Every year around this time, companies everywhere showcase rainbow logos and share social media sentiments regarding their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in honor of Pride Month. You may even see organizations handing out rainbow-emblazoned company swag, participating in Pride parades, and offering Pride-themed products to customers.
These gestures show how far the LGBTQ+ community has come in making their voices heard and gaining a level of mainstream acceptance that was once thought almost impossible. However, they are not necessarily indicative of authentic allyship, and they can even come off as patronizing and performative.
Are these companies genuinely interested in supporting a historically marginalized community, or are they capitalizing on a growing social movement and trying to avoid the blowback that remaining silent during this time of year might incur?
This is a question that simply slapping a rainbow on your branding during June can raise. It’s undoubtedly one that you don’t want to be asked of your organization if you truly believe you support your LGBTQ+ employees and the LGBTQ+ community at large.
To help you gain a better perspective on what it means to be an ally during Pride Month and all year long, we’ve created this guide to supporting your LGBTQ+ employees and attracting diversity in the workplace. We hope that reading it will prove beneficial to not only your organization, but also to members of the LGBTQ+ community everywhere.
What Is Pride Month?
On its surface, Pride Month is an annual celebration of everything LGBTQ+. It lasts throughout the month of June. One way people celebrate Pride Month is by attending rainbow-colored parades that are held in every major American city. These parades are intended to showcase all of the myriad aspects of LGBTQ+ culture. This is the fun part, but beneath it is a pained history of loss and struggle that should not be ignored.
Pride Month is built on a foundation of bold political activism and courageous protest. It’s also a time to memorialize those lost to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which began in the 1980s and has had a massively disproportionate impact on the LGBTQ+ community.
These more somber aspects of Pride Month are the things that are most often lost on organizations that claim to be LGBTQ-friendly but are seen by some as merely paying lip service to the community. It’s crucial to keep that in mind when it comes time for your company to show authentic and meaningful support during this time of year.
The Importance of Maintaining a Diverse Workforce
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace has grown to become a critical point of focus for any successful organization today. Striving to create a workforce that’s representative of a broad spectrum of cultures, ethnicities, and identities is not only a moral or ethical pursuit but also a means to strengthen and grow your company and improve your employer brand.
DEIB is crucial to the success of your organization because it:
- Helps to eliminate unconscious biases
- Improves employee engagement
- Improves employee performance
- Allows for better decision-making
- Opens the door for top talent
All of the benefits listed here are things that your company is more than likely striving for already, which should make focusing on diversity in the workplace a no-brainer. And when it comes to your LGBTQ+ employees and their community, this is what they’re interested in when it comes to your support during Pride Month and beyond.
How to Truly Show Your Support During Pride Month
These are the ways in which any organization can create/maintain an employer brand that is authentically LGBTQ-friendly.
Focus on Existing LGBTQ+ Employees First
The bone of contention that the LGBTQ+ community has with many companies who claim allyship is that they don’t practice what they preach. Ensure that your current LGBTQ+ employees feel included, respected, and valued.
You can do this by looking at your current anti-discrimination policies to see if they could use revision, reviewing current benefits to ensure that they consider LGBTQ+-specific needs, and encouraging employee feedback so that your practices can constantly be improving. These surveys allow teammates the space to share their experiences with bias or discrimination they might have experienced, or gives teammates the platform to share suggestions on how to make your workplace more inclusive for diverse communities.
Educate Employees and Leadership about LGBTQ+ Issues and DEIB
This is something that should be happening year-round. This can involve training courses on identifying implicit bias and the importance of DEIB, but it should also involve a focus on developing a diverse workforce. Gaining firsthand experience working with a diverse group is perhaps the greatest teacher.
Also, it’s important to have these policies and protections in place and made clear to teammates, and to have any report of discrimination taken seriously.
Create an Inclusive and Gender-Neutral Workplace
There are a number of seemingly small things that can create an exclusionary environment in your workplace and make it difficult for you to attract and retain great LGBTQ+ job candidates. Fortunately, this can be remedied with some easy-but-critical measures.
To be more inclusive of candidates who are non-binary or gender nonconforming, you should strive to use gender-neutral language and make sure to reference your LGBTQ+-specific DEIB policies and initiatives in your recruitment messaging. Take the time to review your job descriptions, employment applications, and other recruitment marketing materials to ensure the copy is gender neutral.
Also, companies should encourage all employees to include their preferred pronouns on Slack, LinkedIn, email signatures, etc. And make sure to detail a specific support plan for transgender and gender non-conforming employees and candidates.
Support LGBTQ+ Causes and Communities
Actions speak louder than words, and your LGBTQ inclusion efforts shouldn’t be relegated to just a single month out of the year.
Take your support a step further by supporting LGBTQ+ causes, charities, or community centers. Also, understand exactly where your money or effort is going. There are plenty of groups who may appear like great allies to partner with, but they actually support or benefit from anti-LGBTQ+ causes or organizations. Research is critical.
This can present an opportunity to get employees involved in team-building volunteer work, which has proven to increase both job satisfaction and employee retention.
Elevate the Voices of LGBTQ+ Employees
The LGBTQ+ community has historically been marginalized and silenced, so providing the members of the LGBTQ+ community who are also members of your workforce with a platform and a voice is a powerful gesture.
This can be done through employee testimonials, spotlights on your career site/social media accounts, blog posts, webinars, and more. This will not only show authentic allyship during Pride Month, but it will also encourage greater acceptance and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in your workplace.
As we continue to work towards building an inclusive workforce, it’s important to be transparent about the journey. If you’re not where you’d like to be, that’s okay. Sharing the actions you’re taking, holding yourself accountable, and making sure your commitment to inclusivity extends year-round is a great place to start.
That includes acknowledging and taking accountability for the areas where you’ve fallen short, addressing where you have room to improve, sharing your plan of action to improve and grow, and encouraging and responding to feedback with genuine action.
Working towards diversity is part of a meaningful effort to celebrate all those who make up your team, and ensuring everyone has a seat at the table can help your company increase loyalty, understand your communities and teammates, build authentic relationships, boost employee morale, and increase productivity.