Stepping into Pride Month can evoke a spectrum of emotions. It’s a time to recognise LGBTQ+ people, to celebrate, share and feel supported, and stand in solidarity.
However, it wouldn’t be right to do this without also taking the time to acknowledge the ongoing discrimination the community has felt and continues to feel.
We all have busy work schedules, and it can often feel challenging to navigate allyship and give the LGBTQ+ community the support it needs. What we don’t tend to focus on, is how we can effectively show up as an ally by building this support into small parts of our everyday lives, starting with our workplace.
The average person in the UK spends around 20% of their life working. That figure rises when we consider our commute, or how long it takes us to switch off after each day. To spend such a large portion of life working, we must do so comfortably and safely.
I’m privileged to work for an organisation that allows me space to get to know my own identity better. I am transgender, a statement some would be reluctant to share in the workplace. Instead, I am comfortable being me. I sit on an employee resource group for LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies and feel heard. I work amongst colleagues that empower me and feel empowered to learn more each day.
Tips on becoming a better ally in the workplace
We define allyship as active support for the rights of a marginalised group. When applying this to the workplace, there are three key tips I share with aspiring allies to embrace effective allyship
1. Do your research, and don’t be afraid of slipping up
Equip yourself with the knowledge and information you need to be more inclusive. This is not linear and to measure whether you have done ‘enough’ is subjective. Whether you listen to a podcast during your commute, read a book written by an LGBTQ+ author, or suggest training for your organisation, anything goes. By taking the time to consume and share our media with colleagues, you can spark collective change.
Nobody expects you to be perfect right away. Mistakes form a crucial part of learning, and being accountable and open to criticism is just as important.
2. Don’t rely on your LGBTQ+ colleagues to do the groundwork
Take the initiative with your learning journey. LGBTQ+ people are often asked uncomfortable questions about their lives. We recognise your desire to learn more but ask that you too respect there is a level of emotional labour attached to these questions. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel you would learn better from a colleague, wait for them to invite the conversation in a safe space, and allow them time to reflect and prepare.
3. Show your support – all year round
Pride Month draws attention and validation to LGBTQ+ experiences, but our work shouldn’t be limited only to a calendar moment. There are ways we can be effective allies every day. Empower your employees to form community groups or ERGs, encourage pronoun visibility or gender-neutral greetings, or support initiatives that empower the LGBTQ+ community. Even connecting with your LGBTQ+ colleagues over lunch or a check-in can show the compassionate behaviour that creates support structures.
Finally, if I could encourage you to do one thing this month and going forward, it would be to celebrate us. Celebration is key to Pride Month and the community. By helping to create a workplace environment that is inclusive of all our differences, we accommodate everyone and give them the necessary support they need.
One way we embed this at MHFA England is by embracing My Whole Self – our workplace culture change campaign, which brings together diversity and inclusion with health and wellbeing. No one should feel they have to leave aspects of themselves at the door when they come to work. Encouraging people to bring their whole selves to the workplace all year round and not just during Pride, whether that be their gender,
background, religion or sexuality, is key to help influence positive change and drive performance. You can find a suite of free resources to help empower everyone to feel comfortable to bring their whole selves to work, every day, on our website.
At a time when LGBTQ+ inequality and discrimination is more prominent than ever, we need allies to not only hear us, but to use their voices too. If we back up raising the Pride flag with action, we act as one for equity and inclusion. Effective allyship means active allyship. Right now, we need just that.
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