Insights - 15.06.23
Will Holroyd, account manager at MC2, outlines why companies can no longer just declare support to the LGBTQ+ community, but need to start taking financial steps and embolden structural change to show real allyship.
Born out of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in the US, the month of June has been immortalised as a period of celebration and inclusion for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Whilst originally used as a powerful political statement at a time when gay and transgender people weren’t widely accepted in Western society, as acceptance has grown, so has the meaning of Pride Month.
Now a tool often used by organisations to display their support for the LGBTQ+ community, it is quickly becoming a corporate marketing tool for the masses. However, when your LinkedIn is awash with rainbow corporate logos, it can be easy to forget the significance of Pride Month and why it’s so important to so many.
The question then, is how do corporate organisations display their support for the LGBTQ+ community without it appearing vapid and self-serving?
The answer, put simply, is put your money where your mouth is. It is no longer enough to voice your support for the LGBTQ+ community. A deeper understanding and commitment is needed from companies that want to truly be an ‘ally’.
That’s not to say that voicing support isn’t an important step. In the past, it was incredibly daring. Through the 80s and 90s HIV/AIDS hysteria, simply voicing your support for the LGBTQ+ community was a huge step, and one that was greatly appreciated. Even during the 2000s, featuring a gay couple in an advert was considered controversial.
However, through relentless activism, we have since moved on. Gay marriage is now legal in the UK, and attitudes are moving in the right direction for members of the LGBTQ+ community. This isn’t to say everything’s perfect, but, comparatively, conditions are improving, and general tolerance and acceptance is increasing. It’s also worth noting the differing challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community face, particularly those who identify as transgender as well as the nuances within different ethnicity groups regarding acceptance and racism.
As general acceptance has grown, voicing support is no longer the grand political statement it once was. It’s also no longer just an expectation, but rather a legal requirement for companies to, at a minimum, accept those from the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, voicing support now is nothing more than expressing that your company is following the law.
What, then, can companies do to go beyond just voicing their support? The first is to look inward at how accepting your company is. It’s one thing to voice your support, but how well do you actually fair when it comes to acceptance in your own organisation? If the answer is anything other than incredibly well, the best thing you can do is work to change this.
The benefits of a diverse workplace can’t be understated. We live in a diverse, multicultural society, so how can a company truly reflect this without a diverse workforce behind it? Diversity in the workplace facilitates difference of opinion and creates an open forum for discussion, harnessing the collective power of varying insight.
Once you’ve sorted your internal affairs, what do you do externally? For starters, more than just changing your logo and posting on social media. Social media can be a powerful tool for change, but for a company, it’s become the bare minimum.
True activism and allyship comes from a deep level of understanding and interest in a subject – a social media post does not reflect this.
Instead, show your support in more meaningful ways. There’s no set way to do this, but to many, money talks. There’s a vast array of charities across the UK which aim at issues faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, whether through school outreach programmes or supporting those who have faced difficulties since coming out.
Uplifting and supporting those in your organisation also help to show your commitment. Acceptance comes from shared knowledge and understanding, so make sure you’re at the forefront of this. Whether you’re facilitating knowledge and experience sharing, setting up panels and discussions within the business community, or providing dedicated support to address the unique issues members of the LGBTQ+ community can face. These all go a long was to show a deeper commitment and understanding.
Finally, take a look at how other companies are conducting themselves. If you work with a company that is known to be intolerant or homophobic, yet you’re showing support during Pride Month, it’s hard to avoid accusations of hypocrisy.
Ultimately, the true meaning of Pride Month can be lost in the corporate noise. It is a time for LGBTQ+ people to celebrate with one another, as well as recognising the importance of continuing to push for reform to ensure every member enjoys the same rights and acceptance as anyone else. Intolerance, homophobia and transphobia are still prevalent in today’s society, and Pride Month is a key time to spotlight this and push for meaningful change.
Therefore, it is always important to keep this in mind and ensure you fully understand why Pride Month is important to so many. It is only by taking this into account, whilst also celebrating all of the successes and beauty of the LGBTQ+ community, that corporate support can feel genuine and authentic.