It’s that time of year again, isn't it? Rainbow flags are popping up in High Street shop windows, on companies’ online advertisements, and across our newsfeeds and social media pages.
Read more: Diversity in the workplace
Many companies choose to celebrate Pride month as a way to show their support for, and solidarity with, the LGBTQ+ community. As well as displaying rainbow flags, some organise internal events, sponsor or participate in local Pride parades, or make donations to LGBTQ+ organisations.
Celebrating Pride month can help create an inclusive and supportive work environment for LGBTQ+ employees, as well as demonstrate the company's commitment to diversity, equality, and social responsibility. It can also enhance the company's reputation and appeal to a wider customer base, particularly among individuals who value inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights. The same goes for potential talent pools and future recruits.
However, it's important for companies to ensure that their support for Pride month is not merely symbolic, but also backed by substantive actions and policies. It's essential to have inclusive employment practices, anti-discrimination policies, and inclusive benefits for LGBTQ+ employees. Publicly celebrating Pride month without addressing systemic issues or actively supporting the community may be seen as disingenuous, insincere and, quite simply, cold, hard cashing in.
I was approached not long ago by an organisation who wanted to fly the rainbow flag in genuine support of the community, but were worried about appearing to cynically cash in. I offered these suggestions as meaningful ways in which they could legitimately demonstrate their support and fly the flag with… well… pride.
Implement inclusive policies: Create and enforce non-discrimination policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ employees from any form of discrimination or harassment. Ensure equal opportunities for career advancement, fair compensation, and benefits for all employees regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Check that your policies and benefits do not unintentionally discriminate through outdated wording or gendered language. Policies for parental and adoption leave, for example, may need updating to be fully inclusive.
Provide inclusive benefits: As with policies, if benefits were drawn up some time ago, they may not be fully inclusive of same-sex couples or transgendered employees, either in substance, fine detail or just wording.
Establish employee resource groups: Encourage the formation of employee resource groups (ERGs) specifically for LGBTQ+ employees. These groups provide a platform for networking, support, and advocacy within the company. Companies can support these ERGs by allocating resources, providing leadership support, and facilitating their involvement in decision-making processes.
Educate and train employees: Conduct regular diversity and inclusion training programs to educate employees about LGBTQ+ issues, including unconscious biases, respectful language usage, and fostering an inclusive work environment. These trainings can help create awareness and promote understanding and empathy among employees. If you believe there are pockets of ignorance or a lack of sympathy around a particular group or topic, then start there. And if you don’t have the expertise or knowledge in-house to approach the subject with due gravitas, invite in a guest trainer or speaker from a recognised and respected organisation.
Foster an inclusive culture: Actively promote an inclusive culture that values and respects diversity in all its forms. Encourage open dialogue, create safe spaces for LGBTQ+ individuals to share their experiences, and ensure that their voices are heard and valued.
Celebrate that inclusivity and diversity beyond Pride month and integrate LGBTQ+ themes into the company's overall diversity and inclusion efforts. These efforts should be year-round, and made visible year round.
Consider supporting an external LGBTQ+ organisation. This can involve financial contributions, volunteering, or collaborations on initiatives that benefit the wider LGBTQ+ community.
Publicly express support: Use various communication channels, including social media, company websites, and public statements, to voice support for LGBTQ+ rights and the community. However, ensure that these public expressions of support are backed by tangible actions and a genuine commitment to equality and inclusivity.
It's crucial for companies to continually assess and improve their efforts to support LGBTQ+ communities. Regularly seeking feedback from LGBTQ+ employees and adapting policies and practices accordingly can help create a more inclusive and supportive work environment.
And what about internal comms during Pride month? Of course, as stated above, inclusivity and celebration of diversity should be an all-year activity, and baked into your comms strategy accordingly. But there’s nothing wrong with using the month to shine an even brighter spotlight on the great things that you do for your LGBTQ+ colleagues.
Share educational content: Provide educational resources and content that raise awareness about LGBTQ+ history, rights, and issues. This can include articles, videos, or even guest speakers who can provide insights that might not otherwise exist within the company.
Highlight LGBTQ+ employees: Share stories, interviews or short videos with willing LGBTQ+ employees about their experiences, achievements, and contributions to the company. This can help humanise their stories and create a sense of visibility and inclusivity within the organisation. If chosen carefully and presented well, you can balance the struggles and fears so often experienced by those in the community with inspiring tales of strength, acceptance and, of course, their own successes within the organisation.
Encourage allyship: Promote allyship within the organization by providing resources and information on how colleagues can support LGBTQ+ colleagues. Share tips on being an effective ally, such as using inclusive language, standing up against discrimination, and educating oneself on LGBTQ+ issues.
Organise internal events: Plan Pride-themed events such as panel discussions, workshops, or lunch-and-learns that focus on LGBTQ+ issues. Invite guest speakers, advocates, or representatives from LGBTQ+ organisations to share their expertise and promote dialogue.
Showcase diversity and inclusion initiatives: Highlight the company's existing diversity and inclusion initiatives, policies, and programmes that support LGBTQ+ employees. This can include showcasing employee resource groups, LGBTQ+-friendly policies, training programs, or mentorship opportunities.
Use inclusive language: Ensure that all internal communications use inclusive language and avoid assumptions about gender or sexual orientation. This can create an inclusive environment and show respect for all employees. Is your tone of voice suitable for a modern, diverse workforce?
Incorporate Pride imagery and branding: Temporarily update internal communication channels, such as email signatures, intranet banners, or digital signage, with Pride-themed graphics or logos. However, it's important to use such branding respectfully and avoid tokenising or trivialising the LGBTQ+ community.
Recognise Pride events: Acknowledge and celebrate Pride events happening locally or globally. Share information about Pride parades, marches, or community initiatives, and encourage employee participation or volunteering opportunities.
Ultimately, whether a company should celebrate Pride month depends on its genuine commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusivity and the specific circumstances in which it operates. Companies should approach Pride month and LGBTQ+ issues with authenticity, respect, and a genuine desire to create positive change.