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Stepping Up: The Power of Allies in Advancing LGBTQ+ Inclusion During Pride Month

This June, during LGBTQ+ Pride month, it is more important than ever that allies join forces with the LGBTQ+ community to safeguard the gains made and to advocate for LGBTQ+ inclusion.


Allies must play a role in LGBTQ+ inclusion. They must speak up and demonstrate their commitment through inclusive actions. I have found that allies sharing stories of their own journey to LGBTQ+ inclusion is an excellent way to motivate, galvanize and to lead by example. The stories I have heard people share of confronting their own prejudices and unearned straight privilege have gone a long way in motivating others to confront their own biases. I remember a leader sharing her story of how – through her daughter coming out – she moved from homophobia to becoming an ally. Being honest about our own growth helps to create organizational cultures where transformation is possible – where people view each other and themselves as changing, growing human beings who are learning with one another. This month is an opportunity to come together, to share experiences and powerful stories that can lead to real and lasting change.


I often say, change happens at the intersection of people and processes. So stories are a great tool to influence others by inviting people to empathize, connect and form community.


While stories invite empathy and shift attitudes, in a climate where LGBTQ+ inclusion is not yet the norm, coming out takes enormous bravery.  I remember the impact of a colleague who quietly and courageously came out to a group of executive leaders who were making hurtful assumptions about the LGBTQ+ community. It totally shifted the conversation and got unlikely leaders on board. On another occasion, a global online panel with Transgender colleagues talking about how caring their managers and teams had been in supporting their transitions, had people in tears they were so moved.

Stories can be a powerful tool, but we must also be mindful that the burden of telling their story usually falls on those with lived experiences of discrimination. It can be empowering to speak out, but it can also be exhausting to have to share painful stories in order to educate those in power. Deciding when and how to tell your story is a very individual decision; it is also a very powerful choice, as it can take a toll on the individual sharing their lived experience. While it is, ultimately, an affirmation of a human connection - it takes tremendous courage. It takes tremendous tenacity. And it takes honesty. We can create a space but we can never demand that someone share their experience.


I am privileged to know incredibly courageous LGBTQ+ Leaders who have played a significant role in breaking down barriers and fostering cultural change and have courageously shared their stories. Thank you to Margot Slattery and Todd Sears.


We must work together to advance LGBTQ+ inclusion as there is still much work to be done. Unfortunately, there are still 64 countries where same sex relationships are criminalized and while countries like Singapore reversed their anti-LGBTQ+ laws, others like Ghana and Uganda have done the opposite.


And even in countries where it is legal, the LGBTQ+ community continue to experience challenges in the workplace. Research by McKinsey in the US, suggests that more than half of gay, lesbian, and nonbinary employees say they had stronger feelings of being an “only” (only person, or one of the only people, of their sexual orientation or gender identity) in the workplace than other employees did.  And 45 percent of surveyed workers who identify as LGBTQ+ said they felt they had to be careful about discussing their personal lives in the workplace. Sharing their personal lives can carry with it the risk of losing one’s livelihood as well as the possibility of alienation and harassment. This ultimately takes a toll on LGBTQ+ employees who cannot be authentic in the workplace, work hard to “cover” who they are, and do not feel a sense of belonging - which ultimately impacts their productivity and retention. What a toll on the LGBTQ+ employee and what a loss for the organization!


So how can we all step up and become more effective allies to the LGBTQ+ community? In my blog from last year, I wrote about the 3 C’s of transformative allyship- curiosity, courage, commitment- and shared what allyship for the LGBTQ+ community can look like.


One of the recommendations to enhance curiosity was to expand learning of LGBTQ+ inclusion and encourage sharing of transformative stories. You can read the full article here for more recommendations for how you can step up and support the LGBTQ+ community!

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