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Pride Month: How Employers Can Be Allies

A rainbow flag waving in the wind.

​Throughout LGBTQ Pride Month in June, many companies have shown solidarity with the community by changing their logos to rainbow designs and featuring inclusive ads. Advocates are now pushing companies to go beyond making gestures of support and enact policies that are inclusive and tangible.

The calls for accountability come at an uncertain time for LGBTQ equality. President Joe Biden has been supportive, from expanding federal nondiscrimination protections to LGBTQ individuals on his first day in office to last week's memorializing of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting victims. But many anti-LGBTQ laws have been introduced at the state level, and they often take aim at transgender students.

Pride All Year

Companies that actively support LGBTQ employees do so not just during Pride Month, but all year long.

Bank of America's LGBTQ strategy, known as Pride 365, is a year-round process. The bank places particular emphasis on important dates for the LGBTQ community—not just Pride Month. "Throughout the year, whether it is Pride Month, or National Coming Out Day in October, International Transgender Day of Visibility in March or Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, there's always something going on," explained Alex Rhodes, global diversity and inclusion executive and enterprise LGBTQ strategy lead for Bank of America.

Four years ago, Rhodes oversaw a discussion on International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31. About 25 people participated. "This year in March, we had over 500 people on the line talking about transgender visibility, being allies to the community and educating ourselves on the impacts that are happening to that community," he said.

Bank of America helps other major companies develop their own LGBTQ strategies. As the bank was one of the first companies to create a framework for welcoming and retaining transgender employees, it now works with other companies to help them do the same. This type of outreach has provided Bank of America's own LGBTQ employees with leadership development and public speaking opportunities; these individuals are regular speakers at events like the annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit.

One of Bank of America's partner companies is Toledo, Ohio-based Owens Corning, one of the world's largest manufacturers of fiberglass composites. Lindsey Kauffman, circular economy leader for Owens Corning, noted that June is actually her company's least busy month when it comes to LGBTQ programming.

Kauffman, who leads Owens Corning's LGBTQ employee resource group, first met representatives from Bank of America at the 2019 Out & Equal conference. The bank was discussing best practices on supporting employees who are in the process of gender transition, which soon became helpful when Owens Corning began re-evaluating its own guidelines. "We had some transitioning guidelines for employees, but they were pretty outdated and not that specific," Kauffman said. "Some of the things we'd seen at the conference were more where we wanted to be."

Owens Corning then began working directly with Bank of America to reshape its transitioning guidelines. "We created a guide for employees," she said. "So if you're thinking of transitioning and you're working here, there's a communication plan—who you can talk to, resources, expectations and the medical benefits. And then on the other end for that person's manager, [the guide shows them] how they can help the employee and looks at some things that may come up and how to respond to them."

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Overcoming Workplace Bias

Inclusive Hiring Practices

Hiring is one of the most visible ways to support the LGBTQ community, and it benefits the company as well.

New York City-based Millennium Management LLC is the largest employer in the hedge fund sector. James Malick, Millennium's global head of strategy, noted that human capital is the key asset in his industry. Therefore, it's imperative that Millennium implements the very best practices for attracting, developing and retaining talent.

"Millennium senior management places a very strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion," Malick said. "And it's not only because it's the right thing to do. It's also because it's the best thing for our people. It's important for engaging our workforce, and it's equally important for recruiting the next, best person that's out there."

Adzuna, a job search engine based in Indianapolis, recently analyzed job vacancies across 10 countries that host major Pride parades to determine which regions feature the most LGBTQ-inclusive job ads. The study revealed that only about one-quarter of U.S. job ads actively encourage applications from job seekers within the community.

It's worth noting that many employers are welcoming to LGBTQ workers but haven't updated their job ads to reflect this; adding inclusive language or a diversity statement is a simple step to encourage applications from minority groups, explained Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna.

Hunter added that publicly showing solidarity with the LGBTQ community for Pride Month is a positive step toward inclusion. But true LGBTQ inclusion must go further than a branding exercise. "We would strongly encourage all corporations who adopt the rainbow for June to take a close look at their internal hiring processes and policies to ensure they are truly supporting the LGBTQ+ community, starting with using inclusive language in the hiring process," he said. "Beyond this, employers should also look at updating policy with gender-neutral language as well as adding options like parental leave for all genders, or other benefits like adoption leave. These policies should be clearly outlined within employee literature so existing and new employees know what support they will be offered without needing to ask."

[Want to learn more about how you can support your LGBTQ employees? Join us at the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2021, taking place Sept. 9-12 in Las Vegas and virtually.]


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