Selisse Berry is an A+ example of someone who encountered an injustice and made it her mission to do something about it. The gist: Berry attended seminary to become a Presbyterian minister, but the church rejected her for being a lesbian. So, Berry founded Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit that works with Fortune 1000 companies and government agencies to achieve LGBT workplace equality. The organization’s mission is to create conditions so LGBT employees worldwide can bring their authentic selves to work.
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“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. Read on for Berry’s top five suggestions to make your workplace more welcoming and inclusive.
1. Reframe Your Own Thinking About 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. Luckily, this is an easy fix that you can make in and outside of the office. Instead of asking, “Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife?” use a non-gender specific term. In fact, asking, “Do you have a significant other?” sounds better all-around. “This helps an LGBT person feel like they can really talk about who they are,” says Berry.
2. Create An LGBT Resource Group
A lot of companies have resource groups, such as a women employees network or an African American resource group. ”LGBT employees and allies can come together and create their employee resource group—and they really 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% to 70% allies.”
1. Put It 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 important for companies to spell out that the benefits policy for LGBT employees is essentially equal to the benefits for straight colleagues, including all the benefits they get for their spouses. “Start with those policies to create an equal playing field, and then you can focus on company culture,” says Berry.
2. …Including The Company Holiday Party Invitation
As in, use words like “partner” or “significant other” instead of “husband” or “wife.” “Make sure when you announce an event where partners are invited, that you’re using inclusive language that includes everybody,” she says.
3. Recruit To 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 doing recruiting through universities.” Berry also recommends seeking out industry-specific professional groups, 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.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.