In conjunction with World Pride, Taylor hosted a panel discussion on LGBTQ+ inclusivity in media and the workplace. The panel featured five successful executives in the marketing, public relations, and higher education disciplines.
Although the LGBTQ+ community has overcome many challenges in the last few years, there is still so much more progress to be made. This panel engaged in an open and honest discussion that needs to happen in all workplaces.
Various themes about this community in the workplace ranged from intersectionality to representation and advocacy.
“It is really important for the workplace to harness intersectionality – especially when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community – and allow it to thrive within your company.” – Kelsey Bailey, Manager of Social Media Marketing at Showtime Networks.
Intersectionality was frequently mentioned during the panel discussion, but what does it really mean? It is the theory that the overlap of various social identities, such as race, gender, sexuality, and class, contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual (often used attributively). These overlaps (or intersections) must be recognized and taken into account during ideation sessions, workplace interactions and when evaluating brand campaigns or assets, to name a few.
For everyone to feel included in the workplace, we must embrace both the commonalities and the differences amongst people. This practice allows people from all communities to feel like their workplace is a judgement-free space, so that they can be their authentic selves at work. The wider the practice and recognition of intersectionality, the more a member of the LGBTQ+ community may not feel defined exclusively by their sexuality.
Intersectionality cannot be forced; it must come from a genuine place. Panelist Marques Johnson, MSW, Director of Student Advocacy at Georgian Court University said, “The only time I feel that intersectionality meets is when we have to talk about diversity and inclusion. They’ll reach out and say, ‘Hey, we need you to represent this voice.’ Sometimes this can be uncomfortable, and I ask myself: ‘Is this all that I’m good for?’” Diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the topic cannot be turned off and on when it feels convenient. Including people from different communities should not be confined to a day, week, or month; support and inclusion should be all year long.
Being yourself in the work environment typically leads to better performance and overall morale of a company – especially for someone that identifies as LGBTQ+, because they do not have to be constricted to the social norms or status quo.
Panelists also touched on representation both in and out of the workplace, quite different from the world 10+ years ago, when the topic of homosexuality was largely avoided. Today, there are many more openly gay people in top leadership positions of companies. Yo Kim, Social for Twitter, said: “I have always had gay managers throughout my career, so I always felt represented in some way even if they didn’t look like me.”
Having more executives openly identified as LGBTQ+ has allowed members of the community to feel like it is more attainable to reach their goals of leadership at work without bias because of their sexual orientation.
Natalie Turk, a Brand Renovations Manager at Diageo, feels like her community is represented there. “Having the visibility of executives makes it so much easier,” Natalie remarked. “The idea of an LGBT+ leader isn’t a foreign thought. It allows you to aspire to the position you may want by having someone you can relate to. Having that visibility is something invaluable.”
Our panel came to a general consensus: representation must go beyond Pride Month and rainbows. Year-round representation in brand campaigns is essential.
Panelists offered some tips for people who are not part of the LGBTQ+ community on how to be an advocate:
- Ask questions if you’re not sure how to address a person.
- Be selective of what you say and how you say it when referring to one’s gender identity.
- Do your research and spread awareness and knowledge about the community.
- Come from a place of genuine curiosity.
Check out these resources for more ways that you can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community: