Why authentic allyship is vital to nurturing Pride at the workplace

Initiating change begins with investing time and effort into unlearning deep-seated biases and stereotypes while simultaneously learning about the LGBTIQ+ community's current realities and challenges and how a supportive ecosystem could help them

Updated: Jun 4, 2024 10:25:12 AM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

While workplaces in India have made headway in their journey towards LGBTIQ+ inclusion, we know that Pride, in the true sense, means more—more love, more acceptance, and more opportunity. This reality underscores the need to bridge the 'ally gap'—the disparity between people's intent towards supporting the LGBTIQ+ community and the actions they take to demonstrate their support. True allyship goes beyond tokenism. It calls for people to actively use their privilege to effect real change and take meaningful action.

As highlighted by Open for Business, a coalition of global companies dedicated to LGBTIQ+ inclusion, a genuine commitment to inclusion and allyship can profoundly make a difference to employees, leading to enhanced authenticity, motivation, satisfaction, self-expression, and affinity toward their workplace.

Fostering understanding and sensitisation

The first step towards becoming an ally is to acknowledge one's privilege as a heterosexual person and understand the steps one can take to create a supportive environment for our LGBTIQ+ colleagues.

Initiating change begins with investing time and effort into unlearning deep-seated biases and stereotypes while simultaneously learning about the community's current realities and challenges and how a supportive ecosystem could help them. Organisations can enable this by curating interactive platforms where their people can educate themselves about gender identities and sexual orientation, LGBTIQ+ terminologies, and get to know their LGBTIQ+ colleagues' first-hand stories to embrace openness and active listening. This kind of platform also facilitates dialogue, encourages self-expression, and fosters understanding, helping to engage more allies.

Also Read- Pride Month: Are Indian workplaces queer-friendly enough?

Practicing and advocating sensitisation all around is equally key. It's vital to refrain from making assumptions about the sexual orientation or gender identity of our colleagues. Small things like being sensitive about the comments we make and the jokes we share can create safer spaces. Using gender-neutral phrasing and respecting preferred pronouns helps create an inclusive space for everyone. Being understanding of LGBTIQ colleagues' personal struggles while respecting their privacy—by allowing them to disclose information when they feel comfortable—is equally important. At an organisational level, sensitisation workshops to eliminate unconscious bias and drive greater awareness are great ways of getting people to commit to inclusion and allyship.

Advocacy, action and advancement

Allies are crucial in advocating for LGBTIQ+ rights and standing up for equality. The simplest way to exhibit allyship is to voice support for our colleagues. This can range from easing their journey towards self-acceptance to assisting them in seizing new opportunities or speaking up when we notice they are being marginalised or subjected to discrimination.

In addition, allies must amplify the community's voice in their respective spheres of influence. This includes advocating for differentiated people policies that support everyone in the moments that matter most. These include gender-neutral parental leave benefits, including adoption and surrogacy leave, medical insurance benefits customised to cover the community's specific requirements such as gender reassignment surgery, hormone therapy, treatment for gender dysphoria, and the provision of company-led medical insurance cover for the partners of LGBTIQ+ people.

Also Read- How the 2009 Section 377 judgement changed the LGBTQ discourse in India

Being an ally also means acting as a catalyst for the advancement of our LGBTIQ+ colleagues at the workplace by creating space and opportunities so they can have thriving careers and enriching lives. Each of us can play a role here and at senior levels; this involves offering structured mentorship and sponsorship to team members.

It takes a village…

As per industry research, people are 4.5 times more likely to want to work at an organisation that publicly demonstrates commitment to expanding LGBTIQ+ rights, which makes bridging the ally gap even more crucial. However, one's responsibility as an ally should not be limited to the confines of one's workplace. To make a difference, we must extend our influence into the broader professional and personal ecosystems, including our clients, suppliers, friends, family members, and local communities.

Pride allyship is not a one-off activity. It is an ongoing journey of learning, acceptance, support, and celebration of authenticity. It is about recognising the power we hold as individuals and as a collective to drive transformation at scale within our organisations and society at large.

Zahara Fernandes is managing director of Accenture Operations & Pride Sponsor, Accenture in India.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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