It happens every year.
During the month of June, your social media timeline is flooded with corporations pledging their allegiance to the LGBTQ+ community with rainbow logos, photos, campaigns, and products.
While this outpouring of support is great in theory, it raises major questions about how big brands and corporations actually support the LGBTQ+ community once the rainbow products are taken off the shelf and Pride flags are stored away.
How many of these companies actively show their support and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights year-round? How many of these companies work to implement real change for the LGBTQ+ community? And how many are doing nothing, or even the opposite, behind closed doors?
Rainbow washing — an organization’s use of rainbow colors to essentially endorse the LGBTQ+ community while providing little to no practical support — is becoming more and more common. It goes without saying: There are good ways and bad ways for brands to participate in Pride Month. And today, we’re taking a look at both.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Pride Month
Before you work with your design team to fill your campaigns with rainbows, take a step back and make sure you’re taking the right approach. Here is a look at our top do’s and don’ts to help you celebrate Pride Month.
Do: Get employee input during the planning process.
Before you dive into planning your corporate Pride initiatives, it’s incredibly important to get a wide range of employees involved in the process. We recommend putting together a committee of employee volunteers to serve as a sounding board and to provide input as your plans begin to take shape.
Getting your employees involved in Pride planning will accomplish several things. It will demonstrate your commitment to listening to and implementing employee feedback, it will help facilitate a sense of support and community within your company, and it will help prevent you from making mistakes that may ultimately alienate and frustrate members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Do: Support LGBTQ+ initiatives year round.
If you don’t already take steps to support the LGBTQ+ community year-round, take the opportunity to discuss doing so with management and staff during Pride Month. To be a true ally, it’s important to show real support year-round.
Adidas is a great example of an organization that supports LGBTQ+ initiatives beyond Pride Month. While they do release yearly rainbow themed merchandise, they also work with LGBTQ+ artists and designers, and donate year-round to organizations like The Trevor Project. They also host a speaking series with LGBTQ+ athletes and allies about discriminatory federal laws and how to support the next generation.
Do: Prioritize the support of LGBTQ+ employees and initiatives.
It’s not enough to say LGBTQ+ folks are supported at your organization. You have to proactively take steps to make underrepresented voices heard by creating an inclusive and safe environment. Creating an employee resource group where LGBTQ+ members and allies can come together is a good start.
It’s also important to host events around the year that reflect your LGBTQ+ team members, and uplift the voices of your LGBTQ+ employees, and put resources and dollars behind diversifying and educating your company. It’s a great idea to celebrate Pride Month with various activities, donations, and educational presentations, but don’t let that celebration end once the month does.
Do: Review internal policies.
Before you look to publicly promote inclusivity and your support of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to take a look at your internal policies. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend implementing the following:
- Diversity and inclusion training to create a safe and friendly environment for all employees.
- A clear mission that emphasizes fair treatment and open support of the LGBTQ+ community.
- Equal benefits for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation, including health benefits, time off for adoption leave, parental leave, and equal pay.
- A social responsibility program to help organize and take steps to demonstrate clear support for the LGBTQ+ community.
- An anti-discrimination policy that includes specific language around LGBTQ+ discrimination, with clear and enforceable consequences for those who don’t comply.
- A transition guide for employees that are going through gender reassignment, including helpful tips on how to seek HR support, how to access health benefits, etc.
You can also look at the Human Rights Campaign yearly Corporate Equality Index for more ideas on how to make your company more inclusive. They’ve created a national benchmarking tool that covers corporate policies, practices, and benefits pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community.
Do: Educate yourself and those around you on the origins and history of Pride Month.
Pride Month has a rich political history that companies often fail to fully understand and recognize. The origin of June as Pride Month stems in part from the Stonewall Riots, that were named after a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn in New York City, where patrons and other community members fought back against police harassment in 1969. Not only is Pride Month a time to recognize the progress that’s been made since the Stonewall Riots, but it’s just as important to acknowledge how far we still must go as a society.
Do: Put your money (and time) where your mouth is.
Instead of treating Pride Month like a marketing campaign or a hiring push, put efforts toward an activity that will positively impact the LGBTQ+ community. While monetary donations can be helpful, volunteering at community events or spending time with LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations may be a more valuable experience. Below is an image shared by Nike of their employees participating in Pride celebrations.
The message is loud and clear: LGBTQ+ employees and customers alike, we are with you. We welcome you and we celebrate you, whoever you may be.
Other great ideas for celebrating Pride Month at your organization include hosting educational panels with members of the LGBTQ+ community, organizing a charity or fundraising event for a local or national charity, holding inclusion workshops, and hiring LGBTQ+ speakers to discuss their experiences.
Do: Be inclusive and authentic in your advertising efforts.
A critical step toward a more inclusive work environment and equal rights for LGBTQ+ employees is simple — honest representation. Be careful not to leverage LGBTQ+ people in your advertising campaigns in a way that tokenizes or stereotypes these communities. Instead, include individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ in your campaigns as a way to normalize these communities and give them a voice. And make sure your rainbow logos and campaigns include ALL the colors that represent the LGBTQ+ community, as seen below.
Don’t: Assume that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t continue to face adversity simply because Pride Month exists.
Even though we’ve made progress as a society, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face inequality and discrimination in the workplace each and every day. Consider these statistics:
- 31% of LGBTQ+ employees report experiencing workplace harassment in the past five years.
- 67.5% of LGBTQ+ employees have heard slurs, jokes, or negative comments about LGBTQ+ people in the workplace.
- Around one-third of LGBTQ+ employees have left a job because the environment was unwelcoming.
- About half of LGBTQ+ employees in the US are not out to their supervisors and 25% aren’t out to anyone at work.
- Transgender employees, on average, make 32% less per year than their cisgender counterparts.
To avoid simply paying lip service, your organization should find ways to play an active role in advocating for meaningful change.
Don’t: Exploit social initiatives and conversations as a means to reach business goals.
Remember, Pride Month is not about your business.
Celebrating Pride and showing your support for the LGBTQ+ community is not a trend — and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re simply posting rainbow branded imagery or tweeting to “get in” on the important conversations happening this month, you’re likely being disrespectful.
Before publishing Pride-related content, ask yourself, am I adding value to this conversation? What am I hoping to gain from inserting myself into this conversation? What are my motivations? Do I want my company to seem like, or to actually be, a safe space or ally?
Katie Burke, Hubspot’s Chief People Officer, posted a thoughtful LinkedIn post about how allies should think about Pride Month and support their LGBTQ+ peers. This is a great example of how to add value rather than hopping on the bandwagon of “trendy” Pride support posts.
Don’t: Create external campaigns for the purpose of monetary gain.
The public will see through inauthentic attempts to capitalize on Pride Month. Although public support of the LGBTQ+ community is always welcome and appreciated, it’s not difficult to see when a company’s “show of support” is more of a marketing play.
These types of missteps can range from tone-deaf to downright offensive, so if you’re not sure if your Pride campaigns or celebrations will be received well, it’s best to put them on hold until you work with your HR department and or a committee of volunteer employees who want to get involved.
Do: Act with transparency.
Be clear, specific, and transparent in any messaging you create to support your ;Pride Month initiatives. Explain exactly what your support means, how you currently give back to the community, as well as any future plans you have to expand those efforts.
When you outline precise steps, you are making it clear to your audience that you take Pride Month seriously and that you aren’t simply jumping on the bandwagon to reach a wider audience.
Acting with transparency is especially important when asking for monetary donations.
Celebrating Pride Month as an Organization
Pride Month means something different to everyone. It’s a time of celebration, reflection, and progress. As businesses work to be more inclusive in both their workplace policies and their public-facing marketing efforts, it’s important to remember that the most meaningful support doesn’t come in the form of a rainbow logo, proudly displayed for one month of the year.
This Pride Month, we ask you and your business to make equality, inclusion, and diversity a priority all year long. Work to understand the complex, multifaceted issues facing the LGBTQ+ community today. And, above all else, make sure your own workforce feels comfortable, supported, and heard.