Effective diversity and inclusion should be lived year-round - avoiding mere lip service during Pride month in June.
Like every year, countless rainbow flags are hoisted in Austria just in time for 1 June and social media is well filled with rainbow logos – often only to disappear from the scene just as punctually on 30 June. While these expressions of solidarity have symbolic power and raise awareness for LGBTQIA+ concerns, the focus should be on year-round community support – for moral as well as business reasons.
It is no coincidence that June is Pride Month in many countries. This awareness month originates from the so-called Stonewall Riots, which began on 28 June 1969 in front of the bar of the same name on Christopher Street in New York. This uprising of the oppressed local queer community against harassing and seemingly arbitrary police raids on scene venues like the Stonewall Inn is nowadays considered the starting point of the international LGBTQIA+ civil rights movement.
United under the rainbow
From 1978 onwards, the rainbow flag has become the widely known symbol of the movement and its demands for equality for LGBTQIA+ people in legal and social terms. Over time, several of the different groups within the LGBTQIA+ community designed their own flags, which were increasingly incorporated into their umbrella flag. In 2021, the “Intersex-Inclusive Progress Pride Flag” was created as the current flag of the movement.
Pinkwashing in action
Time and again, companies use the Pride symbol to target LGBTQIA+ people and their allies in June and profit from their purchasing power, while the rest of the year the needs of the community are not or hardly addressed, or its members are even actively discriminated against. This is referred to as “pinkwashing” and, especially in times of social media ubiquity, increasingly leads to backlashes against such companies, often accompanied by a higher risk of lost sales.
Inclusion is “good for business”
In addition to the moral argument for working towards equality for all members of society, there is also a clear business interest for year-round engagement for the concerns of LGBTQIA+ people in work and commerce.
Especially in times of a shortage of skilled workers and increasing social demands for equity and inclusion of all people regardless of their origin, skin colour, age, gender and sexual identity, a facts-based image as an inclusive company is an important factor in employer branding.
Tips for diversity, equity, and inclusion
Accordingly, the following tips can help avoid pinkwashing and the associated risks and strengthen your own employer brand:
- Live LGBTQIA+ engagement and inclusion all year round.
Show your employees and stakeholders that you are proud of your diverse team and what a positive impact the conscious inclusion of varied approaches has. For example, in addition to showing solidarity in June, support advocacy and diversity organisations throughout the rest of the year.
- Talk about diversity.
Use inclusive internal and external communications to ensure that your organisation is embracing equal opportunities and diversity, from senior management to new hires, and supporting relevant equity policies.
- Institutionalise DE&I.
Make diversity, equity, and inclusion explicit core factors in the development as well as operationalisation of your corporate strategy and goals. Pay conscious attention to DE&I in the career area, for example in recruiting and promotions, as well.
- Communicate inclusively.
Use inclusive language in your corporate communication and avoid (role) clichés, prejudices and stereotypes. The best way to do this is to involve your most important resource, your diverse team, directly in the development of appropriate commercial and PR activities.
Small Pride dictionary:
- LGBTQIA+: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Plus
- DE&I, also DEI: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- CSD: Christopher Street Day (named after the location of the Stonewall Inn)
Further blog posts on this topic:
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