically attacked in the workplace because of their sexual orientation compared to 3% of white LGBTQ+ staff. Understanding the implications of intersectionality is essential in helping us identify who is most vulnerable in the workplace and adopt appropriate measures to ensure their safety.

Equality in the PR Industry

As part of the Communications sector, it is essential that industries such as Public Relations employ diverse staff and help amplify diverse voices in the work that they do. As, Lisa Manley, the senior director of sustainability engagement and partnerships for Mars said, celebrating diversity and the LGBTQ+ community has ‘been driven, to some degree, through powerful communications.’ PR’s ability to help the unheard be heard should therefore go hand in hand with LGBTQ+ allyship.

And although America’s top PR experts have given the industry grades B+ to C for its attitude and work towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, there is still so much progress to be made to reach the A* bracket. By adopting the pointers outlined above into your everyday work routine, we are one step closer to achieving a more inclusive and equal working environment for the LGBTQ+ to feel welcome in.