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Embracing Diversity: Lessons Learned from Iowa’s LGBTQ+ Leaders

Katherine Harrington

From Katherine Harrington, President & CEO | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

As the landscape of workplaces evolves, so too must our approach to fostering inclusivity and diversity. Recently, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce hosted a groundbreaking event featuring top-level LGBTQ+ leaders from across the State of Iowa. The discussions held during this event shed light on the importance of creating welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ individuals in our workplaces and communities. Here are some key takeaways and insights garnered from this enlightening dialogue:

Tell the Untold Stories

One recurring theme emphasized during the event was the need to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals by telling their stories. These narratives serve not only to humanize the experiences of LGBTQ+ Iowans but also to raise awareness about the challenges they face and the progress that still needs to be made.

Building Safer Workplaces and Communities

Creating safe spaces, both physically and psychologically, emerged as a paramount concern. LGBTQ+ individuals should feel secure and accepted in their workplaces and communities. This entails not only adopting inclusive policies but also fostering a culture of respect and understanding.

The Power of Visibility and Support

Visibility and support are crucial in advancing LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. Businesses and community leaders are urged to openly support LGBTQ+ individuals, whether through vocal advocacy, visible signage, or inclusive policies such as domestic partner benefits.

Collaboration and Advocacy

Collaboration between businesses, community organizations, and LGBTQ+ advocates is essential in driving meaningful change. By working together, we can develop inclusive programs, support small LGBTQ+-owned businesses, and advocate for legislative measures that promote equality and diversity.

Investing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives should be more than just a buzzword; they require dedicated resources and funding. Companies are encouraged to allocate budgets for DEI efforts and to actively engage with Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to ensure that their workplaces are truly inclusive.

Language and Policies Matter

Simple changes, such as revising language in employee handbooks or implementing training programs on LGBTQ+ inclusion, can have a profound impact. It’s crucial to challenge traditional norms and embrace language and policies that reflect the diverse identities and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Taking Action and Making a Difference

Ultimately, creating welcoming environments for LGBTQ+ individuals requires action. Whether it’s speaking up at the Capitol, advocating for inclusive policies, or simply checking in with colleagues, each of us has a role to play in driving positive change.

The insights gleaned from the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce event underscore the importance of embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity in our workplaces and communities. By amplifying LGBTQ+ voices, building safer spaces, and advocating for change, we can create environments where all individuals feel seen, valued, and heard. As we move forward, let us remember that our businesses and communities thrive when we embrace the richness of our diversity.

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