Thriving in the workplace requires trust in those around us. This is particularly true for those of us who are members of the LGBTQ+ community.
An estimated 1 million people in Canada are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or of another sexual orientation than heterosexual, and only half of these people have come out to their colleagues.
Katie Plante is a young Indigenous woman who grew up in Northern Ontario. She took the time she needed before speaking openly with her colleagues about her sexual orientation.
"I was not always out as a lesbian at work. Itis extremely difficult not feeling comfortable to be your true authentic self at work . I chose to come out when I was ready, and when I felt close to my colleagues."
- Katie Plante, Business Relationship Specialist, Property and Casualty Insurance, Desjardins Group
Mathieu Rouleau, who grew up in a rural region in Quebec, had a similar experience. Because he was concerned that his colleagues would judge him or that his relationships with them would change, he ended up waiting several months before sharing this aspect of his personal life with them.
"When I came out at the office, I was fortunate. It all started when I developed a strong connection with a colleague. Then, as it became clear to me that I could trust my colleagues, I felt increasingly comfortable talking about it with them. Coming out isn't something you do only once. You do it every time you meet someone new."
- Mathieu Rouleau, Manager, Market Development, Caisse du Haut-Saint-Laurent
Having a circle of colleagues at work promoted respect and listening. It’s working in a caring environment with people they trust that convinced Katie and Mathieu to talk about their sexual orientation.
The circle of trust in the workplace
The circle of trust is a space in which everyone feels respected and heard for who and what they are. It means being surrounded by people you can count on. But it takes time to build, especially at work. Training and awareness-raising workshops are essential for creating an inclusive work environment. For example, Desjardins has partnered with the Fondation Emergence for its ProAlly program, which has the goal of creating allied workplaces that ensure the safety and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people.
"I work here, because I feel that I can trust my colleagues. Equity, diversity and inclusion training and the support of colleagues and managers make all the difference. I'm grateful that I work here. I have allies."
- Mathieu Rouleau
Being able to count on allies
The LGBTQ + community wants to be able to count on allies, people who are sensitive to the cause and who aren't members of the community.
Each of us has a role to play. According to the Fondation Émergence, it's easier to be out at work compared to how it was previously. But there's still work to be done, and the role of allies is crucial to making our workplaces more inclusive. Everyone can be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.
"Listening and learning are key to building an inclusive workplace. I personally always love to talk about my community. Do not be afraid to have conversations and ask questions, this is the only way to learn and grow. It shows that youare an ally."
- Katie Plante
Allies provide needed support
Created by the Fondation Émergence and presented by Desjardins, the ProAlly training program strives to create work environments that are more open to sexual and gender diversity. Providing your teams with training is a first step towards inclusion.
For more information: https://en.fondationemergence.org/proallie