'Lead with humanity': How to have an open dialogue about LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace

Taylor hosted a panel to discuss the LGBTQ+ experience, inclusiveness and allies in the workplace.

(L-R) Elizabeth Zaita, Adam Shubak, Kelsey Bailey, Yosub Kim, Marques Johnson, Natalie Turk
(L-R) Elizabeth Zaita, Adam Shubak, Kelsey Bailey, Yosub Kim, Marques Johnson, Natalie Turk

NEW YORK: Want LGBTQ staffers to feel more represented at work? Then make sure visible executives are vocal about the group’s issues and rights.

That was the consensus of LGBTQ+ panelists at an event hosted by Taylor on Tuesday in New York called The LGBTQ Experience in the Workplace and How We Can Be Inclusive Allies.

Advocacy comes from the top down, they said.

Panelist Adam Schubak noted that at Hearst Magazine, where he is an editor and partner manager, the HR department and executives have an open dialogue, including through an employee resource group called Queers and Allies, which Schubak leads. 

"When you work at any job, you feel like you sometimes can’t say what you’re thinking because, you know, you’re afraid," Schubak said. "But I think knowing that it's a safe space or [having] an open dialogue where you can really have a lot of difficult conversations in this room, I love that."

Panelist Marques Johnson, Georgian Court University’s director of advocacy, added that the push toward more employee resource groups and offering sensitivity training to everyone is also crucial for reaching lower level people in the workplace.

The biggest thing to keep in mind: Meet people where they are, advised Johnson.

"We know what it's like to be the ‘other,’" he said, suggesting that inclusiveness is a compromise between understanding just as much as wanting to be understood.

LGBTQ inclusiveness in the workplace can be a difficult conversation, so "leading with humanity is always the best option," said panelist Natalie Turk, manager of brand renovations, marketing at Diageo.

Of course, there is more to LGBTQ people than their sexuality or gender identity, said the panelists. However, companies tend to put LGBTQ people in a box in various ways, such as singling out a member of the community rather than having a team look over LGBTQ content, they said.

Panelist Kelsey Bailey, social media marketing manager at Showtime Networks, pointed out that it is the responsibility of workplace staffers to be mindful of individual experiences within the community and recognize that a shared identity does not equate to a uniform experience.

"I’ve always had to carve out my own space" said panelist Yosub Kim, a social strategist at Twitter, describing the lack of Asian queer representation at work.

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