Work has the potential to have a huge impact on our lives – most of us rely on work for our financial livelihood, but, for many, it’s so much more. For some, our work forms a fundamental part of how we see ourselves, and impacts our confidence and self-awareness. We know that we can’t bring our best energy to our work if we don’t feel safe enough to be our authentic selves. And that all of us thrive in environments where we feel valued and respected – not only for our work, but also for what we, as unique individuals, bring to the table.

But over a third of LGBTQ+ people still feel they have to hide who they are at work. This means they have to watch what they say, what they do, and where they apply. It’s crucial that LGBTQ+ people have the same opportunities as everyone else to unlock their potential in their career, and YOU can play a part by creating safe and LGBTQ+ friendly spaces in which everyone can thrive.

The Stonewall Football Club in London has been championing equality in football for over 30 years.

adidas and Stonewall: encouraging LGBTQ+ friendly sport

Through a long-term and fruitful partnership, adidas and Stonewall are working to break down barriers on and off the field, and to make sport everyone’s game. For the past 30 years, Stonewall Football Club have been championing LGBTQ+ equality in football, expanding their reach and impact to include a Women’s and Non-Binary team and to practice out of a new home stadium since collaborating with adidas. They’ve also been providing greater numbers of LGBTQ+ individuals with a platform to share their stories, and to find a sense of belonging through sport.

Today, through Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces campaign, more than a million people have laced up, and two thirds of sport fans who’ve seen the campaign believe they have a responsibility to stand in solidarity for LGBTQ+ fans of the teams and sports they follow. However, the numbers show there is still much to do. 20% of sport fans think anti-LGBTQ+ language is harmless if it’s just meant as banter (ICM for Stonewall, 2020), and 43% of LGBTQ+ people think public sporting events aren’t a welcoming space for them. (YouGov for Stonewall, 2017). Clearly, while visibility is important, it’s not enough. Especially when, for many, sport is more than a community – it’s also a workplace, a workplace that needs to be more LGBTQ+ friendly.

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So, whether they’re on a sports pitch or pitching ideas in a boardroom, LGBTQ+ people deserve to feel included and supported and this is how you can make your club or workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly and inclusive.

1. Educate yourself and others.

We all have things that we need to learn more about – this isn’t a personal failure, it’s an opportunity for growth! Take the time to find out more about the experiences of the LGBTQ+ community by reading articles, watching videos, and following advocates on social media. You can then share this information with your colleagues and help foster a culture of learning at your workplace and make your surroundings more LGBTQ+ friendly.

2. Don’t expect to be perfect immediately.

During this learning process, you may hit roadblocks or unintentionally say things that upset others. It’s OK to be kind to yourself during this journey and accept the learning curve.

3. Put your pronouns in email signatures.

Putting your pronouns in visible places, such as in your email signature or next to your name on Zoom, signifies to all that you recognise the importance of pronouns to many LGBTQ+ people. It also allows those who may be less comfortable being out in the workplace to feel safer when sharing their own pronouns without fear of immediately outing themselves. However, it’s also important to remember that some LGBTQ+ people might not be happy yet to share their pronouns – they may be exploring their identity or just want to maintain a level of privacy.

4. Find out about reporting processes at your workplace.

Be proactive in learning about any reporting processes at your workplace that can help you to be an active member of the community, rather than a passive bystander. Many LGBTQ+ people may not feel comfortable reporting incidents themselves, for fear of outing themselves or risking their job security. That’s why it’s important for allies to speak up when we witness inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.

Woman sitting on a desk and looking at her laptop
Workplaces should look at the networks and channels they have and proactively use them to show allyship and education.

5. Rally senior leaders to be active champions for Pride networks.

Workplaces are the most successful at helping everyone thrive when a culture of inclusion trickles down from the top. Reach out and encourage senior leaders and directors to be vocal champions for inclusion and diversity networks! This helps LGBTQ+ employees feel as if their entire organisation supports them to be truly themselves at work and makes the workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly.

6. Don’t ask LGBTQ+ people intrusive questions.

It’s never polite to ask probing questions about our colleagues’ lives, but LGBTQ+ people often get asked personal questions about topics from our sex lives to our bodies. It’s OK to be curious and to want to learn more, but it’s often better to wait for a colleague to offer the information themselves. If you feel like you really need to ask them a personal question in order to support them better, perhaps find the time to do so in private, or give them a heads up so they have time to prepare.

People discussing inclusivity in adidas' headquarters
adidas uses it’s Speaker Series to educate employees about Pride and give partners a platform to share their stories.

7. Step back and ensure you’re centring the voices of LGBTQ+ people.

When taking action to support LGBTQ+ people, remember to recognise your own privilege and step back when needed. It’s so important for allies to use their voice to stand in solidarity with more marginalised communities – but it’s equally as important to know when not to take up space. Listen to LGBTQ+ people and platform others when appropriate and possible.

Do you have experience of making your workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.


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