Happy Pride! Lgbt Employees At Work

by: Annemarie Shrouder

Do you know when Pride Week is? And why is this important to your business?

The third week of June is Pride week for Toronto’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) community. Pride parades began around the world in June 1970 to commemorate the Stonewall Riot that broke out on June 28, 1969 when New York Police Officers raided a gay bar in Greenwich Village. This event mobilized the gay community not only in New York, but worldwide. Since that time, yearly Pride marches are held in various countries and cities in June (and other summer months) in honour of that first uprising, and to fight and mobilize for Gay Rights. What began as resistance, has in many cities become an affirmation and a celebration as Gay Rights and Recognition improve.

In general, we are more likely to assume that the people around us are straight. We talk, ask questions, extend invitations, create policies, and even tell jokes as if this is true. These assumptions create work environments that exclude and are unsafe for LGBT employees and clients. Just because no one is “out” on your staff, doesn’t mean everyone is straight.  Coming out is a lifelong process, and is negotiated by how safe someone feels in any given environment.

In an inclusive work environment the diverse identities, perspectives, and experiences of all of your employees are a valuable part of your company’s success. Organizations that are committed to diversity and inclusion do so in policy and practice, consistently and over time. With reference to LGBT employees and customers, this can include:

-         Zero tolerance for homophobic behaviour, comments, and jokes

-         Using inclusive language for social events

-         Acknowledging Pride celebrations

-         Including same-sex partners in benefit plans

-         Including homophobia/heterosexism awareness in diversity training/professional development

-         Including sexual orientation in company diversity, anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies

As we approach the 39th year Gay Pride is celebrated around the world (and the 26th annual Pride celebration in Toronto), check your environment. How safe and welcoming is it for LGBT employees or customers – current or prospective?  What steps can you make to create an inclusive workplace? When you do, you’ll be amazed at the ideas & perspectives employees that feel valued can offer, and the opportunities and markets that can open up for your business as a result.

Annemarie Shrouder
President & Founder of Building Equitable Environments

At Building Equitable Environments (BEE), we work with you to develop an inclusive vision for your organization. Then, our team of dedicated consultants supports the development of that vision with diversity & anti-oppression training, workshops & coaching, policy & strategy development, and other key components to create a vibrant environment where diversity works and is an integral part of your organization’s success.