How To Be An LGBTQ+ Ally As A Senior Leader

Your company’s logo may adopt a rainbow for Pride month, but that doesn’t mean your employees are at ease being their authentic selves. In fact, according to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report, 46% of LGBTQ+ employees don’t feel comfortable being open about their identity with their colleagues. Some fear being the victim of inappropriate comments, some are wary of homophobia and discrimination, and some simply don’t want to face scrutiny into their romantic and personal lives.

As a senior leader, you have the power to influence and shape your organisation’s culture and practices, making it a safe and welcoming environment for all. By actively supporting and championing LGBTQ+ rights, you can foster a sense of belonging and promote equality within your organisation.

What does it mean to be an ally?

Allyship is an ongoing and dynamic process that requires dedication and continuous self-reflection. The Anti-Oppression Network, for example, defines being an ally as “an active, consistent and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalised group.” Allies come in many forms and while everyone in the workplace can be one, the role of a leader is especially important in setting the tone for the rest of the organisation. In this article, we’ll examine some meaningful ways that senior leaders can distinguish themselves as true allies. 

Educate yourself

If you haven’t already, start by educating yourself about LGBTQ+ issues, terminology, and history. Familiarise yourself with the challenges faced by the community and the progress that has been made. Read books, articles, and attend workshops or training sessions to deepen your understanding. This knowledge will enable you to engage in informed discussions and make better decisions as a leader. We recommend the Safe Zone Project or the Trevor Project as great starting points, and you can also check out this handy vocabulary list that will help you to be as respectful and accurate as possible when using identifying language. 

Lead by example

As a senior leader, your actions and behaviours set the tone for others in the organisation, and you can demonstrate your commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion by modelling inclusive behaviour and language. For example, include your preferred pronouns in your email signature, use gender-inclusive language, and challenge any discriminatory remarks or actions you witness. Use non-gendered language when speaking with other colleagues, for example, using “Hi everyone” or “Hi folks” to address a group. By consistently demonstrating your support for LGBTQ+ rights, you encourage others to do the same.

Listen and take action

For employees from marginalised communities, the knowledge that you’re not alone and that the organisation you work for has your back is powerful. A great way to achieve this is to set up LGBTQ+ resource groups. These forums can be a great way for team members to connect and share experiences, and to give suggestions about how the company can become more inclusive and welcoming. Be proactive in taking action based on the feedback received. Whether it’s addressing policy gaps, advocating for inclusive benefits, or implementing training programmes, demonstrate your commitment to creating an inclusive environment by translating insights into action.

Practice allyship all year-round

While June is Pride Month, it’s your job as a senior leader to show LGBTQ+ employees you’re committed to inclusion all year round. Consider updating company mission statements to reflect a commitment to inclusivity, and taking a second look at workplace policies and benefits. For example, offering paid leave for gender reassignment, ensuring equal parental leave for employees regardless of gender, and establishing an inclusive dress code. Consider making changes in the office such as gender-neutral toilet facilities, and updating onboarding paperwork to give employees freedom and flexibility with regards to names and pronouns. By practicing allyship throughout the year, you contribute to a more inclusive and equitable workplace where the rights and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community are prioritised every single day.

Don’t expect to be perfect right away 

During the process of becoming an ally, it’s possible that you’ll unintentionally do or say something that upsets others. It’s crucial to approach these situations with humility, openness, and a willingness to learn. Take responsibility for your actions, apologise sincerely if needed, and use those experiences as opportunities for growth and education. Remember, allyship is an ongoing process of learning, unlearning, and evolving. By acknowledging your imperfections and committing to continuous improvement, you demonstrate your genuine dedication to creating an inclusive and affirming environment for everyone.

Include ED&I metrics as part of measuring performance

To truly promote inclusion within your organisation, it’s a good idea to include ED&I metrics as part of performance evaluations for managers across the company. After all, what gets measured, gets done. This means tracking and assessing progress towards inclusivity goals and incorporating them into overall performance assessments. These metrics can cover things like representation across different levels of the company, employee satisfaction surveys, promotion rates for different groups, and diversity in recruitment and retention efforts. By using these metrics, leaders can identify areas for improvement, set targets, and implement specific strategies.

Ultimately, being an ally as a senior leader is as much about deeds as it is words. It takes work and commitment to create a workplace culture that embraces authenticity, equality, and inclusion. By translating your intentions into meaningful actions during Pride month and beyond, you can create a workplace where all employees – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity – feel valued, respected, and empowered to thrive. 

At GRG Executive Search, we’re taking the lead for an equal future, and consistently review and refine our approach to supporting diverse talent. For a confidential discussion about how I can support your executive search requirements, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on

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