LGBT+ individuals who are 'out' in their place of work do not hide or feel uncomfortable showing every aspect of their personality, meaning they feel confident and contribute positively to their business.
However, many LGBT+ individuals choose not to disclose their sexuality at work. There is ingrained fear and stigma behind sexual orientations that aren't heterosexual. For those who are LGBT+, it's probable they will encounter homophobic comments, exclusion from opportunities and overlooked promotions.
It's likely that individuals of the LGBT+ community have faced verbal or physical abuse in their personal lives, therefore it's important to take a stance within their workplace to make them feel secure and accepted. Yes, we live in a heteronormative society, but there are ways employers can create an inclusive environment for LGBT+ employees.
It's important for businesses to have strong leaders who create an inclusive environment for all employees regardless of sexual orientation, race and religion. These leaders also need to be continuously vocal about their inclusivity for the message to permeate throughout their business values. This isn't to say that the leaders in particular need to be LGBT+ themselves; straight allies not only support this community, but also set the precedent to allow others to follow in their views.
Any company that openly pledges its support to LGBT+ employees stands to benefit hugely compared to its competitors who do not. Not only will they empower their employees, but they'll also set a wave of industry standards. Being leaders in their industry for such standards can pave the way for a better change amongst the business world.
Businesses can help wave the rainbow flag by doing numerous acts of support. During pride month we see a whole range of companies from small, individually led firms to corporate giants, who change their company logos to honour the pride flag. They invite guest speakers along to tell their stories, discuss what impact they can have in supporting LGBT+ employees, as well creating anti-discrimination policies to alleviate derogatory acts towards LGBT+ individuals in the workplace.
Small changes businesses can start making are, for example, changing toilets to be gender neutral or not having gender signs on the doors. This shows that gender and gender identity are not an issue. Larger, more long-term steps are more filtered around office 'banter'. There is a fine line between what may be taken as a joke, to persistent, unwelcomed comments that need to be taken as official complaints. Clear messages from business leaders about the importance of diversity within the workplace can help eliminate such 'jokes' as to who or what can be made fun of.
However, support isn’t needed just during Pride month. It's important that businesses pledge their alliance to supporting their LGBT+ employees and colleagues all year round. These solutions can be simple and easy to implement and yet, have extremely positive outcomes. With responsible leadership, education and open minds, these changes can happen.
There are endless opportunities for businesses out there to promote diversity and inclusivity, but like any major societal advancement, such changes won't happen overnight. By showing that your business is serious about diversity and supports the LGBT+ community, you're offering a safe space for them to be themselves. Businesses that take a progressive stance are likely to have more productive and happier workers who aren't afraid, or ashamed, about who they are.
It's important we all show acceptance, compassion and support to those we surround ourselves with; the change starts within our own circles.