Workplace support of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community starts with leadership

Pride month provides an occasion for all Canadians to reflect upon and celebrate the diversity of ourselves, our friends, families, colleagues, leaders, neighbours, and communities. Pride also serves as a reminder to employers that it’s crucial to focus meaningfully on inclusivity all year round (not just in June) – specifically in terms of gender diversity and members of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community.

2SLGBTQQIA+ refers to two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual and all people with diverse sexualities and genders. The + represents the broad diversity of this community and how many self-identify/may not be represented in the acronym. More widely, it’s also a symbol of inclusion and acceptance for all.

How/why did Pride month and events start?

Pride initially began following the Stonewall Uprising (New York City; June 28, 1969), which occurred as a result of ongoing police raids and harassment of the queer community. On Stonewall’s one year anniversary, the first official Pride Parade began in New York’s Greenwich Village. In 1971, it spread to many cities across the United States, and globally. In Canada, the first Pride Parade occurred in 1978 in Vancouver, but it did not become an official event until 1981.

Some of the many efforts and issues that Pride has helped raise awareness of and promote include anti-discrimination, anti-hate, anti-oppression, right to marry/have families, equity in the workplace, and overall equity/equality as human beings. Pride also highlights the resilience, talents, and contributions of those within the 2SLGBTQQIA+ communities.

Although it was last month, it’s also important to acknowledge International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). IDAHOBIT is held on May 17 each year as an opportunity to raise awareness and take a stand against stigma and discrimination. On May 17, 1990, the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its Classification of Diseases. While this is an important milestone and not everyone is aware of discrimination in their immediate communities, as the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) reports, it is still all too common.

How common is discrimination against the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community?

While statistics are difficult to determine, given the need to self-disclose and many wishing to keep their identities hidden, approximately 1 million Canadians are part of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community. Despite growing awareness and important advances made, many of these folks experience discrimination regularly. CBRC found that 48% of respondents had experienced discrimination related to sexual orientation and 81% related to gender identity or expression in the last few years.

In the workplace specifically, the Government of Canada’s Action Plan Survey found that up to 30% of transgender people (highest for transgender women) felt they were denied employment due to their gender identity and up to 21% (highest for two-spirit) due to their sexual orientation. Among those who don’t identify as part of the community, the Angus Reid Institute indicated that a third of respondents feel uncomfortable around people who identify as 2SLGBTQQIA+ and 12% believe it should be a crime!

Pride at Work notes that less than 60% of Canadian employers take a clear stance related to 2SLGBTQQIA+ inclusion. Of those that do, only 14% require their leaders to have specifically related diversity and inclusion knowledge, 11% require advanced training, and 7% expect managers to know and provide resources to their teams.

Workplace support of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community starts at the top

As found in CBRC’s Our Health survey, when people have a solid social support system, they are nearly four times more likely to have good mental health. This highlights the important role that employers can play. When leaders are aware of, and prioritize, the importance of gender and sexual inclusivity in their workplaces, actively listen, and provide safe opportunities for employees to be who they are, they are also providing a means of social support.

As we outlined in our Pride month posts from 2021 and 2022, there are many ways that employers can support the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community and build a more diverse and inclusive workplace. It must, however, start at the top. If leaders and managers aren’t aware, appropriately trained, and on board, you can’t expect to align your culture and the rest of your employees. Whether they gain knowledge on their own or with the support of leadership training (such as Pride at Work’s Pro-Pride leadership series or one of Qmunity’s workshops/programs), leaders and managers must be held accountable to ensuring equity and inclusivity for people of diverse sexualities and genders.

From there, create guidelines or a program/toolkit specific to your organization which covers everything from concepts/definitions and vocabulary/language to policies and procedures within your organization (e.g., regarding anti-discrimination, dress codes, washrooms, benefits, leaves, etc.) and the orientation, training, and development you’ll provide to employees.

How can employers support and take part in Pride month/season?

There are numerous ways that employers/teams can support/take part in Pride during June, over the summer Pride months, and/or in general. In Vancouver, for example, the Queer Arts Festival (running from June 17 – 28) presents a great opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate queer talent, and there are many other events across BC and Canada.

Whether it’s taking part as a team in organized events and festivities or supporting employees to do so, the key is awareness and acknowledgement, such as:

  • Simply recognizing Pride month
  • Messaging via social media during Pride month
  • Bringing in a speaker and/or organizing a fundraiser
  • Encouraging participation in Pride events and supporting education workshops
  • Changing your Zoom and Teams backgrounds in a show of solidarity
  • Adding a signature line to emails, such as “Happy Pride! I’m an ally of the 2SLGBTQQIA+ community”

Whether or not you choose to do anything specific during Pride month, be sure that your practices support all employees to achieve their full potential in your workplace – regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression, year-round.

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde

Jouta’s HR Consultants can help you develop your inclusivity philosophies and practices.