Selisse Berry is a shining example of someone who fought back after being the victim of an injustice. The basic idea: Berry went to seminary to be a Presbyterian minister, but she was turned down for being gay. Therefore, Berry created Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit that collaborates with Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies to achieve LGBT workplace equality. The company aims to provide workplaces that are free of prejudice and accommodate people who choose to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“The work of Out & Equal is to help companies learn what kind of steps they need to put in place to help people feel comfortable being out at work,” Berry says. To make your workplace more inviting and inclusive, Berry offers the following five suggestions.
If You Lead a Team
1. Always Get Things in Writing.
“Policies are step one,” says Berry. “Make sure you include sexual orientation and gender orientation in your non-discrimination policy.” It’s also vital for businesses to explain that the LGBT employee benefits policy is comparable to that of straight workers, including all the benefits given to their spouses. “Start with those policies to create an equal playing field, and then you can focus on company culture,” says Berry.
2. We Need Help Recruiting Members of the LGBT Community.
“One of our programs is LGBT Career Link, so people can post jobs online where LGBT people are going to be looking for jobs. There are also ways for companies to connect with LGBT people if they are recruiting through universities.” Finally, Berry suggests looking into industry-specific professional organizations, such as Reaching Out MBA, an organization for LGBT MBA students. But first, says Berry, “Make sure recruiters are well-trained and the collateral they’re presenting expresses clearly that your company is a welcoming company and has a non-discrimination policy for sexual orientation and gender identity.
3. Including the Company Holiday Party Invitation.
Instead of words like “husband” or “wife,” use phrases like “partner” or “significant other.” “When you’re announcing an occasion where partners are welcome, make sure you use inclusive language that includes everyone,” she advises.
If You’re Starting Your Career,
1. Create an LGBTQIA+ Resource Group.
Resource groups, such as a women’s network or an African American resource group, are popular among businesses. ”LGBT employees and allies can come together and create their employee resource group—and they are a resource to the company,” Berry says. “They can look at the company policies and keep raising the bar on making it a more welcoming place. Most LGBT resource groups that we’ve talked to have memberships that are 50 percent to 70 percent allies.”
2. Change Your Perception of Gender Orientation.
“I think most straight people assume that everybody is straight. I think a lot of people make assumptions when they automatically ask a man if he has a wife or a woman if she has a husband,” says Berry. Instead of asking whether someone has a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, or wife, use a gender-neutral term like “significant other.” This sounds better all around. “This helps an LGBT person feel like they can talk about who they are,” says Berry.
[Related: How Does Equal Pay Day Affect You?]