Being an LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and others) ally is not just about showing support on social media by posting hashtags, but necessitates support offline too. How does being an ally, or a non-community member supporter, translate into workplace relations?
Being an ally in the workplace means using one’s power and privilege to actively support and protect the rights of the community, and the relationship can work as a powerful tool to help reduce workplace discrimination.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) without allyship just becomes a charter on the wall and nothing else,” says Jyothi Menon, Head, India Human Resources and Head, HR Service Delivery at UBS-Business Solution Centers (BSC) which provides services to UBS businesses globally and has employed over 7,000 people in India.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Menon talks about the need for employees to be a good ally in the workplace and the role they can play for LGBTQ+ inclusion.
Misconceptions about LGBTQ+ allies in the workplace
Allyship is a culture at UBS, and we have allies for many causes including gender equity, mental health, and of course, LGBTQ+. Given the wonderful role the allies play in championing diversity, misconceptions about allies are not commonplace. However, some that could be encountered are
- Allies are jumping on a trend to look ‘çool’ rather than having empathy for the cause.
- Allies champion causes because they themselves are secretly part of the community and hence, self-serving.
Why LGBTQ+ employees need workplace allies
The most important role for an ally is to recognise their position of privilege and to use the influence to promote a more inclusive environment in the workplace and in society. Allies ensure that they pass the mic to the underrepresented communities, so their voice is heard, rather than sharing their own narrative. And lastly, allies take accountability for their actions and take mindful steps to correct where required.
Why is it important? Because it is the right thing to do.
In multiple discussions with our employees from the LGBTQ+ community, the power of outspoken allyship has been highlighted. Knowing that your colleagues publicly support your right to identity offers a safe zone for these employees to be their most authentic selves.
LGBT allies critical in driving DEI agenda of an organisation
Culture is a dynamic concept. It evolves with behaviours and patterns that humans set and cannot grow in a vacuum. Creating a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusivity needs employees to truly believe and behave in ways that create a welcoming environment.
Allies play the critical role of being the first behavioural champions and spreading the message through conversations, activities, and outspoken support. They also become a safe zone for members of the community to open up to and share ideas to further improve upon culture.
DEI without allyship just becomes a charter on the wall and nothing else.
How you can be a good LGBTQ+ ally at work
Being a good ally has several aspects. Here are a few that we promote at UBS:
- Awareness and learning to understand the history behind biases, the various steps taken to overcome these biases, and what support is needed now.
- Listening rather than speaking – pass the mic to the underrepresented.
- Amplify the messages of the members by using your influence within your own circles.
- Show up and support – keeping your support private helps no one.
- Learn from your mistakes – no one is perfect but we can all be mindful and learn from past behaviors and misconceptions.
Creating workplace that is LGBTQ+ inclusive and celebrates diversity
At UBS, we have taken holistic steps to create a workplace that is inclusive and celebrates diversity. In India, we’re part of the UBS global Pride agenda and have followed through on our commitments through affirmative action.
Policies and benefits
- Our policies are gender neutral and do not reflect bias towards any genders – including The Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH).
- Our insurance benefits are extended to same sex partners.
- Adoption leaves are equal to biological maternity or paternity leaves, recognising that families are made in different ways.
- All our job descriptions are vetted to be gender neutral.
All gender restrooms are available on all our office floors.
- We’re inclusive and we’re vocal about it. The support for LGBTQ+ is right from the top.
- We’ve tied up with experts to conduct sensitisation sessions for all employees on a year-on-year basis.
- Reverse mentoring sessions are conducted for senior management and line managers to help them understand and manage teams without biases.
- 60 employees are part of our employee resource groups, set up to offer a platform for LGBTQ+ employees to share their concerns and for all employees to share ideas about making the firm more inclusive.
- Our volunteers who are a part of the Employee Resource group are trained to further disseminate the message and create awareness across our workforce in India.
- We partner with experts who can help us keep evolving and building on our progress.
- We participate in hiring drives and career fairs organised by partners for LGBTQ+ professionals.