Here are 4 Proven Strategies to Champion LGBTQIA+ Beyond Pride, All Year Long
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Pride is a joyous, colorful celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community while also offering an opportunity to reflect on a timeline of struggle and inequity that queer people have faced and continue to face.
This time every year, organizations and corporations recognize Pride, hanging up the staple rainbow in their shops and changing their logo to include the rainbow flag. Sometimes they donate money, create a “round-up” strategy for item purchases or contribute a small amount of revenue from their rainbow-themed merchandise to an LGBTQIA+ organization.
Unfortunately, for some companies, recognition of Pride frequently stops there. In early July, the flags come down, the rainbow drops from the logo and organizations return to their previous status quo.
On social media and with their wallets, consumers have been openly expressing their frustration with these organizations falling short of the allyship necessary to back their Pride-related marketing. Consumers are looking for genuine support, not tokenism.
Here are four ways your company can implement practices, policies and programs that benefit employees all year long.
1. Representation is critical
Seeing yourself in leadership
It should be, and many times is, expected to want to work in an organization that shares our sensibilities and values. The next generation of employees and leaders wants and deserves to look up to leaders who reflect who they are. With only four Fortune 500 companies having openly LGBTQIA+ CEOs, seeing no one like you in a leadership position can be disheartening. Conversely, seeing a leader representing a part of your identity and experience is encouraging. The first time Josh heard about Macy's Chariman and CEO Jeff Gennette, it was a big deal because he saw a reflection of himself in a C-Suite position.
Recognizing gender neutrality has been a key part of some companies' recognition of LGBTQIA+ identities all year round (see: Goldman Sachs and Virgin Airlines). While the inclusion of pronouns may seem small and even mundane to cisgender employees, they help to create a more comfortable space for transgender and non-binary employees to express themselves freely. Baby boomers may remember the fight for women's rights as a radical act that they identified with and embraced as a generation. Now that they are older and more advanced in their careers, hopefully they can empathize with younger generations spearheading the pronouns conversation.
2. Education is about creating awareness, not politics
Focusing on company-wide inclusion
Being clear about a global message of acceptance and inclusion for LGBTQIA+ people is a great way to show year-round support. For example, Accenture's global ally program provides 120,000 participants access to videos, resource guides and workshops on LGBTQIA+ education, allowing all employees to get comfortable with difficult conversations. Another phenomenal tool is Imperative’s Peer-to-Peer platform, which enables employees to build connections grounded in trust, learn about colleagues and understand the visible and invisible dimensions of others' diversity more clearly. As a colleague of Josh’s once said in a meeting, “We learn about ourselves through other people’s stories.”
Creating workplace training programs on respecting LGBTQIA+
Educating those who are not part of the community is a great way to encourage dialog and demonstrate a commitment to learning and respect. That's why experts trained in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) work are the ideal partners for a nuanced learning journey. We suggest going beyond the single workshop, which may come across as training or compliance, resulting in the content being forgotten or viewed as the “flavor of the month.” Instead, we encourage microlearning, which offers individuals ways to build their skills, language and awareness of issues facing LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized communities.
Recognizing important times outside of Pride
There are many days significant to the LGBTQIA+ community that take place outside of June, including LGBTQIA+ history month in October and Transgender Day of Visibility in March. In honoring and celebrating these days, you demonstrate some understanding and appreciation for the LGBTQIA+ community beyond Pride Month. And if your organization hosts a speaker series, consider the intersectionality of the panel. For example, Bisexual Awareness Week is in September amid Hispanic Heritage Month, so it’s an opportunity to celebrate intersectionality and persons who identify as part of multiple communities.
3. Put your money where your mouth is
Setting up scholarships and internships
There’s can often be a gap when it comes to DEIB, but if you engage with LGBTQIA+ young people early in their careers, you expand the pool of applicants. Programs like Verizon’s adfellows create exposure and visibility for young people while bringing organizations new perspectives and experiences that might be otherwise overlooked. Purpose-driven companies find that intentional opportunities and development plans for LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized communities directly impact their diversity pipeline.
Financial support for organizations
Philanthropy and financial support show more commitment to advocating for LGBTQIA+ individuals. Donating to organizations such as Mermaids Foundation, Hetrick-Martin Institute (fill disclosure: Josh serves on the board) and others that need continuous support is far more effective than making a short statement stating support that produces no long-term tangible results.
4. Be the action you want to see
Taking part in local politics
Anti-LGBTQIA+ laws and bills are being brought to the political table at an alarming rate. Taking a stand against anti-LGBTQIA+ policies and legislators sends a clear message to employees and markets of the company’s values. What drives almost all of these laws and bills? Fear. A strategy that’s been used for generations to marginalize communities. To counteract fear, see “education” above.
Scoring highly on the HRC Corporate Equality Index
Third-party verifications of policies and practices offer significant benefits over self-reported claims. Used for nearly 20 years, The Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index is the national benchmarking tool measuring efforts towards LGBTQ(IA+) employees. It measures criteria such as workforce protections for LGBTQ(IA+) people and inclusive benefits like transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. Receiving a 100% score means a company is recognized in the annual “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality” list. While receiving a high score is not the finish line for LGBTQ(IA+) support, it indicates to future employees that yours is a safe space to work. Even if imperfect, a strong ranking indicates that leadership is committed to the journey.
All of these steps are valuable in their own right, in conjunction with recognizing that being LGBTQIA+ is a small part of someone. As married and gay entrepreneurs, we are first and foremost entrepreneurs, who happen to be gay. Like many others, we do not want just one part of our identities, our LGBTQIA+ status, to be known. Being LGBTQIA+ is a pillar. It helps support the entire person but is not the person itself.
It is powerful for many to be able to fully present themselves as they are, with all their experiences and perspectives. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ people are too often expecting adversity when they enter a workplace as themselves, and the culture that allows their mistreatment needs to change.