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A Corporate Guide to Pride Month 2020

Three-quarters of LGBTQ+ adults say Pride month events increase the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ population. It’s likely you’ve been on social media and have seen the vast corporate support for Pride Month with rainbow logos, photos, and even entire marketing campaigns surrounding the Pride flag. Known as Rainbow Washing, this is a short-sighted attempt for a corporation to earn progressive support but with minimal effort.

Is your business planning on participating in Pride Month? While it’s important for corporations to market with pride it’s even more critical that corporations back their initiatives with real actions. Any business can be a powerful ally if they are willing to put in the work. 

Because Black Lives Matter (BLM) and COVID-19 are current and ongoing issues, businesses will need to be sensitive with their message and delivery.

How to Responsibly Support LGBTQ+

Before updating your social icons and avatars it’s imperative to analyze the correct approach. While this guide isn’t meant to be finite, it will hopefully act as a foundation for future LGBTQ+ and Pride Month campaigns.

1. Support LGBTQ+ All Year (Not Just During Pride Month)

June is the month where you’ll see Pride Parades and other gay pride events across your town. But responsible and socially conscious brands should support LGBTQ+ initiatives all year.

The best course of action businesses can take is to give back. There are a number of LGBTQ+ organizations and charities that deserve support. If your company makes consumer goods, such as clothing, one option is to release special edition products with a portion, or all proceeds, going toward LGBTQ+ causes and charities.

Another year round opportunity is creating partnerships with these organizations to host seminars and community events aimed at furthering their cause. Or become a sponsor of various LGBTQ+ events held by these organizations.

Most importantly, don’t allow toxic culture in your business environment. Ensure your workplace is inclusive and inviting for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, with a zero tolerance policy regarding actions or language that demean others, creating a hostile environment. Extend this policy to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other customers – as well as to employee families and significant others.

2. Get Employee Input During the Planning Process

Pride Month planning shouldn’t be restricted to your executive team. You should let your entire staff have a voice in your Pride activities. Whether your company participates in a large Pride event or shows support through social channels as an ally, employees can offer a lot of insight on how to approach Pride support effectively and appropriately.

Many Pride initiatives also need the help of your entire staff. For example, if you’re creating a T-shirt for Pride, you’ll want to collaborate with your marketing or design team on graphics and messaging that effectively represent your brand and the LGBTQ+ community.

There are also many Pride initiates where your entire staff can get involved. A great team-building exercise is to volunteer as a group. Encourage members of your staff to join the team and help make a difference in your community. A large contingent of staff from a company showing up to volunteer for worthy causes is a noticeable and appreciated way to show support for the LGBTQ+ community in a meaningful way.

Another way to ignite awareness in your workplace is to host Pride Month events in the office. For example, creating trivia games based on the history of Pride as well as LGBTQ+ historical figures is a great way to help make your team socially aware and have fun.

3. Prioritize Internal LGBTQ+ Support

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits employment discrimination based on gender identity, sexual discrimination, and more.

And now, with the recent 6-to-3 ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 15, 2020, LGBTQ+ workers now enjoy federal protection against workplace discrimination. This ruling expanded the protections as defined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Until this decision, it was legal in more than half of the United States to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender. As this is a new change for most of the country, it’s important for employers to educate their staff and make LGBTQ+ staff feel safe by instituting anti-harassment and discrimination policy for all workers.

These practices and policies should also extend to potential candidates. 80% of workers say that diversity and inclusion is an important aspect when choosing an employer. Be transparent about these views during the hiring process. This will help you attract and retain qualified talent who value an inclusive company culture.

4. Be Transparent

Many business leaders and their staff support LGBTQ+ movements but they don’t speak out, fearing cultural or social repercussions. It’s important to stay transparent and communicate your views on LGBTQ+ support – during Pride month and beyond.

In order to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ staff members, it’s imperative to hire executives and managers who value diversity and equality. It’s critical that business owners, executives, and management communicate the importance of inclusivity in the workplace. In addition, provide regular anti-harassment and anti-discrimination employee training, even if your state doesn’t require it.

What You Shouldn’t Do

There’s a myriad of ways to show support for the LGBTQ+ community and Pride. However, some misguided tactics could be misinterpreted or not convey the intended message, and others could backfire, negatively affecting your brand. Here are some tips to avoid these mistakes.

1. Don’t Use Pride as a Way to Generate Sales and Accomplish Goals

Supporting the LGBTQ+ community shouldn’t be seen as a trend or a way to attract a wider audience. While more customers feel better about supporting LGBTQ+ businesses and allies, this shouldn’t be used as a tool to enhance brand visibility, or as aid in marketing efforts.

Instead, add value to the conversation. Relay stories of inclusivity with your staff and customers and highlight stories that present unique perspectives and life experiences. Open up your business to inclusion by creating and offering a safe space for customers and staff. Use your company’s reach to shine a light on LGBTQ+ culture and issues that are important to the entire spectrum of the community, and allow their voices to be heard through your messaging.

2. Don’t Half-Heartedly Show Support

In 2019, lingerie and clothing brand Victoria’s Secret faced severe backlash from the LGBTQ+ community. During Pride month, they Tweeted a photo of their brand Pink’s dog mascot on a rainbow heart with a heartfelt message supporting the LGBTQ+ movement.

This Tweet came after Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer made controversial remarks about excluding transgender models from one of their fashion shows.

This is the perfect example of a brand half-heartedly showing LGBTQ+ support. Tweeting a rainbow heart without addressing the brand’s past statements about transgender model discrimination (though their CMO did apologize for his statements) does little for the cause.

Brands that go about disseminating Pride messaging through various channels want to show support in the most non-committal way, and contribute little to the movement as a whole.

3. Don’t Only Reach Out to an LGBTQ+ Audience

A mistake that businesses make during pride is only catering to those who identify as LGBTQ+. Instead, you should promote involvement from everyone — no matter their sexual preference or their gender identity.

Recognize that your customer base is smart. Consumers can tell the difference between a genuine approach to supporting Pride initiatives compared to brands that only want to leverage LGBTQ+ individuals as a means to propel sales.

4. Don’t Assume the LGBTQ+ Community Doesn’t Experience Adversity

1 in 4 LGBTQ+ individuals face discrimination, not only in the workplace but in many areas of life. While Pride month and other events put LGBTQ+ people and issues in the public eye, there are still ongoing issues that most of the community face on a regular basis..

Pride month is for those who want change and to live in a society that promotes diversity and inclusion. When planning your Pride activities, understand that while there is progress in LGBTQ+ acceptance, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

5. Don’t Lack Diversity

Every member of the LGBTQ+ community is an individual. Yet, when being addressed by brands, many of these efforts lack diversity in their LGBTQ+ representation. For example, they may include only white models in their advertising or will fail to include the transgender community. The rainbow was used to represent the LGBTQ+ community for a reason – because those who it encompasses cover the spectrum to include all races, sexual orientations, gender identities, national origins, and even religious backgrounds.

6. Don’t Promote Stereotypes in Your Advertising

Another major mistake that brands make is including LGBTQ stereotypes in their advertising, such as the flamboyant man. Many of these stereotypes are not only offensive but take away from LGBTQ acceptance and equality. These stereotypes marginalize LGBTQ+ individuals, opening one subset up to ridicule while erasing others. 

A better idea is to reach out to LGBTQ+ influencers and celebrities for their partnership. If you don’t have the budget for these high-profile individuals, seek out those involved in Pride organizations, LGBTQ+ customers, or local LGBTQ+ leaders to help guide your company’s efforts and messaging.

You can also promote LGBTQ+ families as a whole, not only same-sex couples. For example, show LGBTQ+ families dining in your restaurant or shopping in your store.

How to Participate in Pride Without Taking Away From BLM

Black Lives Matter is in the forefront today, hastened by public outrage over recent police actions. If your business is participating in Pride, you should also acknowledge the BLM movement. Fortunately, you can speak to both of these social causes simultaneously.

First, the BLM and Pride movements have many parallels. The BLM organizer, Kei Williams, identifies as a black transmasculine person. In addition, persons of color also led to the Stonewall riots of 1969.

BLM and Pride intersect in many ways; unfortunately, this is through the shared experiences of discrimination and violence. For example, a black person is three times more likely to be killed by a police officer than a white person. A transgender person is 3.7 times more likely to experience police violence compared to a cisgender person.

While businesses may donate to both BLM and Pride charities, it’s just as critical to engage in discussions about equality and diversity. Collaborate with major figures in both BLM and Pride. Participate in, or host, a webinar or virtual chat, learning how everyone can make a difference on a wider scale — not just within your company’s walls or industry.

How to Support Pride During the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 cases are still rising, which is impacting Pride events as well as BLM events and protests. It’s also important that your business is promoting social distancing and other safety measures.

Show your support by remotely joining a virtual Pride event. In your office, host regular virtual meetings with LGBTQ+ colleagues to discuss ways to improve both LGBTQ+ and racial discrimination in the workplace and beyond..

More event holders are finding creative ways to continue supporting Pride during the pandemic. This includes virtual conventions, virtual walks, social media community campaigns, and other remote activities.

To ensure your internal efforts stay compliant, we offer HR and training services. Click here for more information.

Disclaimer: The information and resources provided herein are not a substitute for experienced legal counsel and does not constitute legal advice or attempt to address the numerous factual issues that inevitably arise in any employment-related dispute. Although this information attempts to cover some major recent developments, it is not all-inclusive, and any recommendations are based upon HR best practices and procedures. We recommend you consult an attorney for legal guidance.

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