As June ends, we see rainbow company logos reverted to standard colors, Pride flags taken down from company windows, and parade accessories in sale aisles. Corporate celebrations of Pride Month 2021 have ended. For some LGBTQIA+ employees, the disappearance of the rainbows is the only change – they are still able to celebrate Pride at work every day. For others, the end of company celebrations means the end of company support.
Rainbow washing or rainbow capitalism – when companies use Pride Month as a marketing tool or to distract from negative impacts on the LGBTQIA+ community – has become a central conversation. For example, 25 major corporations that communicated support for queer equality this Pride Month have given more than $10 million to anti-LGBTQIA+ politicians. Many others with rainbow logos have supported one or more of the 250 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills introduced in the U.S., 18 of which have become law. Most of these bills target youth healthcare coverage and education programs designed to support non-binary and transgender people. This wave of discrimination comes alongside a massive rise in violent assaults and murders, especially of transgender Americans, compared to 2020.
More Americans identify as LGBTQIA+ than ever before: 33% of Gen Z and 10% of Millennials. Younger generations entering the workforce are increasingly making employment and spending decisions based on corporate citizenship efforts and community impact. Here are some actions companies and employees can take to ensure the LGBTQIA+ community is supported all year:
Remember that Pride began as, and still is, a protest.
The Pride equality movement stemmed from the 1969 Stonewall Riots, and while there have been great strides in queer equality, there are clearly still miles to go. Pride is a protest and celebration. It brings joy and a sense of community to LGBTQIA+ people but is also a staunch reminder that equality has not been fully achieved. Many LGBTQIA+ people are looking to exclude corporations from Pride if true, year round support is not a priority.
Employee Engagement Considerations
When planning engagement activities such as volunteerism, new hire trainings, and other activities, consider them through a LGBTQIA+ lens and/or engage your Pride ERG if able.
- Consider where employee and corporate donations go, both monetary and in-kind. Ensure the impact you’re making is inclusive of the queer community.
- Evaluate how you celebrate Pride, if your company should be represented in a parade, and how you communicate your positive impact to the LGBTQIA+ community. Rainbow logos on company shirts are great for uniting employees but can be disrespectful if a company has a negative impact throughout the year.
- Highlighting LGBTQIA+ employees’ stories throughout the year is very thoughtful and can open employees to inclusivity. However, Ally stories, though great, should never be highlighted. Pride is a protest and celebration for queer people.
- Religious-based trauma survivors may not be inclined to go to an event held at a religious site. Find an alternative space or inclusive religious site and note that.
- Ensure volunteerism is inclusive. Blood drives are fantastic but aren’t fully inclusive. Until COVID-19 in 2020, gay men had to abstain from male intercourse for one year prior to giving blood. Now they still must abstain for 3 months. If you have a blood drive, offer another volunteer option as well.
Check Internal Policies
Work to ensure LGBTQIA+ inclusivity is a core part of your company’s structure. Examples include:
- Pure, obvious, year-round leadership support of LGBTQIA+ employees and their community.
- Trans inclusive healthcare, parental (rather than maternal/paternal) leave.
- Neutral pronouns in internal communications.
- LGBTQIA+ bias or inclusivity training in new hire or annual trainings.
- LGBTQIA+ ERG support and engagement.
- Acceptance of gender expression, including non-gendered dress codes.
- Clear policies for dealing with anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimination and harassment.
- Year-round consideration, support, and celebration of LGBTQIA+ employees.
Quick Tips for Allies in the Workplace
Be openly inclusive and accepting. Remember that not everyone is out of the closet, especially at work. Being an Ally gives queer coworkers comfort in their workplace and in themselves.
- Introduce yourself with your pronouns, and don’t assume others’ pronouns. If you’re unsure, ask them or use “they”. Add your pronouns to your email signature, Zoom name, and office door.
- Give gender-neutral cards or gifts to co-workers.
- Check your verbiage. Use partner instead of husband or wife if you don’t know their gender. When greeting a room full of people, simply say “Welcome” instead of “Ladies and gentlemen”.
- Consider intersections such as race and sexuality, gender and gender expression, and multiple pronouns.
- Educate yourself! Attend an Ally-inclusive pride ERG meeting, read about LGBTQIA+ history, and consume media by and about queer people.