It’s Pride month, as you can probably tell from the abundance of rainbow-coloured corporate logos. It’s fantastic to see so many companies supporting Pride month, and to see how far we have come. There is a lot of support out there coming from companies about how they can help support diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but there are still people questioning what their sexuality or gender have to do with work – which is what I wanted to answer. I’m not speaking for all LGBT people but I do want to offer the perspective of one LGBT person.
I’ve worked for quite a few companies, particularly in my university years when I was definitely all about that hustle and for the most part I kept very quiet about my sexuality. If I’m honest it’s not something I tend to talk about unless it just happens to be relevant to a conversation but not telling people because it just hasn’t come up and not telling anyone because you’re scared of their reactions are very different experiences.
Growing up I witnessed a lot of homophobia from people at school and my family so I heavily supressed the fact I was bi and was terrified of anyone finding out. When there was a rumour going around that I was a lesbian I remember being told to ‘defend’ myself as if it was an insult, because that was the way it was seen. Even when I was in university which was afar more open and accepting environment the first job I had there I was terrified of coming out after one of my co-workers said he believed that all gay people were going to hell. After a while you get used to having to hide apart of yourself, but it never really stops being stressful.
Whenever I was working for a company who seemed neutral on LGBT inclusion I always defaulted to hiding because after a few bad experiences you get used to assuming the worst. Even when you’re close to your co-workers you worry about their reaction and whether they’ll make comments or assumptions which affect how you feel working with them. So staying quiet becomes habit.
This is why companies actively working on inclusion is so important. Having things like LGBT networks, or offering unconscious bias training, or championing the use of gender neutral language in official communications can make a difference in how comfortable LGBT employees can feel at work.
Feeling like you can be yourself at work is a really important factor when it comes to mental health. We spend so much of our lives at work, our relationships with our colleagues are really important and so is feeling like we’re accepted. Constantly fighting stereotypes or watching what you say or avoiding normal topics wears you down. It affects how much effort you put in, how much you look forward to or dread coming in, and how long you’re likely to stay at a company or even who you take a job with in the first place.
For this reason, it’s great to see that so many companies are beginning to actively support inclusion. Those that don’t, may end up missing out on great talent and losing people they already have. Even if it doesn’t feel like you have a problem with diversity it’s still important to show your support for it.
For tips on how to help your company become more inclusive, click here.