LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace: Recommendations from utilities executive and transgender parent Mark Lowe
To close out Pride Month, we recently spoke with Mark Lowe. Mark is the Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Spire Energy, a utility company based in St. Louis, MO. As the parent of a transgender son, Mark is committed to supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion and causes in his personal and professional life. He, his wife Julie (TorchLight’s Chief Culture Officer!) and son Matt have supported the Washington, D.C. Gay Men’s Chorus and, in particular, the GENOUT Youth group in DC since 2014.
As part of the leadership group at his current company, Mark champions LGBTQ+ causes in a variety of ways with the goal of deepening the organization’s support of LGBTQ+ employees and the community at large.
What are your top recommendations for ways executives to truly embed DEI within their organizations as it relates to their LGBTQ+ employees? For companies?
Current workplace DEI efforts tend to focus more on race, ethnicity, and gender and less on the LGBTQIA community. Organizations need to ensure make sure their DEI initiatives represent all employees. Here are my recommendations:
Be transparent and open in the workplace
As a parent of a transgender son, I have learned to be open about it and even a bit vulnerable with colleagues and team members. One way to do this is to simply include your pronouns in your signature, which signifies openness and invites conversation. As a result, some employees have approached me with questions and concerns related to their own child or a family member who is coming out. Don’t be afraid to share a little bit!
Create/sponsor affinity groups specifically for LGBTQIA employees
Many companies have employee resource groups related to women’s leadership, vets, and others, but lack groups for LGBTQIA. If your organization doesn’t already have one, invite LGBTQIA employees to help create a group. From there, work with HR and management to ensure all employees know these groups. Not only that, let everyone know how to participate in said groups if they choose.
Support community organizations, including ones that help underserved groups like LGBTQIA individuals
Most organizations encourage their officers to get involved and pick an organization to support within the community. I was seeking a non-profit that supported LGBTQIA adults/youth as well as mental health and disabilities, in large part because I have a transgender son and know the support that is needed. I chose St. Louis Pride and the ARC, which empowers people with disabilities.
A key part of supporting your selected organization is getting your company and team members involved. You can get the ball rolling by working with your company’s community service and LGBTQIA resource groups to help spread the word. Also, be sure to ask the executive team to encourage participation from their individual teams. This worked well for the 2022 St. Louis Pride event.
For the first time in several years, a truck in the parade represented Spire, along with company volunteers riding and walking!
Get involved and stay involved with the LGBTQIA community! Be consistent, sincere, and visible about your involvement. At Spire, supporting Pride Month was important to me. We made sure to include it in internal communications. That said, it is important to discuss LGBTQIA subjects during more than just Pride Month. Include LGBTQIA events and value moments in all communications throughout the year.
Thanks so much for your time, Mark. We appreciate your extremely useful recommendations for ways to increase inclusion and support for LGBTQ+ employees and causes in the workplace. I know our readers will find it useful as they look for ways to continue to expand their DEI efforts for all employees.
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