By Beth Bingham, Vice President of Marketing Communications
I came out the first time when I was 25 years old. Amazingly, the first place I came out was at work because it was, in 1989, the safest place I knew to be my authentic self. I worked in a Borders Book Store in suburban Detroit and much to my surprise (and relief) several employees were out members of the LGBTQ+ community. I had found my people.
Over the intervening years, I have realized just how fortunate I was to start my career with a company that celebrated diversity and created a culture of inclusion at a time when most other companies – and American society in general – did not. It has been a touchstone of my professional life – whether in the retail book business, nonprofit organizations, state government, higher education, as a priest in the Episcopal Church, and now as member of the Montage Marketing team – to work only for employers that value and invite the lived experiences of all people. While my experience is not unique, it is also not yet the norm.
When employers acknowledge and celebrate Pride month, it lets individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ know that they are seen, they are safe, and they are welcome to bring their entire selves to their work and their workplace. Creating an inclusive environment is not just the right thing to do as humans, it’s the right thing to do for our businesses. Research indicates that there are at least three tangible business benefits to an LGBTQ+ inclusive environment: boosting recruitment and retaining talent; driving business; and cultivating capabilities. In other words, organizations do better when they are better.
That being said, coming out is still not easy. And the reality is that members of the LGBTQ+ community have to do it all the time! While we often acknowledge or celebrate the first time we came out to our families, close friends, or colleagues, the reality is that we must come out again and again. Every time we start a new job, move into a new community, join a social group, or just participate in idle chatter with the person cutting our hair, ringing up our groceries, or checking us in at the doctor’s office we end up having to come out or at least decide if we feel safe enough to do so.
Coming out at work is a complex and personal decision, even in companies that openly promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and celebrate Pride month. LGBTQ+ people still must make calculated decisions about if, when, and how to come out and reveal our true selves to our colleagues. And while great progress has been made to secure workplace, housing, medical, marriage, and other protections for members of the LGBTQ+ community, there are well-founded fears about the future of those rights.
So, what can organizations do to ensure their workplaces are safe and affirming? Supporting LGBTQ+ employees will look different for every company but having a strong anti-discrimination policy and inclusive benefits packages is a great place to start. Check out what other companies are doing to get some ideas that could work for your organization.
Partnering with or hiring LGBTQ+ owned businesses provide opportunities to learn more and to reinforce your commitment to inclusion and equity. At Montage, we have gained so much from our work with Clyde Group and Pyxis Partners, both LGBTQ+ owned businesses we partner with on the National Institutes of Health’s All of Us Research Program.
As I celebrate Pride this year, I’m grateful to work for a company that respects the dignity of every human being and encourages employees to bring their authentic selves to their work.
Let us know what your company doing to ensure LGBTQ+ inclusion. Sharing ideas and resources helps us all get better and continue to grow.