The following post was originally intended to be part of NJCASA’s recognition of Pride Month and an opportunity to build safer and more affirming workplaces.  The need for members of the anti-violence movement to show solidarity with LGBT communities became starkly apparent with the tragic events occurring in the first hours of June 12th.  Our hope as an organization is to honor the intent and spirit of Pride Month with content focused on ally-building and community.

A little more than half (53%) of employees who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, or queer or questioning (LGBTQ) report feeling unsafe to come out at work.  Workers hide or withhold information about relationships, identities, and personal events from coworkers for fear of harassment and discrimination.  Recent developments regarding public restroom policies highlight larger societal patterns of discrimination and bias.  Organizations can create safer workplaces and build a culture of allyship through strategic internal policies and consistent implementation of those policies.

Allyship is an ongoing process; ally organizations exist along a continuum, striving to educate themselves and accept feedback from community members and marginalized voices.  This is a very humbling position, but one that will better serve survivors and significant others and attract and retain thoughtful professionals in the anti-sexual violence movement.  Similar to being an individual ally, organizational allyship requires consistency and strong support to resist fatigue or hopelessness.  A few examples of organizational allyship include:

  • Organizational policies and internal standards that include specific and explicit anti-discrimination language.
  • Consultants and temporary or contracted employees agree to all anti-discrimination policies.
  • Community partners, businesses, and institutions are visibly held accountable for policies and practices that discriminate against LGBTQ communities or create unsafe or hostile spaces.
  • Visible support to LGBTQ communities all year round.
  • Prioritization and elevation of LGBTQ community voices by listening and learning.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI), organizational efforts to increase equity and accountability focus on internal policies and training, as well as external partnerships.  For example, if a long-standing community partner takes a visible stand against LGBTQ rights, your organization can either approach them to discuss how this runs counter to your organizational philosophy and/or your organization re-assess the partnership.  Inaction or a “It’s their business” approach is still taking a stand – and it clearly communicates your organization’s priorities when it comes to affirmation and equality.

Organizations create safer workplaces when these efforts are instituted proactively; not at the behest of an employee or volunteer that identifies (or is perceived) as LGBTQ.  There are a number of resources organizational leadership can look to for assistance: Allies at Work: Creating a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Inclusive Work Environment and Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office offer practical insights and recommendations to assist organizations in this journey.