Executive Commentary
Allies on Common Ground
Gerri Mason Hall
Gerri Mason Hall
President,
Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation
SVP & Chief Human Resources Officer,
Sodexo North America

Inclusion is an important word in the business community, and one we hear often, particularly in the human resources field. Leaders in every industry are striving to build cultures of inclusion, creating workplaces that value all employees.

This week I’m attending Out & Equal’s 2018 Workplace Summit. It’s an opportunity for the business community to share strategies and best practices to create inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ+ people. Every leader, every company has their own unique strategy to foster inclusion. But is there a common ground?

I believe finding common ground begins with one simple task: Listening. When we listen, we affirm our colleagues’ worth and value. We all want to be heard. We all want to be recognized and valued and appreciated. In seeking understanding, a sense of belonging and inclusion at work, the LGBTQ+ community endeavors for a workplace that is consistent with what any employee would want from their employer. At the end of the day, we all want to feel safe and welcomed where we work.

When the business community takes that first step – to listen and value and affirm – policies and initiatives are more effective and powerful. When we hear our transgender colleagues share how important an inclusive restroom policy is for them, we can influence change in big ways like remodeling our facilities or small ways like changing door signage.

As a human resources leader, I take pride in my responsibility to promote awareness and inclusive policies and behaviors that ensure all of our employees are treated with dignity and respect and that they feel safe to bring their whole selves to work. If our employees can’t bring their whole selves to work, how can we expect them to innovate, lead, create—do the work?

My passion around creating safe and inclusive spaces for my colleagues and employees isn’t purely a noble calling. I’ll admit—there’s something in it for me. My experience as an LGBTQ+ ally over my lifetime has inspired me and given me perspective. It’s made me get outside myself and really learn about communities and experiences different from my own.

Empathy combined with education can break down prejudice and discrimination. Let’s start by listening.

 

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