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How Your Company Can Celebrate Pride Without Rainbow Washing

September 21, 2021
3 min read

Across the country, June marks LGBTQ+ Pride month, a month to reflect on the trials the LGBTQ+ community has endured and to celebrate the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have fought (and continue to fight) for full equality. While many organizations look to celebrate and uplift their LGBTQ+ employees, their participation in Pride month has become quite controversial. The queer community has voiced their concern that attention is being taken away from the core meaning of Pride – to bring education, awareness, and action against the mistreatment and discrimination of LGBTQ+ folks – in favor of taking advantage of the month for capital gains.

The term “rainbow washing” refers to companies profiting from integrating the rainbow colors into their public image or logos, or selling Pride-theme products, without actively contributing to the fight against discrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community. While organizations should support Pride, changing your logo to include the rainbow is not enough. To show your full support for queer employees (and their community), organizations must create real change and take tangible actions for the advancement of the LGBTQ+ people.

Here are 4 ways for companies to support Pride without rainbow washing.

1. Prioritize your internal LGBTQ+ employees and initiatives

Before you look to publicly promote your support of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s important to reflect on your internal policies first. Despite the overwhelming social media/external support from companies during the month, not all of these companies actually treat their LGBTQ+ employees fairly. To start, consider one or a combination of, the following:

  • Launch diversity and inclusion training focused on creating inclusive workplaces for all.
  • Perform an audit of your benefits to ensure employees of different sexual orientations or gender identifications find value in them.
  • Revise your existing anti-discrimination policy to include clear consequences for those who don’t comply.

2. Educate yourself and your employees on the history of Pride Month

When people think of Pride, they often jump straight to the parades and celebrations, without knowing the rich history of the month. Pride month occurs in the United States to commemorate the Stonewall Riots – named after a gay bar called the Stonewall Inn where members of the LGBTQ+ community (particularly those of color) fought back again police harassment in June of 1986.

We encourage companies to use the month as a time to recognize the progress that’s been made since the Stonewall Riots, but also acknowledge how far we have to go.

3. Put your money where your mouth is

Instead of treating Pride as a marketing campaign, put your efforts towards an activity that will positively impact the LGBTQ+ community. While monetary donations can be helpful (we encourage it!), volunteering at community events or spending time with advocacy groups can lead to more effective change.

4. Be transparent

Be clear, specific, and transparent with any messaging you create to promote your Pride initiatives. Explain exactly what your support means, how you currently contribute to the community, and what future plans you have for expanding those efforts. When you clearly outline actionable steps that you’re taking to combat LGBTQ+ issues, you are making it known that support extends past the month of June and that you aren’t simply hopping on the Pride bandwagon.

When all is said and done, it’s important to remember that Pride isn’t about building brand equity or generating extra revenue. A truly inclusive employer is one that puts the LGBTQ+ community, and its fight for equality, ahead of its own branding or financial gain.

This Pride Month, we ask you to make diversity, equality, and inclusion a priority all year long. Work to understand the complex issues plaguing the LGBTQ+ community today and implement some of our suggestions in order to ensure your queer employees feel supported, comfortable, and heard.

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