Being called an ‘ally’ on my first day at MIS is one of the proudest moments of my career.
Being an ally at work (and in the wider world) can take many forms but the most important is to be led and inspired by the people you’re supporting. I don’t want to make any assumptions that I am the best placed person to be writing on LGBTQ+ issues, but if I can use my platform to encourage inclusivity from an HR perspective then it is an honour to do so.
I’ve learned that to be a true ally, I must take it upon myself to educate (myself and others) and do my own research, as opposed to relying on those in the LGBTQ+ community to instruct me. I follow Pink News on Instagram, which keeps me up to date on LGBTQ+ news from across the world, from the gloriously great and the heartbreakingly bad, as well as LGBTQ+ history and culture. (If you’d like to consider a subscription, £6 a month goes toward funding LGBTQ+ journalism and keeping people informed!)
Keeping up to date on employment law is a big part of my job and I’m privileged to generally not be discriminated against by UK policy and law. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for my LGBTQ+ colleagues and it’s important for HR to keep an eye on legislation that is clearly focussed upon discriminating against the LGBTQ+ community, such as incessant discussions around toilet use, and make sure MIS are doing their utmost to create an inclusive and safe culture.
Looking beyond the UK, understanding the perception of LGBTQ+ elsewhere in the world is another consideration, especially with MIS’ recent expansion into the American Insurance market. If I am to be sending my colleagues abroad, it is incredibly important to make sure that they are safe to be themselves. ILGA World and Equaldex are amazing sites aimed at guiding LGBTQ+ people and allies through the complexities of international law by country.
Staunch anti-discrimination policies are often the first port of call for HR but these alone are not enough and there are so many new policy suggestions, such as a Gender Expression Policy, that can help HR create a culture of inclusivity for all.
One of the better resources I’ve discovered over the years is Buffer’s ‘An Incomplete Guide to Inclusive Language for Startups and Tech’. There are more and more apps that can check inclusive language, my personal choice is Casey by Croud, but Microsoft Word also has a built in ‘inclusive language’ checker (which is off by default, so here are instructions to turn it on).
Ultimately, I’ve found that taking ownership of your mistakes and being proactive in your communication and education is the best way to demonstrate allyship. Misgendering, deadnaming, assuming sexuality and using exclusive language are common experiences for the LGBTQ+ community – take conscious steps to correct yourself and don’t forget, apologies go a long way.
If you want to go a step further and visibly extend Pride beyond June, I recommend looking into benchmarking your company’s LGBTQ+ inclusivity with the UK Workplace Equality Index. Submissions for 2024 open in September and are open for around 3 months so there is plenty of time!
It’s not just up to HR to make LGBTQ+ employees feel safe and valued in the workplace, but we are the ultimate resource for all employees which is why it’s important to work towards being a model ally.
People Manager, MIS