DAVIDSON – Ingersoll Rand is educating employees about what it means to be an ally in the workplace as support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community continues to rise.

The company’s education center celebrated pride month with an employee resource group panel discussion, dubbed “Talking Straight: Coming Out in Corporate America (How allies are changing the corporate culture for LGBT community members).”

The Pride ERG, formerly known as LGBTA ERG, hosted three speakers to talk with employees about inclusion and what it means to be an ally.

J. Robby Gregg Jr., diversity expert and co-chairman of the Human Rights Campaign’s Diversity Council, reflected on the words said to him by Maya Angelou, whom he considers to be his first ally.

“Baby, love is love,” she said.

Being an ally in the workplace is about equality and allowing people to be who they are in a place where they spend the majority of their time.

Rick Schroder, author of “Finding the Energy – Coming Out in Corporate America” and manager of inclusion and diversity at GlaxoSmithKline, recommends using your heart, head and hands.

Schroder said the heart part is easy because you clearly care about someone to be their ally, your head is your willingness to understand their situation, and your hands are a way to tangibly show your support.

“Sometimes all people need is a hug or a smile,” Gregg Jr. said.

To be an ally, all you need to do is see people as equal.

“There is nothing better than supporting people who don’t know you're supporting them,” said Eric Watson, president and CEO of the Carolinas-Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council.

The three panelists shared some resources they think are very positive organizations in the LGBT and ally community, including Pflag, Out and Equal, and Friend Factor.

They also talked about how to deal with negative attitudes toward LGBT issues.

“It’s best to talk to them one on one and let them know that they are not representing the company well,” said Neddy Perez, vice president of inclusion and diversity at Ingersoll Rand.

Panelists agreed and added that if you call someone out publicly who is negative toward the LGBT community, then it would exclude him in the workplace, which would go against everything they are working for.