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Eight Ways To Be An LGBT+ Ally At Work

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Authored by EQ’s Head of Communications, Laura Beckett

EQ’s theme for Pride this month is allyship, exploring how each of us can be an ally through everyday actions.

Want to be an ally, but don’t know where to start? An ally takes on the struggle of an underrepresented group as their own, which might sound daunting, but a few everyday actions can actually make all the difference. We did some research and caught up with EQ’s LGBT+ colleague network, resulting in these eight ways we can all stand with LGBT+ colleagues in the workplace.

Pride Article

1. Amp it up

Being heard is crucial and those with a voice can amplify the views of others. If a colleague who identifies as LGBT+ isn’t getting the recognition they deserve, repeat their great idea and give them credit, direct questions to them or invite/encourage them to speak at company meetings.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

I had a manager who would often defer questions to me as the technical expert and champion my achievements to the team. When you try to role model what is acceptable, people around you do tend to pick up on that. Making sure that everyone in the team is aware of what will be accepted is important too.

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2. Be inclusive (beware stereotypes!)

It’s easy to fall foul of stereotypes and assume someone wouldn’t be interested in a certain activity. Try to question that thinking - you won’t know unless you invite them and there’s nothing worse than feeling left out. If doors are already open to you, use this to open doors for others and bring them into your formal and informal networks.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

When you include someone in an area they’re not usually connected with, that’s valuable. In EQ’s recent International Women’s Day webinar, lots of male colleagues joined which felt powerful and provoked a fascinating conversation.

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3. Call it out

Calling something you don’t like ‘gay’ might have been the ‘done thing’ back at school in the eighties, but now we all know better and it’s downright offensive. If you hear someone using homophobic or derogatory language, politely challenge them before it grows into a bigger issue.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

There needs to be a distinction between when something is intentionally offensive and not. On the flip side it can be intimidating to talk on these subjects and the fear of getting it wrong can be paralysing. By removing those barriers, we could be a bit more open and invite a more questioning culture where people aren’t afraid to get things wrong. Especially as terminology develops and changes so quickly.

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4. Get educated

The LGBT+ community is a diverse one. You can deepen your allyship by increasing your knowledge. An LGBT+ person shouldn’t really have to explain what any of the letters stand for – that’s down to each of us to find out for ourselves. Stonewall, the LGBT Foundation and GLAAD (US) all have some excellent resources.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

Focusing on the word queer, some find it offensive but then many people in the community have now reclaimed it as their own, so it can be hard to know where to stand. This where doing your own research comes in handy. Talent acquisition at EQ is doing a lot of research and work around education and unconscious bias, which has led to us signing up to several diversity specific job boards - a very exciting prospect.

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5. Lend an ear

Simply being listened to and believed is an incredibly validating experience. An ally can provide this safe space which allows someone to express themself, their experience and their needs.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

Our network’s Equaliti forum was created for this very reason. It’s all about listening and being a safe space for people to raise any issues they are experiencing without judgement. From a personal perspective, I’ve always found that the network embraces the whole of each person without any pressure to share what you’re not comfortable with, and felt affirmed, respected and included.

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6. Don’t out others

Just because someone has come out to you, it doesn’t mean they’ve come out to others. Never disclose someone’s sexual preference or identity without their permission, let them do it on their own terms.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

Being ‘out’ is an individual choice and may not be a binary decision. Some may be comfortable being out at work, others may prefer to keep their sexuality and identity a matter for private life. We must support and respect that choice and remain conscious that just because someone may be out to ‘me’, they may not be to others. Connected with this, a key focus of this network is to ensure the workplace is somewhere where it is normalised and feels safe for each colleague to be out. Finally, don’t always assume it’s a big secret, as to some it really isn’t a big deal at all. If unsure, just ask!

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7. Don’t assume

When you make a new connection, you can help them reveal themselves in their own way by using gender neutral language. That might be asking if they have a partner rather than boyfriend / girlfriend, or saying parent instead of mum / dad. Business Insider’s article on 12 things not to say to your LGBT co-workers gives further food for thought.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

It’s great to put forth the effort but still accept we’re not all going to get it right every time – it’s muscle memory. Give yourself permission to get it wrong. It’s not a bad thing to ask if you’re not sure.

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8. Stand up

Put your allyship into action by attending a Pride parade, joining a colleague diversity network or fundraising for an aligned cause. In work this might also mean raising LGBT+ topics in a forum or supporting others who do this. Visible support for the community is incredibly important.

EQ’s LGBT+ network members say:

Even starting a conversation can be a powerful form of action. I put pronouns in my email signature and a colleague didn’t understand why and raised this with me. We ended up having a really good conversation about it and by the end they really got it. It felt healthy and valuable to have had the discussion.