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How To Do Pride Month Right: Q/A with LGBTQ+ Professionals

Pride month is a great opportunity for companies to showcase their values and highlight diversity on their teams. It is also a sensitive topic, and it's not easy to get it right. Here are some useful tips from members of the LGBTQ2+ community on what they wish their employers and teammates did during pride.

HR is not the fun police. HR aims to build and support high-performing teams and supercharge successful organizations. In doing so, HR, People, and Employee Experience teams protect and advocate for a healthy, equitable, and diverse workplace.

Pride month is one of the best times to focus on LGBTQ2+ inclusion and belonging, but it can be easy to miss the mark and unintentionally ostracize your LGBTQ2+ employees. 

The first step is to get a lay of the land and look at the hard facts. This will help you understand why doing pride at work right matters.

The Challenges Facing LGBTQ+ Professionals 

In recent decades, society has made huge strides towards equality for LGBTQ2+ people. Marriage equality is increasingly recognized worldwide, and LGBTQ2+ people are represented in the media, politics, academia, and business.  

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. We need to do more to foster true equality and equity for the LGBTQ2+ community. 

There are still significant hurdles to LGBTQ2+ inclusion in the workplace. Feeling safe, respected, and valued is missing for too many LGBTQ2+ employees. 

Let’s break down the numbers:

  • According to HRC, 46% of LGBTQ2+ workers say they are closeted at work. 
  • 22% of LGBTQ Americans have not been paid equally or promoted at the same rate as their peers.
  • 31% of LGBTQ+ employees say they have felt unhappy or depressed.
  • 25% of LGBTQ employees report staying in a job due to an LGBT-inclusive workplace, and 10% have left an unaccepting workplace.
  • According to Catalyst, 51% of transgender employees in the UK hide their identity for fear of discrimination. 

Despite all the progress we’ve made elsewhere, the workplace has been the most sluggish avenue of life for LGBTQ2+ inclusion. 

Let’s find out what celebrating pride month at work means for LGBTQ2+ professionals. 

Q/A With LGBTQ2+ Professionals on Pride, Diversity, and Company Culture 

WFHomie has its take on DE&I and how to be an LGBTQ2+ friendly workplace, but we want to provide a broad range of perspectives, so we reached out to LGBTQ2+ professionals and asked for their thoughts on inclusion lived experiences and all things pride. 

Mathieu Bellemare

Mathieu Bellemare is a bilingual Senior Product Designer with an eclectic background in arts, culture, insurance, MedTech, farming, telecommunications, cannabis, and travel. He also is the Business and Digital Manager of yohomo.ca, a queer arts and nightlife community in Toronto.

What do you wish companies did differently during pride month?

There is still a lot of work to be done for an equal workplace. During pride month, I think that isn’t sometimes fully reflected since it can feel like most employees/managers just want to throw parties and celebrations without taking the time to look at how their organization could improve on the inclusivity front. For example: does your company have a gender-neutral parental leave policy, is the dress code possibly affecting gender self-expression, can an employee use their pronouns, are your hiring practices possibly causing nepotism, etc. 

 It’s truly by answering these questions and fixing these blind spots that organizations can take part in queer pride and the celebration of it. 

What do your co-workers/managers do to make you feel you can be your authentic self?

I can only speak from personal experience on this, and I have been quite lucky to be surrounded by incredibly supportive managers over the years. As I was also operating a queer nightlife business on the side of my full-time job, I had to open up about my queerness early in the interview process for most jobs.

 Co-workers and managers alike have always asked me about updates on my company and when or how they could participate in the events themselves. To me, this speaks about building a genuine interest in an employee’s passions and interests, which is how any human being should be supported at the end of the day. 

What does pride month mean to you as an LGBTQ+ professional? 

 For me, it’s all about celebrating Queer history and honouring all who have paved the way to allow us to be more open in the workplace. 

 Steph Jones

Steph is an award-winning researcher with qualitative and quantitative expertise. In the NYC public sector, they investigated and built equity-driven programs through public/private partnerships. They’ve since pivoted into VC, where you'll find them at Forum VC uplifting the voices and companies of underestimated founders. 

What do you wish companies did differently during pride month?

I wish companies simply asked their queer employees what they wanted to do for pride instead of guessing or doing something cringey. It is more meaningful to see your suggestions as a queer employee implemented.

What do your co-workers/managers do that makes you feel you can be your authentic self? Or what can they do differently?

Put their pronouns in their zoom names or emails. Asked about preferred pronouns or names in first meetings/onboardings. Recognized important dates for queer people on the team like the Trans Day of Recognition or Lesbian Visibility Week 

What does pride mean to you as an LGBTQ+ professional? 

It means being able to be my authentic self without fear or concern. It means being seen and heard as the person I truly am instead of an act to make other folks around me more comfortable. It means not being the only person in the room like me.

Joshua Adams

Joshua Adams lives in Downtown Toronto and is a senior analyst within the structured finance and capital markets space. He loves to cook, and cycle/wander throughout the city, and he makes excellent margaritas.

What do you wish companies did differently during pride month?

Acknowledging the month of pride and donating to an LGBTQ2+ charity is always a good start and an easy minimum standard to achieve. More importantly, I think companies could use this month to do a pulse check with their employees to see if they feel included and safe in the workplace. From this, they can learn, improve and effect meaningful change. And from an employee standpoint, it shows the company is taking the initiative and proactively caring about their wellbeing.

What do your co-workers/managers do that makes you feel you can be your authentic self? Or what can they do differently?

 My co-workers don’t make a big deal about me being a queer person. They’re genuinely curious and caring about my relationship with my partner. They always ask how he’s doing and what new things he’s embarking on and they’ve already RSVP’d to a wedding that does not exist yet. 

What does pride mean to you as an LGBTQ+ professional?

As an LGBTQ2+ professional, pride means the freedom to exist as an everyday person who hopes my queerness is not seen as a setback to my career. For all the progress made thus far, I feel extremely grateful to live in Canada, and I remain optimistic for a brighter future ahead.

 Maika Isogawa

Maika is the CEO of Webacy, helping users protect their digital assets from the unexpected. She’s also a Stanford alum, former professional acrobat for Cirque Du Soleil, and Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree.

What do you wish companies did differently during pride month?

I wish companies would commit to a year-long change, new program, or some longer-reaching goal during pride month. It’s easy to promote your LGBTQ+ members (that are even out in your org) and “support” them by bringing visibility throughout the month, but the impact stops there. Something like committing x amount of donations to somewhere every month over the year, or creating a new employee program or speaker series that occurs every month - just something that integrates pride into our every day, rather than restricting it to a month-only occurrence.

What do your co-workers/managers do that makes you feel you can be your authentic self? Or what can they do differently?

We have a very open and honest company culture. We expect everyone to be straightforward about their ideas, opinions, and feedback so that we can improve and iterate together as a team. That expands into things about ourselves and our personal lives. I think we can all improve our openness and acceptance of others, and for a work environment, it starts with work-related topics. If people feel safe and respected in their work, they’re likely to feel safe and respected sharing their full selves.

What does pride mean to you as an LGBTQ+ professional? 

Personally, it means my work speaks for itself. I prefer my achievements, work ethic, and other values that make me who I am are the things that people take away from knowing me. We need to normalize all the different ways people are themselves, and by disintegrating “otherness” (whether it be race, gender, etc.), we move closer to that goal.

Conclusion

Despite the challenges, there is so much hope out there. Here we have listed four amazing LGBTQ2+ professionals doing amazing things.

We can bet on a brighter, more colorful future because so many people are out and proud with supportive networks and enjoying great careers at inclusive workplaces.  

Champion your LGBTQ2+ employees not just during pride month but every month. 

Key Takeaways 

  1. Create inclusive hiring policies and publicly address the success of your DE&I policies. 
  1. Empower your employees to be open and visible with their preferred pronouns by encouraging them in Slack/Teams, Zoom, and in email signatures. Document your inclusive communication policy and apply it across your tech stack, e.g., “Hey folks or hey everyone instead of Hey guys.” 
  1. Celebrate pride in June and all year-round. Being LGBTQ2+ friendly is something to be proud of all year long or year-round. Ensure your company policies and benefits packages suit sexual and gender diversity, e.g., parental leave, spousal benefits. 
  1. Partner with and support LGBTQ2+-owned businesses or donate to LGBTQ2+ great charities as a team or a company.
  1. Include LGBTQ2+ employees in decisions about pride month and listen to their suggestions. 

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