A little respect

1st March 2019

Stepping stones credit getty

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Society


Daniel Bound

Joanne Lockwood sets out the steps organisations can take in order to be more inclusive for LGBTQ+ employees

Is your business LGBTQ+ inclusive? If not, why not?

When I say 'LGBTQ+ inclusive', I don't mean sponsoring a Pride float or hanging a few rainbow flags. LGBTQ+ inclusivity is an ethos that runs through a business, letting employees know they are valued for who they are.

I work with many organisations whose diversity and inclusion goal is to be in the Stonewall Top 100 or head up their sector on the Workplace Equality Index (WEI). To me, though, LGBTQ+ inclusivity is about the journey. Accolades are great for your branding, but often it's about the privileged few patting each other on the back at awards dinners. Let's get back to the journey; here's what your organisation can do right now to be more inclusive.

Create your 'why'

Treating people with respect doesn't always have a financial return, but it pays in other ways. Happy employees are loyal; inclusion creates a sense of belonging, and this drives commitment. We have heard the expression 'bring your whole self to work' – we want employees to be open about who they are, not hide behind a fake persona. This is something shareholders and company boards are starting to realise.

Create your vision

Make sure everyone is focused on the same objectives, embedding KPIs and targets from top to bottom. Don't forget about intersectionality: the way different systems of power (gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, class, and so on) overlap and affect people in different ways. Diversity and inclusion are all about respecting someone's characteristics holistically, and remembering who holds the privilege. In the West, privileged people are generally cisgender (not transgender), straight, white and male.

Create a culture of respect

When we try to group people, we inevitably oversimplify. Not all heterosexual people are the same – so why do we focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion strategies as if one size fits all? LGBTQ+ people are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, northern, southern, black, white, Asian, single, married, young, old, disabled, non-disabled, pregnant, not pregnant... and we haven't even mentioned wealth, education, hobbies and so on. Each person has their own identity. We don't always need to understand exactly what this means – we just need to respect that it is important to them.

Understand that language evolves

Language is important to everyone. 'Queer' was once a slur, but has now been reclaimed by many LGBTQ+ individuals ('I'm queer, get over it!'). On the other hand, words such as 'transsexual', 'transvestite' or 'T-girl', while still used in some circles, now send shivers down many spines.

For trans individuals, language is very important and conveys respect. They may have an 'old' name, from before they transitioned, but that is not your business. Respect their pronouns. If you are confused because the way someone looks doesn't match your idea of what a man or woman looks like, ask how they prefer to be addressed – don't assume. And let's leave language such as 'sir', 'madam' and 'ladies and gentlemen' in the past – it excludes those who identify as non-binary.

Be an ally and advocate

Ensure you have the knowledge and ability to stand up and support someone. Develop ally programmes, and make this part of your learning and development plans – don't just hand out rainbow lanyards. Allyship lets LGBTQ+ people know that if there is any unpleasant 'office banter', someone will speak up on their behalf to stamp out bullying. Organisations need allies at all levels, especially at board and senior leadership.

A great ally is someone who does this without needing to be recognised – it is not about badge collecting. A great ally takes time to educate themself and doesn't treat people as encyclopaedias that they can flick through when they feel the need.

Listen to LGBTQ+ people; respect their identities; learn and educate yourself; and act as an advocate, stand up for people when they are unable to.

Joanne Lockwood FRSA is founder and CEO of SEE Change Happen, which specialises in providing transgender awareness and support to organisations.

Image credit: Getty Images


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

SBTi clarifies that ‘no change has been made’ to its stance on offsetting

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Alex Veitch from the British Chambers of Commerce and IEMA’s Ben Goodwin discuss with Chris Seekings how to unlock the potential of UK businesses

4th April 2024

Read more

Regulatory gaps between the EU and UK are beginning to appear, warns Neil Howe in this edition’s environmental legislation round-up

4th April 2024

Read more

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

Senior consultant, EcoAct

3rd April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close