How much do you know about Positive Spaces? Would it affect your decision to apply for or work at a company if the firm didn’t self-identify as a Positive Space?
A Positive Space is a space where sexual and gender diversity is supported and valued, thus creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.
You’ve probably seen Positive Space symbols without even realizing — they’re all around, and their presence is growing. (This article’s featured image is an example of a Positive Space symbol!) These symbols show that the space is somewhere that a member of the LGBTQ community can turn to for support, resources, and referrals to other informational services.
Positive Spaces are currently not nationally governed and they aren’t developed based on universal criteria, so an organization’s classification as a Positive Space is based solely on self-identification.
To learn more about Positive Spaces, I spoke with Erin Ewing, Project Coordinator at the Positive Spaces Initiative (PSI), a project started in 2008 by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants to support LGBTQ newcomers to Canada.
I asked Erin why it is important to look for employers that self-identify as being Positive Spaces. She said there are plenty of reasons, but here are her top five:
1. You’ll be working in a welcoming environment
Erin suggested asking yourself these questions: “Do I want to feel safe, included, and welcome, and to be able to access services with dignity and respect? Do I want to be able to go to work without having to hide part of who I am, or live in fear and shame?”
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it seems obvious that you’ll want to look for an employer that supports who you are.
2. A Positive Space employer is equipped with the necessary resources
“If a job requires relocation, then it is important to note that sometimes a person’s gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation can affect what kinds of services they need. For example, finding housing in a neighbourhood where they will not be beat up or evicted for being gay, or finding a doctor who understands the medical issues around transitioning to a different sex,” Erin said.
3. A workplace that doesn’t accept the LGBTQ community can be an unproductive one
“If you’re being harassed and bullied at work, hear homo/bi/transphobic insults all day, or expending a lot of energy trying to hide your partner’s gender or your family structure from casual enquiries, how productive can you really be?” Erin said.
4. An organization’s reputation can be affected by their stance on LGBTQ issues
“What kind of reputation do you want your employer to have? Keep in mind that a potential client or customer’s decision to patronize your establishment, a potential sponsor’s decision to fund you, and how your organization may be reflected in the media can all be affected.”
On a personal level, Erin notes that you definitely want to work for an employer that has a reputation for respecting its employees. Whether you identify with the LGBTQ community or not, human rights are universal.
5. It’s the law
Erin notes that, “If the ethical, practical, and public relations reasons are not enough, providing a safe space free of discrimination and harassment is legally required by the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act.”
Ultimately, Erin urges students and recent graduates to be informed about and aware of Positive Spaces.
“Many people are interested in creating safe, welcoming, and inclusive spaces, they just need the education, the tools, and sometimes a trailblazer or an ally – that’s you!”