4 Ways to create an environment of inclusiveness for LGBTQ employees

I wrote this for Citrix ShareFile’s blog. It’s going to be posted there soon (and promoted on ShareFile’s Twitter and Facebook, as well as Citrix’s LinkedIn channel), but here it is now:

This June, myself and four other Citrites co-founded the Raleigh Citrix LGBTQ Alliance. We’ve been met with smiles and support from our colleagues, showcasing the accepting attitude already present here in our office. However; our mission statement still includes creating a more accepting enviroment for LGBTQ employees. There’s always room for improvement!

So, how are we actually working with our employer to make our office more LGBTQ-friendly? While my idea to have a unicorn (read: horse with stick on head) at the company happy hour our alliance is sponsoring was almost immediately shot down, I have a few more realistic tips to share from our current and planned processes. If you like any of these ideas, feel free to copy and paste them into your workplace.

Have an Employee Resource Group dedicated to LGBTQ peoples and allies.

Bet you already guessed I’d recommend doing this!

The very presence alone of a group like this gives people a warm, fuzzy feeling, and fosters an atmosphere of acceptance.

Citrix’s LGBTQ Alliance will be visible to potential employees through having a member of our group at any career fair Citrix attends or recruiting event they host, promoting our company’s stance of inclusiveness right of the bat. Newly hired employees will be informed of our group’s existence during orientation and given a point of contact should they wish to join. Both prospective and newly hired LGBTQ employees will immediately see a collection of openly LGBTQ people and allies, and won’t feel as inclined to hide their identity.

Mandate “Safe Zone” training for management personnel, and offer it to all employees.

“Safe Zone” is a free online resource offering a training curriculum focused on 1) defining and explaining different gender identities, sexual orientations and gender expressions, and 2) increasing emotional intelligence with regard to LGBTQ history and current issues.

After completing the training, participants will be given a “Safe Space” sticker to display on their office doors or at their desks if they’d like. This will communicate to LGBTQ employees that they are supportive of and open to talking about LGBTQ issues.

Celebrate Pride!

Citrix supported Pride this year by unveiling a Pride flag in three of our U.S. offices on the same day at the same time — a symbolic act of unity and outward display of acceptance.

Next year we could throw a party with a huge balloon rainbow, drag queens as bartenders, and figure out how to get that “unicorn” into our office without creating so many liabilities. Or just put out rainbow colored cake in the breakroom. Regardless of what we do in the coming years for Pride, the important thing is that we are acknowledging it, and visibly communicating that Pride is something important enough to our company to be celebrated.

Ensure that benefits are all-inclusive.

I hesitated to come out to a family member partially because of a comment he made about his trepidations regarding same-sex benefits. I thought that since he wasn’t supportive of LGBTQ people having equal benefits, he’d therefore be unsupportive of me being queer.

The same thinking process can occur in the workplace for LGBTQ employees. As an employer, if you place importance on having all-inclusive benefits, it is a direct reflection of your acceptance of LGBTQ individuals.

Currently, an insurance company that offers benefits to opposite-sex spouses must offer the same benefits to same-sex spouses — an awesome win for the LGBTQ community. However; the T in LGBTQ still requires special attention in this arena. When picking providers and plan options, Citrix made sure that health insurance benefits were transgender-inclusive. I have heard first-hand how this has made a transgendered man feel more accepted in our company.

While the LGBTQ community has made tremendous strides in recent years, we still need employers to be sensitive to how they can push us further ahead in the game. Thank you to employers, like Citrix, who are genuinely trying to make the workplace a better place for LGBTQ employees.

For more ideas (and funny memes), follow the Citrix LGBTQ Alliance on Instagram at @citrix_lgbtq_alliance!