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advocate for inclusiveness

Brain circuits

Beyond allyship: how you can advocate for inclusiveness

Published 7 June 2021 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

Make yourself visible.

You can easily make changes that show you are an ally. Simple actions go a long way: adding a virtual rainbow background to online profiles, asking human resources to set up a company zoom background that includes a rainbow for the duration of the month, putting a pride flag at your desk, and adding pronouns to your signature on email, your Zoom name, or your LinkedIn profile.

Conduct a climate survey.

While you obviously can’t ask individuals about their orientation, you can conduct a workplace climate survey to find out if people feel included, free to speak up and supported by your organization. You can use these results to launch a discussion about what needs to change if your company isn’t measuring up to the standards you want to set.

Dedicate a meeting to LGBTQ+ inclusiveness.

You have a real opportunity to set a positive tone and deepen the understanding of some of the challenges that normal office interactions might pose for underrepresented individuals. A powerful exercise you can run with your team is to form pairs during the meeting and have them ask each other to share an instance in which they wished they had been more inclusive and/or a better advocate for LGBTQ+ individuals. To set up the safety for this, mention that we all have these instances in our life – no one is perfect, and no one has a throne reserved on the moral high-ground. You can conclude the exercise by sharing how each of you can individually take more inclusive action in the future.

After the pair session, have the group reflect as a team: what could we do as a team to better signal support for LGBTQ+ rights? This goes back to the visibility point: some people may be uncomfortable initially showing visible support, so the more people who do it, the more integrated it will become in your organization’s culture.

Go beyond allyship and be an advocate.

Showing support is an excellent first step in supporting LGBTQ+ people, but the important work of changing your workplace starts when you go beyond that. Straight people must speak up when they encounter instances that make underrepresented groups feel maligned.

For example, if you hear a homophobic joke, speak up, point out how exclusionary this is and try to start a dialog to understand it. Persuading someone to think differently is most effective when we remain positive and understanding in our tone, while at the same time shedding light on how words affect the work environment. Consider how you have handled such an instance in the past and ask yourself how you could have done better. Have a plan ready for if and when it happens in the future.

Inclusion can only happen when individuals feel visibly supported through all levels of the organization and it falls on all of us to set the tone for that.


Ina Toegel - IMD Professor

Ina Toegel

Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD

Ina Toegel’s research focuses on team dynamics, organizational change management, top management teams during corporate renewal, and founder influence. She directs the Leading High-Performance Teams program which supports executives in achieving team flow and transforming a group of individuals into a high-performing dream team.


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