EDITOR’S NOTE: South King Media Founder/Publisher Scott Schaefer serves on the Board of Directors for the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.
By David Inman
If you’re reading this article then you are already taking a step in the right direction. You’re wondering about whether or not your business could be more inclusive…or if it’s as inclusive as you think it is. Or you’re a fellow member of the LGBTQ community and you’re wondering how to articulate best practices to your employer. In either case I am SO thrilled that you’re here and am excited to dive in together!
First, backstory – my name is David and I came out of the closet when I was 19. Hi, nice to meet you. Since coming out I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to business and inclusivity. Everything from amazing support to comments like “why do we need to say we’re inclusive, everyone knows we are” to straight up (no pun intended) being told that “homos are ruining this country.”
The point of the matter is that the LGBTQIA community is unsafe in wide swathes of the country, which makes the necessity to openly and clearly state support all the more vital. Lucky for you I’ve put together 5 tips on how to show that support 24/7, 365:
- Update your non-discrimination policies: This is a big one. Be absolutely clear in your company policies that it’s prohibited to discriminate on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. You want to show that you have zero tolerance for harassment. You can also use your company policies to outline restroom access and gender neutral dress codes. Never presume that your stated company culture is the same as your official company policy.
- Get feedback from LGBTQIA employees: Ask your queer workforce what they need in order to feel heard and represented. The trick is to gain insight without necessarily requiring employees to out themselves if they aren’t already. Everyone’s journey is different, and a good way to get feedback is through anonymous surveys.
- Be a model of inclusion: Be a model of inclusion to both your team and to your customers. Educate yourself on how to use the right pronouns and what is or is not appropriate to ask of your queer employees and customers. Are your employees comfortable bringing their partners to work functions or having photos of them? Are your customers comfortable expressing their gender identity or same sex partner in your business? Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.
- Show solidarity year around: Believe it or not gay people aren’t just gay in June. We need your support year around and are incredibly aware of brands and businesses that put on lip service and then disappear for 11 months. Be present and be a leader of inclusivity.
- Outward displays of acceptance: To sum it all up, a rainbow flag or “love equals love” sign can go a long way. The moment I see a pride flag in a window, be it big or small, I instantly feel more comfortable going into that business. At the bare minimum they’re telling me that my humanity matters/are recognizing that discrimination exists. Show, don’t tell.
While these five steps are a fantastic way to be more inclusive, the real work comes incrementally everyday. Read up on issues impacting the LGBTQ minority and always speak out against bigotry when you see it, within or without the workplace. I want to thank you for being an ally. You and your business are vital to keeping Washington a diverse, compassionate place and you are seen by the LGBTQIA community.
To contact David Inman, email him at [email protected] or call (206) 395-8898.