Intentional, authentic allyship. It is what will inform and influence the LGBTQ+ experience in 2024. Last year, the global LGBTQ+ community faced many challenges. In the US, more than 500 anti- LGBTQ+ bills were introduced with more than 80 signed into law. In Uganda, extreme anti-LGBTQ+ legislation was signed into law. These are just a few examples of the challenges faced by the community in 2023. And as we enter 2024, we know the results of this year’s US Presidential Election will have a significant impact on the Queer community across the country with reverberations around the world.
Our community is strong and has persevered through triumph and tragedy, but we cannot go it alone. It is appropriate and even serendipitous that 2024 begins with Mentoring Month—a month dedicated to elevating awareness around the value of, and incentivizing the commitment to, the development of workplace cultures rich with talent development and collaboration efforts such as coaching, mentoring, sponsorship, and allyship. Let’s succinctly look at mentoring efforts and cultures of inclusion from a few different, but very connected perspectives.
- People drive sought-after business outcomes like innovation and profits. When they work in inclusive environments they produce, on average, more positive business outcomes than workplaces that do not or have not prioritized diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. At Out & Equal, we refer to it as, “The Business of Belonging.” Essentially, when you show up for your LGBTQ+ employees and the community, customers will show up for you.
- At the highest level, and from a societal and human perspective, supporting and investing in LGBTQ+ people is the right thing to do. From a moral standpoint, our dignity, rights, and humanity are at stake. From a business performance standpoint, guaranteeing equitable access to opportunities for all talent is the only sound choice to be made.
- At the talent level, three in four employees understand the importance of mentorship. In fact, it is often referred to as a “must have” of career success and advancement. And while many companies have formal mentorship programs they have not adequately supported or addressed the unique needs and/or workplace challenges as those of historically marginalized and overlooked communities. This may be attributed to the fact that 71 percent of executives choose to mentor employees within their same race or gender. More specifically, only 10 percent of LGBTQ+ people report that their organizations have an LGBTQ+-specific mentorship program. Companies, and leaders across all levels in an organization, have an immense opportunity to play an even more active role in developing robust mentorship programs, directed at all talent existing within their organizations and with an intersectional approach in mind.
So practically, what does a more intentional day-to-day approach to coaching, mentoring, sponsorship, and allyship specific to the LGBTQ+ workforce look like, and how can individuals and organizations better show up for the community in 2024?
Here are my tips and recommendations.
Be an intentional, authentic ally.
Every civil rights movement reaches a tipping point when remaining on the sidelines is untenable—when action is the only choice. Our community needs allies to move beyond platitudes to deep and meaningful engagement and action. Our community cannot afford to have individuals and organizations stand on the sidelines. We need them not only standing beside us but clearing the path forward.
That means advocating for us in the rooms we aren’t invited into and interrupting both unintentional and intentional exclusionary instances and practices taking place at work. This includes building inclusionary policies within benefits, respecting an individuals pronouns and identity, and pushing for seats and voices at the decision-making table that represent the community.
The future of business is belonging.
Organizations excel and advance when their talent is validated and appreciated for the authentic experiences and viewpoints they bring to the workplace. It is why it’s critical that companies invest in cultures of coaching, mentorship, sponsorship, and allyship. By doing so they can create inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ talent (as well as other historically overlooked and/or marginalized groups) can thrive and are recognized for the value they bring.
Continue to invest in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) programs and efforts.
Investing in DEIB is—now more than ever—a critical mechanism for managing through these turbulent times. A growing body of research shows that it is not only the right thing to do for employees’ well-being, it’s also the smart thing to do for a business’s bottom line.
I’m proud to be the CEO of Out & Equal. Our organization is shaping the future of work into one that is rich with inclusivity and belonging for all. I am honored and privileged to be leading a community of invested Partners who believe that this work is not only smart but essential, for workplaces, for individuals, and for society.
As we recognize Mentoring Month let’s not forget the importance of intentionally and authentically showing up for people, investing in them and validating their authentic self, and building workplaces that for many Queer people become their refuge.
Let’s continue to advance “The Business of Belonging.” Let’s build spaces where all individuals can be their unique and authentic selves at work, contribute equitably, and thrive.
Erin Uritus (she/her), CEO of Out & Equal