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8 Ways to a Build an LGBTQ+ Inclusive Culture

Aron Macarow headshot
Aron Macarow • Director of Engineering

Percent Pledge team members Aron Macarow and Prince Morrison — both part of the LGBTQ+ community — put their heads together to share a few tips for creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture at your company.

Building an inclusive culture

LGBTQ+ days and months of significance (i.e. Pride Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, National Coming Out Day, and many more) are great ways to kick off or invigorate your company’s activism for queer, trans, and gender non-binary people. They can become the architect of a continuous path that helps your organization to celebrate, connect with, advocate for, and empower your LGBTQ+ employees throughout the year! 

So, how do you create this inclusive culture year-round? 

Do more than “rainbow-washing.”

More and more companies are taking strides toward supporting queer, trans, and gender non-binary individuals during these days and months of significance. But are your business’ efforts truly impactful or are they only skin deep?

Allyship is an important part of building an inclusive workplace. But for allyship to be effective, education and transparency need to be at its core.  

For example, updating the company logo to reflect Pride Month solidarity is great! But it’s even more impactful and genuine to share why that change was made with your employees and consumers. What does Pride mean to your company? Why is the rainbow flag and its history important, and why is your workplace choosing to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community by transforming your brand for the month of June? Instead of just turning your brand rainbow for the month of June, consider using Pride Month as an opportunity to advocate and educate, too. 

Create authentic connections. 

It’s critical to educate, but it takes authentic connections to create lasting change. According to GLAAD, a leading LGBTQ+ advocacy nonprofit, and their President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, sharing lived experiences is vital to advancing equality for queer, trans, and gender non-binary individuals.   

Closing the gap to full acceptance of LGBT people will not come from legislation or judicial decisions alone, but from a deeper understanding and empathy from Americans themselves. Accelerating acceptance will require the help of not just LGBT people, but also their allies – everyday Americans who feel strongly and take an active role to make sure that their LGBT friends and family are fully accepted members of society.

In other words, learning new things is important, but lasting change requires that people feel new things as well. 

If your workplace has an LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG), this is a great time to center their voices and ask your own internal stakeholders – your employees! – what they’re passionate about and how your business can help make a difference. Using your platform to educate is great; using your platform to elevate voices from within the community, rather than focusing attention on allies, is even better. 

Make it easy and safe for all employees to list their pronouns. 

It's free. It's quick. And it's impactful. This action is something that is super easy and can be done today.

Employees should feel safe and supported at work, but when the members of the LGBTQ+ community in the company are the only people to list their pronouns, it’s an involuntary and pressured way of coming out. By strongly encouraging employees to have pronouns listed and respected (in company signatures, Zoom headlines, Slack, etc.), there is no need for employees to come out unwillingly, and there is no room for misidentification. 

Making it mandatory for senior leadership goes even further to set the tone that sharing pronouns is not only okay but an expected and supported part of company culture. 

Ensure that your company benefits meet all employees’ needs. 

Do your employer offered benefits meet all of your employees’ needs, including your LGBTQ+ employees? What about your company policies?

Rather than focusing on external communication, consider focusing on internal support for queer, trans, and gender non-binary employees — and potential hires that may be evaluating your business based on how inclusive your benefits are. Some areas to look at include:

  • Domestic partner benefits: Do you allow employees to include a same-sex partner in their health coverage? Does your parental leave also meet the needs of queer couples? What about fertility benefits? 
  • Transgender-inclusive benefits: Does your health plan cover gender-affirming care? How easy or difficult is it for an employee to transition on the job? Is that path to access these benefits clear of hurdles and red tape? 
  • Inclusive policies: Does your company include sexual orientation overtly in your nondiscrimination policy, and is that well-distributed within your organization? What about gender identity? 

In 2020, only 62% of Fortune 500-ranked businesses offered transgender-inclusive health benefits. That’s simply not enough. It also means your company has an opportunity to send a powerful signal of support, which also can have a positive impact when looking to hire and retain top talent.  

Ask for help.

Unless you are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, there will always be space to learn. And learning starts with getting more information via an initial conversation with the community. 

For example, there was a broken-down car on the side of the road. Someone was driving by and saw the car and said, "Oh no, I have to help them!" So they rushed to the closest gas station and got a canister of gas. When they drove back to the person with the broken down car, they handed the canister to the person and said, "Here, this should help fix the problem." The person replied, “Thank you, but gas isn't the problem. My tire is the problem.”

The moral of the story? You don't know what you don't know. It’s important to want to help, but ask employees what they need to ensure the solution is effective.

A great way to do this is to add C-suite executives to ERGs, starting with your LGBTQ+ group. If a member of your C-suite identifies as queer, trans, and/or gender non-binary, great! And if not, that’s okay, too. Having each executive join an ERG group with which they don't directly identify is how leadership learns to advocate for all employees effectively and can be a big step toward building equality in your workplace. 

Pay your ERG leaders.

ERG leaders are constantly tapped on for results, next steps, and ideas. This turns into inequity and a one-sided relationship, tiring them and integrating a disincentive in the system. 

By paying these leaders, your company shows its advocacy and incentivizes this extra to-do item. It is also a clear way to show that your workplace values making your company more equitable — identifying it as real and important work that helps determine the company’s success as a whole.

Put your money where your values are.

Every year, companies are caught in the media for celebrating Pride in their social media accounts or product offerings while also donating to anti-equality political campaigns or working with vendors with known discriminatory practices. 

Take this Pride Month as an opportunity to audit who your company supports with its dollars and other resources. Are they individuals and vendors that share your commitment to building an inclusive culture? Do they represent your corporate values — or do they send a message that is counter to your goals? 

Ask employees about social impact.

Social impact is on the minds of employees (and your community in general). And social impact gives companies the opportunity to show their dedication to LGBTQ+ activism through their actions, rather than words and "rainbow washing."

To begin, we suggest understanding what your employees care about most (here are 5 questions you can start with). This will help create an inclusive culture and bring a culture of giving centered around your company's values. If you want to learn more about how Percent Pledge works with companies every day to build and maintain an inclusive, equitable culture through social impact, request a demo here.

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