What Does Heteronormative Mean?
In recent years, the term “heteronormativity” has become increasingly commonplace in conversations about diversity and inclusion.
But what does it mean? Heteronormativity is the assumption that everyone is heterosexual and that a particular type of relationship structure—a man-woman relationship—is normal or natural.
It’s important to understand how heteronormative beliefs and practices can manifest in the workplace so we can create an environment where everyone feels accepted and included.
The Impact of Heteronormative Ideology in the Workplace
Heteronormative thinking can have an adverse effect on workplace inclusion by perpetuating negative stereotypes about non-heterosexual individuals.
For example, when someone assumes that all employees are heterosexual, they may make incorrect assumptions about their co-workers' gender identity or sexual orientation, which can lead to uncomfortable situations and feelings of exclusion.
It also creates a hostile environment where non-heterosexual individuals feel like they need to hide their true identities or risk facing discrimination.
Additionally, when only heterosexual relationships are normalized in the workplace, it sends a message to LGBTQ+ employees that their romantic relationships are not valued or accepted in the same way as those of heterosexual employees.
How Heteronormativity Shows Up at Work
Heteronormative beliefs can be seen in subtle ways throughout our workplaces, from managers giving props to their “wife” for something they achieved to assuming that everyone in the office is either married or single and not considering any other relationship statuses (such as polyamory).
This kind of thinking reinforces the idea that there is only one way to have relationships—the traditional, heterosexual way.
That leaves out people who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, making them feel like their identities are being ignored or invalidated.
It’s also important to consider how heteronormativity impacts hiring decisions. If a company isn’t intentionally looking for candidates outside of the traditional binary gender roles, they may miss out on great talent due to unconscious bias.
Making sure job descriptions are inclusive and taking into account diverse perspectives when evaluating candidates can help ensure that all qualified applicants have an equal chance at getting hired.
The Importance of Breaking Down Heteronormative Barriers
The best way to break down heteronormative barriers is by educating yourself and others on these issues. This includes learning more about different types of relationships so you can better support colleagues who don’t conform to traditional labels like “boyfriend/girlfriend” or “husband/wife.”
Ensuring pronouns are asked for during onboarding processes and training managers on proper language usage are also effective ways to create an environment where everyone feels respected and accepted no matter what their gender identity or sexual orientation may be.
Additionally, hosting events such as Pride Month celebrations or LGBTQ+ sensitivity workshops allows employees to express themselves freely while increasing awareness around these topics.
D&I teams and managers should be aware of how heteronormative ideology impacts their team and work to challenge these assumptions and create an inclusive environment for all employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
This includes challenging language used in meetings and trainings, encouraging open dialogue about sexuality and gender identity with colleagues, and thoughtfully considering how policies affect different groups of people within the organization.
Additionally, creating a culture where everyone feels safe enough to bring their authentic selves to work is critical for fostering a sense of inclusion in the workplace.
Here are some other tips for helping employees break down heteronormative barriers.
Educate Employees on Different Issues
In order to break down heteronormative barriers, organizations must be willing to educate their employees on issues related to the LGBTQ+ community.
This could include providing training on how to use appropriate language when discussing gender identity or sexuality, recognizing diversity among LGBTQ+ individuals, understanding different gender pronouns and their usage, and increasing awareness of the challenges faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Implement Inclusive Policies
Organisations should develop policies that are inclusive of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
These policies should ensure equal treatment across all areas of employment including hiring practices, pay equity, promotion opportunities, benefits eligibility, job security, and more.
Additionally, organizations should have anti-discrimination protections in place for anyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Create a Welcoming Environment
Creating a welcoming environment is key for any organisation looking to break down heteronormative barriers. Managers should be encouraged to foster an inclusive environment where everyone feels safe and respected regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This could include displaying posters with affirming messages around the office or organizing events that celebrate diversity and inclusion within the organization’s culture.
Additionally, organisations can partner with local resources such as LGBT centers that can provide support services for employees who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, for instance.
Use inclusio to Break Down Heternomative Behaviours
Breaking down heteronormative barriers requires effort on behalf of both employers and employees alike. If you already have D&I initiatives in place, using a platform like inclusio can help you gain important insights about how they’re performing.
The platform gives you access to powerful diagnostics and important reports, allowing organizations to identify early risk indicators and better understand the effectiveness of such programs.