If you want to create an inclusive workplace, it is better to make mistakes than do nothing at all, claims Daniel Sörlöv, lecturer in LGBTQ+ rights and Stockholm Pride festival general. Many companies have insufficient knowledge regarding these issues and avoid talking about the subject, resulting in silence and inaction that can worsen the situation. Daniel advises how to create a more inclusive workplace to prevent that from happening.
What is an inclusive workplace?
In an inclusive workplace, all employees are valued equally regardless of background, ethnicity, religious affiliation, etc. Here, staff differences are encouraged, and it is appreciated that their differences contribute to a more multifaceted culture where everyone's opinions are welcome.
In an inclusive work environment, all employees must feel important and that they contribute to everyday work and company goals. Equality, diversity, and LGBTQ+ issues are highly valued, and discrimination and bias are opposed.
For a work environment that is as inclusive and inviting as possible, you also want to ensure that the contact and cooperation between colleagues are functioning well. With a collaboration platform for team collaboration, staff get the necessary information and become more efficient.
We still have a long way to go
A survey made by the MUCF (The authority for youth and civil society affairs) shows that young LGBTQ+ people feel worse than others of the same age. MUCF has produced several reports on young LGBTQ+ people's establishment in working life, which testify that people who break the hetero norm have worse living conditions which in turn can lead to mental illness. That impairs their establishment opportunities and well-being in the workplace.
So how do you build a more inclusive workplace? We asked Daniel Sörlöv. He has been involved in the Pride movement since 2009, is a frequent lecturer on LGBTQ+ rights, and works at Microsoft as an IT security specialist. He believes that the employer greatly influences how to create a more inclusive workplace that provides safer, more productive, and healthier employees.
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How can I, as an employer, create an inclusive workplace where everyone has equal rights?
First, there must be a genuine interest in establishing a platform that is not based on a dominant social norm. Communication is critical here. We often assume that people are heterosexual. Let me take a job interview as an example. Common questions for a woman can, for example, be about her husband, if they have children, and so on. Instead, you can gender-neutralise and, say, partner. Another situation can arise at large meetings where speakers begin with "Ladies and gentlemen" as not everyone can identify with these two genders. Instead, you can say, "Hello, all employees." Then you show respect for everyone.
Daniel Sörlöv, Stockholm Pride
So it's about trying to avoid labelling people?
Yes, because if you assume everyone is heterosexual, the rest will be excluded and may feel insecure and uncomfortable. Many don't want to expose their private lives during, for example, a job interview. The person may not know which values govern the workplace and have difficulty predicting how the information will be received. Or they do not feel like constantly "coming out." Therefore, it is essential to use vocabulary free from prejudice. Then you include everyone regardless of sexual orientation and avoid people feeling uncomfortable.
How can this, in turn, affect the work environment?
Think about how much energy and thought power you have to spend explaining or hiding who you are. Employees won't have to think about "How should I explain myself?" and don't become as preoccupied with maintaining a facade. They don't have to ponder, "Who am I in this conference room?", "Who have I reached out to in this context?". Here, the employer can release much thought power and anxious energy. The benefits are many for the employees, like shorter setup times through less focus on preparing for possible questions and comments. This leads to employees staying longer and being more productive. Sick leave is also reduced with a good work environment.
How we communicate in the workplace is the foundation of a more inclusive work environment.
Is it essential for a company to be open about why they work with LGBTQ+ issues?
Yes, it is essential. To create an inclusive workplace, we must understand why we do it. A company does not necessarily have to start from an LGBTQ+ perspective, but the first questions that come up may be: "Why is it good to be different?", "Will we become a stronger team?", "Why might it be good to hire more women in a male-dominated workplace?" and so on. That can be a safe bridge to talking about LGBTQ+ issues. I usually suggest doing a disc analysis together. Even if you don't believe in the science behind it, it can be an excellent exercise to see how we complement each other. Then we start to see the puzzle.
Also worth considering:
Replace "he" or "she" with "they". It works to write personal pronouns if the person in question applies them.
Avoid attributing particular characteristics depending on the gender of the person concerned. Often we attribute boys to being strong, brave, and mischievous, while girls are described with entirely different qualities. This progresses into adulthood.
Use gender-neutral designations: police instead of policemen, for example.
Make the toilets gender-neutral and use a unisex symbol. Often we divide the bathrooms with the argument that women are tidier, but it's not the toilet that is at fault but the behaviour.
Listen to the podcast: IT security with Daniel Sörlöv from Microsoft (in Swedish)