Tag Archives: diverse populations

How to Support The LGBTQ+ Community in the Workplace

By: Michael Tamsuriyamit ’23

 

With Pride Month fully underway, it is important now more than ever that people work to support members of the LGBTQ+ community. Whether it’s at school or at work, measures can be taken by both colleagues and employers to ensure that everyone is treated the same, regardless of one’s gender and sexuality.

 

The following are practical tips that you – yes, you – can use to help promote a more inclusive and equitable work environment:

 

Reviewing Your Company’s Policies – Are You Working for an Equal Opportunity Employer (EOE)?

 

When you apply for an opportunity, you may come across a line in the job description that states the company is an “equal opportunity employer (EOE)” or that the company provides “equal employment opportunity (EEO).”

 

Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against current and prospective employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. In a landmark ruling last year, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that, although not directly stated, Title XII prohibits employment discrimination based on one’s gender identity and sexual orientation.

 

Knowing that your company supports the employment of all groups of people is an important step towards supporting your fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues and coworkers. It means that your company is dedicated to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone is given the same respect and benefits as everyone else.

 

NOTE: If you work for an EOC but feel like you are being treated unfairly, check out your workplace rights and possible next steps here

 

Pronouns: If You Don’t Know, Ask!

 

It is very common nowadays for people to introduce themselves with their pronouns either verbally or even in the signatures of their emails. In a time when people are exploring their gender and sexuality more openly, assuming that someone uses either he/him/his or she/her/hers pronouns is not only obsolete but can also be very offensive.

 

Asking someone for their pronouns is a good practice that helps to promote a more inclusive work environment. It shows your fellow colleagues that all pronouns are welcome, and helps you avoid the awkward situation of having that person correcting you for misgendering them. If you’re ever in doubt or forget someone’s pronouns, use gender-neutral language (e.g. they/them/theirs) and then follow up afterward. 

 

For more information about pronouns and the terminology surrounding them, check out the following resources:

NPR: A Guide to Gender Identity Terms 

LGBT Life Center: Understanding Pronouns

GLSEN: Pronoun Guide

 

Treat Everyone Equally

 

It’s one thing to ask for someone’s pronouns, but it’s another thing to treat them respectfully and equally. You should treat your LGBTQ+ colleagues no different from your straight and/or cisgender coworkers. They should not feel as if their presence is unwanted, nor should they have to put up with insensitive remarks made by their coworkers. 

 

Actions That Do Not Promote Equality in the Workplace Include:

  • Making offensive remarks/jokes (E.g. “That’s so gay!”)
  • Giving fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues a glare or funny look when they walk past you
  • Gossiping about your LGBTQ+ coworkers
  • Only talking about personal questions when conversing with your fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues, especially ones relating to their gender identity or sexual orientation
  • Intentionally ignoring the presence and/or viewpoints of your fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues

 

Speak Up, Speak Out

 

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community also means defending them from any hateful or biased treatment directed at them. For example, one may defend the LGBTQ+ community by telling their coworkers to stop making anti-LGBTQ+ jokes. Another person may address any anti-LGBTQ+ bias in the workplace by bringing it up at the next team meeting, or even reporting it to Human Resources.

 

In the past, you may have looked the other way when a fellow LGBTQ+ colleague experienced unsolicited or unwanted “banter” in the workplace. It is important, therefore, that you speak up for them, especially for those who may have not publicly come out yet. 

 

Speaking out indicates that you understand there is a problem, and you are attempting to address it by sticking up for your colleagues using the privilege that you have as a straight and/or cisgender person in the workforce.

 

Moving Past “Performative” Allyship

 

The term “performative” allyship is used to describe people who support the LGBTQ+ community – and other socially marginalized groups of people – for misguided reasons. It often  describes a type of allyship in which people will support different groups of people when it’s beneficial to them, but otherwise stay silent.

 

For example, someone may post pictures of them at a recent pride parade in celebration of Pride Month, but will not talk about or denounce attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Another example could be someone posting a picture of a rainbow flag on their social media because all their friends are doing it. In other words, performative allyship is showing support towards a movement that in the end doesn’t result in any tangible, positive change.

 

The next time you want to show your support, be sure to ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose behind me publicly showing my allyship for the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Am I doing this because everyone else is doing it, or because it will truly help spark change?
  • What will my actions do to help the LGBTQ+ community?

 

Instead of engaging in “performative” allyship, consider doing one of the following actions:

  • Having serious and open-minded conversations about gender and sexuality with your loved ones and friends
  • Directing people on social media to resources, including links to petitions, links to informative & educational web pages, or gofundme campaigns assisting LGBTQ+ people
  • Listening to your LGBTQ+ colleagues about their experiences, and then speaking up for them if any problems arise at work thereafter

 

Educate Yourself: Identify Implicit Biases & Mistakes, Confront Them, and Move Forward

 

Everyone has arguably done something that they’re not proud of, and we may often look back with regret and wish things turned out differently. Maybe in the past you were a passive bystander when your fellow LGBTQ+ colleagues were put in uncomfortable situations and conversations. Maybe you even worked for a company that unconsciously expressed anti-LGBTQ+ bias. 

 

Although you cannot erase the damage that may have been inflicted, you can always learn from your mistakes. Identifying and confronting your past mistakes is arguably the most important step that you can take to support the LGBTQ+ community. It shows them that you are aware you did something wrong and that you are actively trying to be a better person.

 

Becoming a better person also means identifying your implicit biases on various things, including gender and sexuality. To get a better sense of your biases, consider taking some of Harvard’s implicit bias tests

 

For additional tips and advice on how to support the LGBTQ+ community, check out the following links:

The Muse: 11 Simple Ways You (Yes, You!) Can Make Your Workplace More LGBTQ Inclusive

The Muse: 3 Ways to Be a Better LGBTQ Ally in the Office

Insider: 5 Things Everyone Should Be Doing To Support Their LGBTQ Coworkers

Forbes: 8 Steps You Can Take To Support LGBTQ Colleagues This Pride Month

 

Additional Resources For Supporting The LGBTQ+ Community:

GLSEN: The Safe Space Kit: Guide to Being an Ally to LGBT Students

Great Place to Work & Pride at Work Canada: Beyond Diversity – An LGBT Best Practice Guide for Employers

Human Rights Campaign: The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion – Why the Workplace Environment for LGBT People Matters to Employers

United Nations Human Rights Office: Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People

Interested in writing a blog for the Career Development blog? It’s open to Macaulay students and alums. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, feel free to email Jamie.Ruden@mhc.cuny.edu.

How To Engage In Productive Conversations About Race And Privilege At Work

By: Samantha Fang ‘23

 

“Creating purposeful dialogue on race helps us to be better equipped in fighting injustices. Systematic change is necessary in creating the equality that marginalized communities deserve, and educated conversations can be the first steps to making that change.”  — Dwight Smith, Net Impact

 

While conversations about race and privilege can be challenging, they are not only necessary in your daily life, but also in the workplace. These difficult conversations are stepping stones to creating a more inclusive and welcoming work environment and puts pressure on companies to seriously address the internal structures and culture which may be perpetuating racial bias. You can find our blog post on ways to tell if a potential employer values diversity and inclusion here

 

Why is it so difficult to discuss race and privilege?

“The reason why these conversations are so difficult is because they are deeply emotional. Deep inside everybody, there’s an internal scale of justice. Everybody has a deep belief of what’s right and wrong. When that’s out of balance, it hurts us deeply.” —  Kwame Christian as quoted on CNBC Make it

 

Conversations about racial injustice often involve bringing up experiences and events that may be very traumatic and painful. Differences in viewpoints and experiences can also add tension. For some, it can be hard to face what they need to unlearn or to confront their own privilege. For others, these conversations can be intimidating. Many fear they will say the wrong thing or aren’t educated enough to speak out or engage in conversation about these topics and as a result, choose not to. However, these conversations are crucial steps to understanding and addressing the injustices faced by our colleagues. They help us figure out how we can work together to create change. 

 

See below for tips on how to make these conversations thoughtful, productive, and respectful. You will also find resources for further reading at the very end!

 

6 Tips for Engaging In Productive Conversations About Race And Privilege At Work

 

Do your research and prepare beforehand

“In order for a white person or non-black person of color to be an ally and thoughtfully engage in discussions about race, it’s crucial they do their own work to understand the privilege that shapes their world view, and educate themselves on the things they need to personally learn and unlearn in order to be a better advocate.” — Jennifer Liu, CNBC Make it

 

Before engaging in these conversations, put in the work to educate yourself first! While education is an ongoing process, it is helpful to go into these conversations with at least some knowledge and understanding. There are so many great resources being shared online through social media and other outlets. If you are feeling overwhelmed, this list from Paradigm is a good starting point. 

 

“It’s easy to feel disconnected from this history when you feel as though it has no direct tie to your reality. It’s interesting that even for me – as an Ethiopian – there was a time when I didn’t truly connect with this history of slavery and racism. I’ve realized that, at the end of the day, a love for humanity means a respect and honor for all pain and a oneness of purpose toward dismantling ignorance and pursuing justice. The moment you are here in the U.S., your reality is connected to a racial construct.”

— Yodit Kifle as quoted on Net Impact

 

Acknowledge your own preconceptions, biases, and privilege. Recognize the ways in which you have consciously and unconsciously benefited from systems that are hurting others. Learn about how historical events and movements are connected to and still shaping society today. 

 

State your intentions and goals for the conversation

“It’s easy to look outward instead of inward and talk about racial injustice in a broad way and not about challenges the organization has had about hiring, promotion, and culture.” — Sarah Todd, Quartz at Work

 

Setting a clear goal and intention for conversations about race and privilege at work is key in figuring out the size of the conversation, who should be taking part in them, and what you are trying to accomplish. For example, according to Quartz at Work, “the goal might be … to invite employees to share their personal experiences and anecdotes about how bias manifests at their organization, or to revisit hiring procedures in order to weed out practices that invite or perpetuate bias.” It is important to direct these conversations back to company practices and culture. Possible questions to address include: 

  • Are there diversity & inclusion programs and diversity hiring initiatives at the company right now? 
  • Have they been effective? 
  • Does the company actively work to create an inclusive work environment? 
  • What needs to change? 

 

Closely and honestly examine together how the company can do better going forward. 

 

Acknowledge the difficulty and weight of these conversations

A good way to begin these difficult conversations is acknowledging the weight of them. This also helps to create a safer and more respectful space for colleagues to share their emotions and thoughts on these topics. As Kwame Christian shares with CNBC Make It, “a good place to start a difficult conversation is to acknowledge its difficulty and validate the other person’s feelings, whether it’s shock, sadness, anger, confusion or shared discomfort.” Even after you begin asking questions and learning about your colleagues’ viewpoints and experiences, continue to be mindful of how you are conversing with them. 

 

Check out the following infographics from Catalyst which offer insight on how to engage respectfully in tough conversations and connect in a meaningful way:

 

 

Engage in dialogue not debate

CREDIT: @holidayphillips on Instagram

 

Approach conversations about race and privilege with compassion, empathy, and an open mind. 

 

“Personal experience can’t possibly give the complete view of such complex issues. The history of racism extends far beyond individuals; it encompasses years and years of both individual and community experience. It is important to recognize and acknowledge the validity and reality of other experiences.”  — Dwight Smith, Net Impact

 

A key aspect of productive dialogue is the acknowledgement and respect for different viewpoints and experiences as well as the willingness to critique our own views and beliefs. The goal is to find common ground and understanding as well as to broaden our own perspectives. You can find a helpful breakdown of the differences between discussion, debate, and dialogue here!

 

Another important aspect of having an open and productive dialogue about racial injustice is confronting your privilege. As described in this post from the University of Michigan, “Privilege, simply put, is societally granted, unearned advantages accorded to some people and not others.” Hence, privilege is directly connected to and impacts many aspects of our lives, such as the accessibility of education and professional opportunities. Acknowledging one’s privilege can come with feelings of discomfort, guilt, and even shame. It can also cause people to get defensive. These are some of the main reasons why conversations about privilege can be so difficult. 

 

It is important to remember that privilege and oppression are not mutually exclusive and that conversations about privilege are not meant to be attacks on your character nor are they meant to belittle or invalidate your experiences. Instead, these conversations are opportunities for you to confront your privilege, recognize how it has given you advantages and/or access to opportunities throughout your life that you had not thought about before, and learn about the ways in which you can use this privilege to help others and make a difference.

 

“This acknowledgement of privilege should invoke a willingness to listen, to be educated, and to understand how you can use this privilege for the betterment of others.” — Dwight Smith, Net Impact

 

Be willing to admit you do not have all the answers

“It is not enough to recognize and remain complacent in this state of unknowing; allow this to be a catalyst for an active effort to become informed. … It is important to seek out answers to questions that you don’t know, and be willing to be educated on topics that you are uninformed about.” — Dwight Smith, Net Impact

 

The fear of being wrong or not knowing enough can prevent us from taking part in conversations about race and privilege, but it shouldn’t. You should absolutely do your part in educating yourself before and after these conversations, but the point is that you should come into conversations like these willing to embrace the discomfort of not knowing and of being wrong. True growth lies outside your comfort zone. Be open to learning something new and to understanding a concept, experience, or event from another perspective. Actively listen and ask questions.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” — Maya Angelou 

Reflect and commit to change

“It is not enough to merely hear or read about race; it is important to make an effort to apply these changes to your mindset and actions.” — Dwight Smith, Net Impact

After the conversation, be sure to take some time to reflect. 

Sample Questions To Think About: 

  • What are you taking away from this conversation?
  • How do your thoughts and experiences compare with your colleagues’ thoughts and experiences? 
  • What race-based biases have you discovered you unconsciously hold that you’d like to work on deconstructing? 
  • How can you do better going forward? What are your next steps? 

Change doesn’t come easily, and active work must be done in order to make a lasting positive impact. Keep yourself accountable, and continue learning about how you can contribute and make a difference at work and in your everyday life. 

“The best things in life are on the other side of a difficult conversation. If we can have the conversation in a better way, we can make meaningful change in the world around us.” —  Kwame Christian as quoted on CNBC Make it

 

Don’t know where to start? This Race and Privilege Conversation Pack from We’re Not Really Strangers can act as a great starting point for approaching conversations about race and privilege at work and in your daily life. Feel free to share this blog post as a way to spark conversations as well! 

 

Additional Resources To Check Out:

 

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Interested in writing a blog for the Career Development blog? It’s open to Macaulay students and alums. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, feel free to email Jamie.Ruden@mhc.cuny.edu.

 

Does Your Potential Employer Value Diversity And Inclusion?

By: Samantha Fang ‘23

 

We all want to feel like we belong at our workplaces. We want to feel appreciated and valued by our employers. Whether you are looking for an internship or a job, you want to make sure that the company you end up working for is dedicated to creating an inclusive workplace. Studies have found that diverse workplaces are conducive to higher creativity, productivity, and profitability just to name a few! Nowadays, many companies will promote on their site and job postings that they are committed to diversity and inclusion, but how can we tell that a potential employer truly values this and are actively taking steps to improve their company in this respect?

 

 

Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion In The Workplace

There are countless reasons why diversity and inclusion are beneficial in the workforce. Diverse workplaces are conducive to greater creativity and innovation. It is also helpful for improving employee retention rates, building community at work, and increasing employee engagement. Having a range of viewpoints and opinions is invaluable when it comes to informing company decisions as a whole. Afterall, having a diverse staff gives companies a better understanding of their customers and/or clients as their team will be more representative of the audience they serve everyday.

Be sure to check out the following articles, which include associated statistics on this topic:

 

 

5 Ways To Tell If A Potential Employer Values Diversity And Inclusion

 

 

Company Website 

One of the first places you can check is the company website. Who do they choose to advertise and feature on their site? While this typically does not provide the full picture, it is a good place to start and offers a more general sense of the company’s sensitivity to representation on their site and for their brand. You should also look at the company’s Core Values page if they have one as well as their Careers page. Lastly, be sure to check if they have a designated Diversity and Inclusion page. Do they have any diversity hiring initiatives or designated D&I programs? Do they offer any statistics that illustrate their commitment to these initiatives or that these programs have been effective in the company? Do they have any posts that outline ways they work to create an inclusive environment for their employees?

 

Company Board/Leadership Team and Employee Demographics

Is the company transparent about their workforce data? Do they provide any demographics on their site? Do they disclose any statistics? Look at their board and leadership team pages. How many underrepresented groups are on these teams and in the company as a whole? This again might not give the full picture, especially if the company discloses very limited information in regards to this, but it will give you a general sense of the environment at the company in terms of diversity.

 

Job Posting Language

When applying for jobs, always scrutinize the posting description. The wording itself can reveal a lot about how the company views potential employees and what they value when looking for new additions to their team. Examine the language used. Is it gender-neutral? Is there terminology that is off-putting or that convey stereotypes? Does the posting seem to appeal to one particular demographic? Are there any inclusive benefits that are highlighted? Does the company emphasize their commitment to diversity and inclusion in the job posting? 

 

Employee Review Sites

Another way you can gauge the environment at a company is by learning about past or current employees’ experiences. Read about and listen to what they have to say about working at the company. You can check on review sites such as Glassdoor & Indeed, but keep in mind that you should always take these reviews with a grain of salt. Some companies might offer incentives to employees who write good reviews or find ways to manipulate the ratings. You can check out this post on LinkedIn that outlines some reasons why you can’t always trust Glassdoor reviews. That being said, it may be even more helpful if you already know someone working at the company. Use this opportunity to reach out to your connections to learn about their experiences.

 

Interview Process

 

Diversity and inclusion can also play a role in the interview process! According to Muse,“start by considering your interview panel and the range of people with whom you interact during the process. While it’s tough for any company to evenly support diversity within every function, if every single interviewer looks, thinks, and talks the same, it doesn’t bode well for the organization’s self-awareness around diversity and inclusion.”

 

Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask your interviewer directly about diversity and inclusion if this is something that is important to you. 

 

Sample Questions adapted from The Balance Careers

  • I see diversity is listed in the company’s values. Can you share some examples of how you promote it? 
  • How is diversity shown to be an important value at this company?
  • Does the company offer managers training on diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • What does the company do to help ensure inclusion? 


You can also ask about success stories from underrepresented groups. Here is a great sample question from Muse: “What type of people at your company get promoted and how are they celebrated?”

Additional Resources to Check Out:

 

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Interested in writing a blog for the Career Development blog? It’s open to Macaulay students and alums. If you would like to contribute or have any questions, feel free to email Jamie.Ruden@mhc.cuny.edu.