June, the month of Pride.
Vibrant colors decorate logos, marketing campaigns, and advertisements; the rainbow marking solidarity and support of the LBGT+ community. It is beautiful, it is emotional, it is temporary.
Celebratory months like Pride, Black History, Mental Health Awareness, Women’s History, etc. are a perfect catalyst to spark interest, focus, and intentional inclusion. But, to be truly impactful in our efforts to engage, include, and celebrate, we must go well beyond the month. Months of celebration must be a launch point for systemic change, not a marketing frenzy that fades into the next focus as we turn the page on our Star Wars calendars (or whatever calendar you use).
To make sure that when the month is over, inclusion remains, make changes that last.
Provide an accessible guide to LBGTQIA+
LBGT+, LBGTQ+, LBGTI+, LBGTQIA+, LBGTTQQIAAP, and sometimes P, H, U, G, 2… there are a lot of letters that stand for a lot of terms and the terms themselves can be fluid.
Before jumping into inclusion, it helps to understand those you are deliberately working to include. Have an easily accessible guide to terms and terminology to help orient the workforce to the terminology. Keep it simple, professional, and factual. Different countries commonly use different acronyms and terminology so be sure the content reflects your workforce geography and race/ethnicity.
There are many guides out there, just google the terms and a bunch will flood into the screen. Read them before selecting one to use or as a guide for your own materials. Make sure the language and content are aligned with your organization’s culture and style before sharing it.
Schedule a periotic refresh to ensure the terminology and acronyms remain up to date. Pride month is a perfect time for this effort.
Neutralize gendered language around self and family structures
Review employee (and customer-facing) content for gender specific language and neutralize it as much as possible. In other words, look for pronouns and gendered language and remove as much of it as you can.
This has two major values: gender equity and LGBT+ inclusion.
So, dust off those rarely reviewed policies and procedures, benefits, training content, web copy, and search for those pronouns and gendered language.
Look for opportunities such as:
Removing gender assignments for specific roles such as a policy that uses ‘he’ for manager.
Shifting to neutralized relationship language such as ‘significant other’, ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’.
Neutralizing language and imagery that implies or reinforces gender-roles such as promoting a perk for shopping discounts with only women in the imagery.
Replacing analogies and descriptions built around gender-roles such as describing a sales team as needlessly aggressive and combative.
Expand benefits and benefit communication to increase LBGT+ coverage
Benefits are a great way to show that your organization truly values the employees. So, benefits that favor one group over another, such as benefits that favor heterosexual couples over homosexual couples, is sending a loud, exclusive message. And even those that do work with providers that offer an inclusive suite of benefits, many organizations still promote a narrow view of those benefits.
Review both the benefits package and how you are conveying those benefits to your employees. Look for opportunities to expand inclusive coverage including:
Switching from maternity leave to ‘parental leave’ with gender-equal policies for time off.
Expanding family perks and benefits to include a wider definition of ‘spouse’ to cover geographies where same-sex marriage is not yet permitted.
Including medical coverage for transgender people including reassignment, hormone therapy, and other related medical needs.
Offering safe, confidential mental health benefits for all employees.
Providing non-gendered bathroom options onsite.
Revamp corporate rules and policies for LBGT+ inclusion
From how we dress to how we travel, many organizations govern employees through rules and policies. And in these policies may lurk problems for LBGT+ and everyone else for that matter.
Review the governing policies for opportunities to increase inclusion and when you find opportunities for improvement, take them. Here are a few common examples:
Neutralizing dress codes. Don’t assign gender to any rules around clothing or accessories. Either anyone can wear it, or no one should wear it. That includes dresses, skirts, pants, ties, makeup, etc. That also includes any rules around absence of clothing (i.e. if men can go shirtless…).
Removing roommate requirements. For organizations that require hotel ‘roommates’ to save costs on travel, get rid of it. The idea that restricting roommates to same-sex to avoid any privacy challenges is long outdated and could leave employees in uncomfortable situations with each other and/or their partners.
Expanding sick leave policies. For organizations that allow employees to use sick leave to take care of others (such as children, dependents, parents, etc.), include generic language such as ‘loved ones’ to ensure maximum inclusion of the needs of your employees.
Bringing it all together – celebrate the month with lasting change
Awareness months are a fantastic way to jumpstart or reinvigorate an inclusion effort for a specific group. But the efforts must stretch far beyond the month. To truly celebrate your workforce in all its glorious colors, enact lasting change. Language, imagery, benefits, policy, understanding. If we are inclusive in everything we do, we will no longer have to change our logos to demonstrate solidarity and inclusion because our logos will already be synonymous with inclusion.