Pride Month honors the LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) community in June each year. Undeniably, Pride Month 2020 will hold a unique and memorable place in history as celebrations this year have taken a different form in response to a global pandemic and social distancing. Nonetheless, the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies remain steadfast in celebrating the progress made over many years. For the LGBTQIA+ community, police raids in 1969 at New York City’s Stonewall Inn and the following six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar on Christopher Street marked a momentous time of change. We’ve since seen many important advancements, including, most recently, the landmark ruling by the United States Supreme Court that anti-LGBTQ+ job discrimination is illegal. Yet, there remains much work ahead. This year, Pride Month, which recognizes progress made after those seminal protests, is set against the intense backdrop of today’s global protests against racism, which have been fueled by centuries of oppression against the Black community and sparked by the killing of George Floyd. These are protests that many believe can’t wait for a pandemic to pass. Expression of voice has taken priority over the call for social distancing. Action is stepping in where injustice has lived for far too long. And people are coming together to call out the racial and social inequalities that continue to exist.
Inclusion is an essential value
Beyond inclusion being the morally right thing to do, years of research show that a diverse and inclusive work environment heightens employee engagement, inspires greater innovation, and accelerates business performance. There is greater potential for diversity of thought and perspective when workgroups include employees from different backgrounds. And when the work climate is truly inclusive, people feel empowered to be heard; to contribute ideas without fear of rejection or criticism. Time and time again, studies show the end products created by diverse and inclusive groups exceed those of homogenous groups or groups that are diverse but do not emphasize inclusiveness.
What we can do to foster inclusion
Start where we are. Ask people questions with true curiosity and sincerity. How they like their name pronounced. How they’re faring under pressure. Asking is an invitation to feel included. Look at everyone in your discussion. Eye contact signals social inclusion, and lack of eye contact signals ostracism. Take active steps to ensure everyone is heard. Invite the quiet participants in a meeting to contribute. Leaders must welcome all voices and inspire evenly distributed contributions to improve decision making, foster innovation, and improve performance. We can actively look for shared experiences within our work teams and highlight them. When followers feel they are part of the same group as the leader, they are more likely to be receptive to the leader’s ideas. We can also share our personal stories of failure and mistakes. Our stories expose our authentic self and inspire others to reveal theirs. It builds trust and drives inclusiveness.
What we can do to help fight exclusion
Look for opportunities to serve as an ally to our colleagues who are facing oppression. That means that when we’re a member of a privileged community (straight for the LGBTQIA+ community, non-Black for the Black community, etc.) and we witness even the slightest injustices, we can give our voice to those who may not have a voice. Find the courage to intervene and address the injustice. It’s not enough to think or see something is wrong and disagree with it. We can accept the obligation we have as a member of a privileged community and take a stance. Inspire others in our spheres to join you in your ally-ship: 20% will be eager to join us; 20% will never join us; and 60% will be in the middle, willing to hear us out. THAT’s the group to focus on in growing our band of allies. Allies can make a movement.
Inclusivity starts by looking inward
Pride celebrates a shift along the continuum from exclusion to inclusion and inspires the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies to continue the momentum of progress. Those advances can be replicated more broadly across other demographics, such as racial, gender, cultural, religious, educational, economic, sexual preference, gender identity/expression, and age differences, among many others. In our daily interactions, we tend to not only exclude some, but also include others because of our biases; our unconscious pre-dispositions. Instead, we can choose a different approach. We can be in relentless pursuit of our own biases and accept that we have room to improve, to build empathy, to do that over and over again, to stand when we see ourselves in a place of privilege and offer our voice when those who are marginalized may be suffering. We can habituate ourselves not only to welcome those outside our comfort zone, but also encourage them to join us as they are … their authentic selves. That’s what you and I can do. This is inclusivity.
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