Small business owners have a wonderful opportunity to uplift and support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month and year round.
Already, small businesses are doing their part. Last summer, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a survey in which 72% of small business owners said they would be okay with losing customers as a result of their support for the LGBTQ+ community. Further, 86% said that it is important to provide an inclusive culture for customers and guests.
Now that Pride is here, it’s time to think big about how you might step up to the plate. But what are the best ways to become an ally as an employer?
Almost half of all employees in the US (48%) work for a small business, according to research from JPMorgan Chase. As part of that 48%, you can make sure that your workplace is not only welcoming but actively supportive to your LGBTQ+ employees. All it takes is a little empathy—and some thought about how your business functions.
Make your hiring inclusive
A welcoming workplace starts with welcoming hiring practices. If you want to make sure your small business is a safe and encouraging environment for all, start by making sure that your job ads don’t inadvertently turn some candidates away.
In 2021, the Society for Human Resource Management reported that in a recent study from the job search engine Adzuna, only about one-quarter of U.S. job ads actively encouraged applications from LGBTQ+ job seekers.
“We would strongly encourage all corporations who adopt the rainbow for June to take a close look at their internal hiring processes and policies to ensure they are truly supporting the LGBTQ+ community,” Adzuna co-founder Andrew Hunter told the SHRM, “starting with using inclusive language in the hiring process.”
To underscore your support for the LGBTQ+ community, make sure that all potential job seekers know they’d be welcome to work for you. Consider adding a diversity statement to your job ads to put your priorities on full display.
Revise your language
Depending on how long your company has operated, your welcome materials and policy documents might need a quick review. Start by consulting a trusted guide like The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD’s) reference guide to identify any dated, potentially offensive language in your current paperwork.
Then, try to find and trim any language that assumes a gender binary—constructs like “he or she,” “brothers and sisters,” and “sir or madam.” You’ll never need any of them again once you adopt more inclusive terms like “they,” “siblings,” and “esteemed guest.”
Provide HR and mental health support
Make sure that your healthcare plans provide adequate healthcare coverage—and that all employees know about it.
Beyond working gender-inclusive language into all of your existing policies and materials, make sure you also include concise explanations of policies surrounding everything from parental and adoption leave to HR reporting processes.
Also: Does your workplace have a transition guide? This would be a reference document for employees planning to undergo gender affirming care, complete with straightforward explanations of medical benefits offered and resources for further conversation. If not, it’s time to put one together.