Creating inclusive workplaces for LGBTQIA+ employees
An interview with Guardian’s Pride Alliance leader
Many businesses will voice their support for the LGBTQIA+ community for PRIDE month each June, but how can we create truly inclusive workplaces that improve the lives of a diverse workforce year-round? Kristina Kishbaugh, Consumer Advocacy Program Lead and leader of the Pride Alliance employee resource group at Guardian has some suggestions for employers and employees who want to make a difference where they work.
How did you end up leading Guardian’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group?
A group of senior leaders came together to bring visibility and representation for our LGBTQIA+ community. During the formation of the group we discussed who should be the leader and the team voted for me. I was completely shocked and humbled by their nomination.
The Pride Alliance has been able to share our success with our different campus locations and our sales organization, and we’ve created a group where all employees feel welcome to learn and grow. Our group was asked to present to our Board of Directors about our success and that was one of the scariest and most rewarding presentations I’ve done. The commitment and support Guardian leadership has shown to Inclusion and Diversity spoke volumes. This is one way Pride Alliance helps develop future leaders and open doors to presenting far above one’s typical role.
What has been the most rewarding part of your work with the Pride Alliance?
This is not an easy answer. I asked some of my colleagues and they mentioned our biggest accomplishments: the 100% Corporate Equality Index rating Guardian received from the Human Rights Campaign, the Pride Alliance groups we’ve established across our sites, corporate policy changes that broadened inclusion, and the learning opportunities where we’ve been able to reach over a thousand employees. However, when I sat down to think about the most rewarding part, it is in the personal moments I have with colleagues.
An intern who was stepping into the corporate world for the first time told me they were scared to be open about who they are and they were surprised to find not only an inclusive space, but also a huge network of Allies.
One leader went from stumbling, to learning, to championing LGBTQIA+ inclusion. She was at an event with a more senior leader from another company and they talked about LGBTQIA+ issues and the other leader made a misstep. She swooped in to help correct and lift the conversation back to inclusion while educating the other leader. She later told me this story beaming with pride and saying how that would not have been possible without all the training Pride Alliance provided.
Other people have reached out for help on how to be the best ally for family members: One mom stopped at my desk at 7am, when I had just gotten my cup of coffee, asking for advice because her son had just told her he is bisexual. Another leader asked me how she could show inclusion to help her over-50-year-old sister tell her the truth about the relationship her sister has with her female roommate.
It is in these moments that I take the most pride in what this group accomplishes. The larger accomplishments help show the world where we stand, but these individuals are championing the lives they touch to make the world better.
What advice would you give to employees who want to create similar support networks in their workplace?
Ask your leadership about it, and don’t do it alone. The team of people I get to work with are dedicated and passionate. We started with a grassroots effort to help spread the word and invited leadership to show their support.
We helped leadership be visible in support by making a “Proud Ally with Pride Alliance” sign for them to display. This way, displaying the sign doesn’t “out” anyone, and all can join. We also have lapel pins leaders can wear with their business attire. It is a small pin that sends a HUGE message. One leader even turned the pins into cufflinks so he could wear them all the time.
How can businesses best support their LGBTQ workforce year-round?
Listen to feedback and don’t disregard it. One thing I’ve noticed throughout my career is that leaders who thrive listen to understand. Each of us has a different life experience and if someone is being brave and giving feedback, we need to be open to it. I’ve seen many instances where people will discount what someone is trying to tell them or brush them off because they don’t have that experience. In those small moments, your LGBTQIA+ staff learns who they can trust and whether this is an employer they want to work for that will support them throughout their career journey. In short, “it this a team that I can be part of?”
My second item is to do your own learning. Don’t rely on your LGBTQIA+ staff to answer all your questions. Instead search the internet, use your library, go to webinars or workshops, and learn about the rich LGBTQIA+ culture. It is vibrant with beautiful lives and experiences.