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Pepi Sappal


Director of PR & Content

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LGBTQ+ History Month: How to boost allyship through education and training

Education is a powerful tool for addressing deeply ingrained prejudices and boosting allyship – so let's use it.

There is an ongoing debate about whether diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) training actually makes an impact on workplace culture and discrimination – and it is an important discussion to have.

But education – done well – plays a crucial part in tackling DE&I issues. Indeed, we should remind ourselves of the wise words of South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Sadly, many marginalised communities still experience rife discrimination at work. myGwork’s latest research, for example, revealed that 6 out of 10 LGBTQ+ professionals continue to be discriminated against in their place of work and study. Our survey echoes the results of similar studies carried out by LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, people management organisation CIPD, and the UK’s biggest trade union TUC, which have all raised concerns about the ongoing workplace discrimination experienced by the LGBTQ+ community. 

Most LGBTQ+ professionals either return to the closet or leave their jobs usually as a result of commonplace discrimination. In fact, myGwork’s survey found that two-thirds of LGBTQ+ Gen Zers entering the workplace would actually leave their job if they felt they couldn’t be out at work, and more crucially, if they lacked the support of colleagues and allies.   

HR and learning and development managers must ensure that any training is backed up with ongoing educational opportunities.

What’s missing from workplace LGBTQ+ training and education?

Although many professionals want to be an active ally to their LGBTQ+ colleagues, they struggle with effective know-how on how to be one. Their biggest gripe is the lack of relevant DE&I training in the LGBTQ+ space. In fact, a recent LinkedIn poll, carried out by myGwork, suggests that 61% of companies don’t offer this much-needed LGBTQ+ training to their staff.  

HR and training department heads are all too aware that education is key to stamping out discrimination and improving allyship at work. However, most general DE&I courses simply aren’t effective enough to deal with the specific challenges that marginalised communities face. 

Learning and development experts believe that relevant, practical and engaging training offered throughout the year achieves better success/

However, according to many in the field most of the current general corporate diversity training programmes do little to challenge or stamp out ingrained prejudices, stereotypes and misconceptions. They want training courses that specifically address LGBTQ+ challenges at work and help everyone – be they managers, leaders or colleagues – become better allies.  

Managers and leaders are looking for training that provides specific education to help staff, for example:

  • Better understand LGBTQ+ history and its context in the workplace

  • Gain more knowledge about the complex world of gender identity and expression

  • Offer practical rules on how to use pronouns

Education and training must be year-round

Of course, HR and learning and development managers must ensure that any training is backed up with ongoing educational opportunities. Organisations can do this in a number of ways, including: 

1. Run educational workshops and panels through their LGBTQ+ networks/ERGs

This will help employees further explore the issues that the community has faced and continues to battle with in the workplace today. Bringing in influential LGBTQ+ authors, historians and or activists are also a good way to create conversations and much-needed just-in-time learning for employees. 

The secret is offering year-round, inspiring educational opportunities that will motivate your employees

2. Panel discussions

These are also a great way for multiple speakers to engage in more thought-provoking discussions on the topic.

Many external LGBTQ+ organisations and charities host History Month panels too, which you can get involved in if your organisation hasn’t planned anything. These events will often feature panellists who share sections of LGBTQ+ history that they are passionate about, providing great moments of valuable learning.  

3. Signposting educational resources

Pointing to documentaries, podcasts, books and music that celebrates LGBTQ+ history and culture through your company newsletters and social media platforms will also enable your staff to educate themselves more on the topic and become better allies.

Broadcasters like Netflix and BBC have an extensive library of films, documentaries and series sharing insightful stories and knowledge to celebrate LGBTQ+ History Month.  

Providing smart learning opportunities

In short, HR, DE&I, and learning and development managers don’t necessarily need to work harder at making their workplaces more inclusive, they just need to get smarter at providing key learning and training opportunities that are interesting, relevant and practical enough that employees will want to participate in.  

The secret is offering year-round, inspiring educational opportunities that will motivate your employees to take the courses and educational opportunities on offer. This will ultimately help to make your workplace more inclusive, and in some small way will play a part in making the world a better one for us all, just as Nelson Mandela had envisioned. 

Interested in finding out more? Read about how to enable LGBTQI + employees to freely participate at work.

One Response

  1. With workplaces striving to
    With workplaces striving to be more and more inclusive, the topic of LGBTQ+ becomes more prevalent as well. Like the article states, it’s easy for someone who identifies with this group to stay closeted or leave their job altogether due to the fear of discrimination. It’s sad that these things tend to happen commonly, but traditionalism is heavily engrained in the American workforce. I am a firm believer in the notion of education being a great tool for awareness and general knowledge about a certain topic. When it comes down to it, organizations need to decide whether they want to be seen as an inclusive workplace that values people and their experiences or a workplace that chooses to disregard certain groups of people simply because values may not align. Personally, I think that this way of thinking has the capability to hurt an organization in the long run. Companies may miss out on having great workers and people on board simply due to the act that they don’t agree with their identification or sexual orientation. It shouldn’t be this way, but it unfortunately is. People want to work at places that see them as people and value their experiences and ways of thinking. If this isn’t something that can be noticed, people will inevitably end up leaving. All in all, it is up to the organization to make the effort in educating their employees about the LGBTQ+ community and accepting them in as their own. Furthermore, it is the task of HR and other management to figure out the best way to inform their staff throughout the year with opportunities that benefits the workplace as a whole. Once workplaces around the globe follow this trend, we will be on our way to unity.

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Pepi Sappal

Director of PR & Content

Read more from Pepi Sappal

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