The next generation of LGBTQ+ professionals are defining their own career paths and seeking to work with employers capable of creating meaningfully diverse and inclusive spaces.
We’re excited to be able to share this discussion with you today. See below for the full recording of Rising LGBTQ+ Leaders and a recap of best practices that you will want to bring back to your team.
DEI Perspectives from Rising LGBTQ+ Leaders
At the core of a successful DEI strategy is an organizational culture that celebrates diversity, fosters a sense of belonging, and embeds inclusive behaviors across all business processes.
But what perspectives do rising LGBTQ+ leaders bring to this work? How can employers cut through the noise of performative allyship to ensure their public commitments to DEI are reflected by an effort to support diverse employees internally?
1. A Proactive Approach to Inclusion
The next generation understands that the worlds of LGBTQ+ culture, language, and personal identity are constantly evolving. While they do not expect companies to be fluent in all things LGBTQ+ from day one, they will look to company leaders to invest energy and resources towards developing this cultural competency.
Consider: Event panelist Jace Ritchey was hired as their office’s first non-binary employee. Upon realizing this, Jace’s manager organized an LGBTQ+ educational program to take place before their arrival. Jace speaks to the impact of this training in the clip below.
In giving employees appropriate context, they were able to better understand non-binary identities and ensure a smoother onboarding process.
“I walked with identities that had not been in that space before and they wanted to be prepared to show the respect necessary to do right by me and empower me to do my best work.”– Jace Ritchey
Trainings like these will strengthen a company’s internal network of allies and signal to employees that company leadership takes inclusion work seriously. For incoming LGBTQ+ talent, a proactive investment in inclusion can differentiate a company and its culture from its competitors.
2. The Lasting Impact of Allies and Mentors
When we spoke to our rising LGBTQ+ leaders, we heard that ally and mentor relationships were essential in supporting individuals as they entered the workforce and began to develop confidence professionally.
- One-on-one conversations between colleagues acknowledging shared aspects of their identities or experiences and offering a listening ear. If comfortable doing so, both parties involved can identify instances in which they’d be open to the other advocating on their behalf or escalating outstanding issues to management when appropriate.
- An exchange of support, advice, or professional introductions facilitated by a more senior member of an organization to the benefit of a more junior member of an organization. Mentorship in this capacity can spark within one’s office or through programs tailored to connect professionals who share aspects of their identity.
Meaningful mentor/mentee relationships instill confidence, foster community, and create spaces that empower early-career professionals to bring their full selves to work.
“Mentors have helped me be more brave and show up more authentically. I got to see what a career in this industry can look like as an out, gay man.”Andrew Truong
For individuals struggling to find allies or mentors within a company, seek out existing employee resource or affinity groups. ERGs are uniquely positioned to provide a space where vulnerability and transparency are practiced. Given the appropriate resources, ERGs can initiate meaningful dialogues, connect employees with varied levels of career experience, and positively impact larger organizational cultures.
3. Boundaries, Biases, and Tokenization
In recent years, conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion have become increasingly common in the workplace. Incoming talent are applauded for being part of a generation comfortable bringing their full selves to work, “speaking truth to power,” and viewing vulnerability as a strength, rather than a weakness.
While this feels like progress, we can’t become comfortable expecting employees to share deeply personal aspects of their lives as a means of educating colleagues and contextualizing inclusion policy. Employees are allowed to pick and choose when and how they feel comfortable sharing aspects of their identities.
Rising LGBTQ+ leaders need to understand that they can push back on the expectation to speak on behalf of their respective community.
While there is power in sharing one’s own lived experience, there is a limit to the time, energy, and patience we bring with ourselves to work each day. Establishing barriers to protect this energy can be critical to preserving one’s own mental health and performing regular job responsibilities.
“You’re not required, just because you’re a minority, to be the poster child for whatever population you’re part of… It can be uncomfortable constantly being called out in a way that points out your differences instead of being allowed to feel like a human on the team.”Gabrielle Ulubay
- For LGBTQ+ professionals: if you’re feeling pressure to educate your colleagues or are being targeted by intrusive or inappropriate questions about your identity while at work, seek out support. Speaking to an ally, manager, or a receptive member of an HR team can be the first step to easing this burden.
- For HR leaders and DEI professionals: if you sense an employee is feeling targeted or that the same individuals continue to speak up as the sole advocates for change within your organization, reach out to them. Let them know that you recognize the efforts they are making and ask what you can do to help them feel supported. This can include investing in third party trainings to develop LGBTQ+ cultural awareness and allyship. Or, investing time to review the ways in which your organization can empower employees and their managers to report and respond to microaggressions without fear of repercussions.
We have so much to learn from the next generation of rising LGBTQ+ leaders. Pride in Our Workplace would like to thank everyone involved in helping bring this panel to life. Take a deeper dive into the best practices highlighted in this article and much more by watching our full conversation with Katie, Jace, Andrew, and Gabrielle below.