More Than a Flag: How Employers Can Support Pride 

Written by Luke Kitchen
Last updated June 8, 2022

Pride month is upon us for another year. Here at Aspiring to Include, we wanted to create a collection of blogs to mark the occasion, where we talk about diverse topics from coming out, transitioning, and equal employers.

Keeping the conversation going is super important and we want to be an active part of that. For today’s blog, we are going to discuss the idea of pride in the workplace and how it can be supported effectively and appropriately by employers. 

Let’s jump right in.

What Is Wrong With How Employers Are Doing It Already?

Each June, LGBTQIA+ events and festivities take place all across the U.K. to celebrate pride. It is a chance for people everywhere to show their love and acceptance for others around them and, importantly, to celebrate their liberation. 

In the last decade, we have seen companies and businesses jump on the Pride bandwagon. The rainbow symbol has been used in storefronts, marketing, and company materials more and more each year. Pride is everywhere, visually, in the month of June. And that is a good thing… Mostly. 

The problem with this side of things is the potential for “slactivism”, a term coined to describe the “low-effort way to support social and political causes” that we see from brands and consumers. Having a rainbow symbol across your products doesn’t necessarily mean that you support the LGBTQIA+ community and their experience, but it does mean that you get to make your consumers think that you do. It’s an easy win.

This Pride season, we would encourage employers to go deeper with their support of the LGBTQIA+ community. Long-lasting, integrated support in a company is so much more important than a couple of weeks of people in the management team putting a rainbow emoji in their Slack status. 

Here’s how we think employers can support pride in a much more genuine way.

Encourage Queer-Led Activities 

Pride is all about queer people taking back power over their treatment and their lives. Pride started with The Stonewall Riots of 1969 and it is important to remember that context. 

When we are planning Pride activities, we need to be in consultation with members of the LGBTQIA+ community. It is ideal if these are the people who plan, lead and execute the activities. Straight-washing Pride events is not in good taste and it takes away from what the season means entirely. 

Allow your queer members of staff to take control of the Pride events. If you don’t have any queer staff, you need to reflect on the levels of EDI in your workplace. Then you need to think of what you can do to increase them. Inclusive recruitment methods might be one thing that you look into, to start with.

Avoid Tokenism 

Tokenism is defined as, “ something that a person or organization does that seems to support or help a group of people who are treated unfairly in society, such as giving a member of that group an important or public position, but which is not meant to make changes that would help that group of people in a lasting way”. 

Many efforts made during the Pride month by employers, companies, and brands are, unfortunately, tokenistic in nature. 

A lot of companies still hone in on the concept of “awareness” when it comes to Pride month, but it has become commodified and diluted. “It’s nominal activism divorced from real action”. People are aware LGBTQIA+ exist, that isn’t the problem. Just as the only problem in the community isn’t gay marriage and never was. The LGBTQIA+ community is a huge community made up of vastly different people from across the world and across the sexuality/gender spectrum. It isn’t enough to use a rainbow emoji to show support and allyship.

To avoid tokenism, avoid small gestures that don’t mean much. Avoid showboating and advertising. Focus on real, genuine support and resources that will cultivate equality, diversity, and inclusion in your company for decades to come.

Provide Learning, Training, and Access to Resources

As the LGBTQIA+ community is indeed so vast, we all have a lot to learn. One of the best ways that employers can show support during pride is to provide opportunities for learning.

To use an example, in 2021 iRobot started their Pride month celebrations with a workshop on Gender and Gender Pronouns, and “built on their learnings to develop guides on using pronouns at work and gender identity”. They did this to show a commitment to allyship and to actively work on the levels of inclusion in their company. 

Learning about important topics within the queer community is more important than selling rainbow t-shirts or having a disco. These things can be fun in small doses but they are contributing to the community becoming a capitalist token.

Think of ways that you can genuinely support your LGBTQIA+ employees and colleagues to feel safer at work. Think of celebrations you can have that will help boost allyship and learning in the others. 

Coming together to harvest inclusion is all Pride should be about. 

If you want to work on being a Diversity-Positive employer, you can learn more about doing so on Aspiring to Include. With us, you can increase your levels of equality, diversity, and inclusion. Then, you can move forward with a more diverse staff. For more information on what we can do for you, check out our packages.  

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Last Updated: Friday March 1 2024
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