The LGBTQ+ community has historically recognized the month of June as a time to celebrate our sexual and gender identities. In the same breath that we express our pride, we honor those who have paved the way for us to be free and deliberate in our pride. What started as a riot has turned into a party heard around the world—although some would argue not for the right reasons.
In the most recent years, many companies and organizations have taken June as an opportunity to demonstrate their support for the LGBTQ+ community. As they drip their branding in the colors of the rainbow flag, they incorporate buzz words like “equality” and “love” into their strategic messaging. They utilize queer and trans talent in their campaigns as spokespeople for how progressive their campaigns are.
This process is known as “rainbow-washing,” or the act of showing surface level support for LGBTQ+ communities during pride month but not doing tangible work to support these communities throughout the year. According to an article by Yahoo Finance, 2 in 5 companies with Pride campaigns will not be donating to LGBTQ+ causes in 2019. While many of these companies might have the best intentions in trying to show their support, especially in an age when Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives are so highly valued, many people in the LGBTQ+ audience have the opposite reaction to many of these initiatives.
It comes across as disingenuous to activate around LGBT folks without presenting any sort of rhyme or reason, especially when no actual work is being done year-round from the company to get involved in issues still afflicting the community. Almost all LGBT+ people (96 percent) have said that companies need to do more to help LGBT+ causes throughout the year, as opposed to just activating during Pride Month.
With that said, there are so many causes that afflict LGBTQ+ people today that companies can get involved in. Arguably, one of the most important branches of this is hiring LGBTQ+ folks in the work place. Not only does this further promote creative and thoughtful work from the brand by diversifying their hires, but it also could help ensure that the company is approaching allyship in a genuine way. It’s important to note, however, that simply hiring LGBTQ+ workers isn’t the only answer.
Written protections need to be put in place by HR departments to enforce a zero-tolerance rule for mistreatment towards these employees. According to the Center for American Progress, nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ employees have reported hearing jokes about LGBT people in the work place. As our campaign Beyond I Do also states, in 30 states, LGBT people can be fired, evicted or denied services just for being who they are. Having companies not only hire LGBTQ+ folks but also provide protections for them inside the workplace allows for everyone to thrive--the brand and the employees.
Another helpful tip companies can follow is having standing donations to LGBTQ+ organizations year-round. While many tend to give to the larger nonprofits such as the Human Rights Coalition (HRC), Trevor Project and GLAAD during pride, there are so many smaller nonprofits to consider. Some of those include organizations such as The Hetrick-Martin Institute, which works to meet the basic needs of LGBTQ+ Youth, including health and wellness services, education and career training, and more. There’s also the Sylvia Rivera Law Project which offers legal assistance to transgender folks in need.
The first step in becoming a good ally is being able to listen to those whose voices have been historically silenced. Now that Pride Month has come to an end, it’s important for companies to understand the immense impact they can have and step up in wielding their ally power effectively and strategically throughout the year and beyond.