DePaul University Career Center's Blog

Be An Ally to LBGTQ+ Workers: 7 Action Items for Advocacy and Education

Showing support for the LGBTQ+ workforce is more important than ever, as more of the U.S. population identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and at a time of increased violence against transgender people and prolific queer discrimination (with nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ+ bills filed in 2022 alone). Employers have a responsibility to foster inclusive environments and fight unconscious bias in the workplace.

If you are an employee, read the article here for resources on queer discrimination in the workplace and finding your safe workplace. 

The tools linked below are a stepping stone to co-creating a world that celebrates diversity in all its forms:

Learn Your Vocab

Being an ally means committing to continued education. This glossary was compiled by the HRC to help give people the words and meanings to help make conversations easier and more comfortable. LGBTQ+ people use a variety of terms to identify themselves, not all of which are included. Always listen for and respect a person’s self-identified terminology.

Shift Your Language

Language is an important tool to connect, communicate, and convey meaning. In addition to learning LGBTQ+ vocabulary, the use of inclusive language is a way to build a work culture that demonstrates to LGBTQ+ people that they are accepted. This handout was created by the SafeZone project to educate individuals on easy ways to shift everyday language to be LGBTQ+ inclusive. 

Check Your Biases

Biases can be either conscious or unconscious and can motivate people to act favorably or unfavorably towards groups of people:

Explicit bias (or conscious bias) refers to when a person is aware of holding stereotypes about social groups. 

Implicit bias (or hidden bias or unconscious bias) refers to when a person is not aware of holding explicit stereotypes of social groups.

Everyone has implicit biases. People have to learn about their implicit biases and work to combat them. 53% of LBGTQ+ workers report hearing a joke about lesbian or gay people. 1 out of 4 LBGTQ+ employers report that “coworkers who they are out to seem uncomfortable once they say something related to their sexual orientation or gender identity (e.g. mentioning a partner, spouse, etc).”

Identifying your biases can be done through assessments such as Harvard’s Project Implicit survey. Education is also a valuable tool to combat bias. This resource includes short videos on subjects such as Using and Respecting Pronouns, Gender Inclusive Pronouns, Transgender Sensitivity 10, and Queer & Trans People of Color.

Acknowledge workers of all backgrounds during the application process

“Studies have shown that women, trans, non-binary folks, and BIPOC are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they meet every single one of the qualifications as described in the job description. We are committed to building a diverse and inclusive organization, and are most interested in finding the best candidate for the job. That candidate may be one who comes from a background less traditional to our field of work. We strongly encourage you to apply, even if you don’t meet every one of the qualifications described.” (source: Tiffanydloftin IG) 

Embrace Pronoun Sharing 

During the job interview, open by sharing your name and pronouns: “Thank you for introducing yourself! Can I ask what your pronouns are? Mine are (insert pronouns here).”

Be mindful of your own pronouns and help other people be mindful by normalizing displays of pronouns. Here are some ways to make pronouns visible to others: 

  • List pronouns in email signature, Zoom name, and on the title page of presentations.
  • Wear a pronoun pin at work.
  • Include pronouns in introductions.

Combat Misgendering

Misgendering will happen. What’s most important is how you handle it when it does. When people are misgendered, they feel invalidated and unseen. When this happens daily, it becomes a burden that can negatively impact their mental health and their ability to function in the world. If one of your employees is being misgendered, here’s a script you can use to correct them and advocate for your employee:

  • “I noticed you used ‘she’ to refer to that person. Just to let you know, they use they/them pronouns.”
  •  Or write a note in a Zoom chat or in an email, “Just a friendly reminder that this person uses they/them pronouns.”

The best way to handle misgendering someone who is present is to apologize and try harder next time (“I’m sorry, I meant [correct name/pronoun/honorific]”). Keep your apology brief so that it doesn’t become about you and your mistake. Additionally, Guide to Allyship is a resource that details “How to Apologize” in instances, like misgendering, when a mistake is  made and you want to apologize. Consider reflecting on this resource to guide you when making an apology.

If you are corrected by someone else, try not to be defensive. Instead, simply respond with a thank you and a correction (“Oh, thank you — I’ll email [correct name/pronoun] about that”). This is an important step, even if the misgendered person is not present, so you can practice and so others can learn from your example. Any time you misgender someone, practice so you can do better next time.

Advocate for more

49% of LBGTQ+ professionals will not work at a company that does not have LBGTQ+ friendly benefits such as an inclusive family leave policy, mental health benefits, and coverage of trans-inclusive treatments and procedures.

For employers specifically, the Human Rights Council has published a guide to supporting employees as many states continue to roll out discriminatory legislation. This resource is intended to “jumpstart conversations, motivate companies to understand and wield the great power that they hold, and provide best practices for supporting employees through this difficult time.”

Safe, affirming workplaces are important for LGBTQ+ people and their families, and a lack of belonging at work has real consequences. 1 in 5 employees have searched for a different job as a consequence of an unwelcoming professional environment. 20% of LGBTQ+ workers felt that they were passed over for job opportunities because of their identity. 

Employers as the beneficiaries of employee labor have a responsibility to compensate workers fairly. The appreciation of a worker’s time and skills can and should be expressed through equitable compensation and holistic benefits that support the well-being of LGBTQ+ employees and their families. 

This blog post is a part of Here We Include, an organized campaign to bring together faculty, staff, and on-campus partners to celebrate and uplift marginalized voices on DePaul’s campus. To learn more about the various programs and events, check out the Career Center instagram @depaulcareerctr

Thank you to the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center for collaborating on this important resource! For more information, check out their website and follow their instagram at @lgbtdepaul

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