‘LGBTQ+ staff and customers can spot fake Pride support a mile away – authenticity is vital’

This is an image of two queer women holding the Pride flag on a pink wall.

Marketer, inclusion champion and LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill explains why an employer’s commitment to their LGBTQ+ staff needs to extend beyond Pride month.

As the rainbow flag waves proudly in the June breeze, corporations and brands don their colourful attire, eager to join the Pride month festivities. However, beneath this vibrant surface lies a complex landscape where genuine support for the LGBTQ+ community can get lost amid the parade floats and pretty logos. When companies align themselves with LGBTQ+ causes without a real commitment to inclusivity, it poses significant challenges and risks to the queer community – and companies.

Employees (and consumers) in 2024 are sharp, they can spot fake support a mile away.

When companies engage in superficial gestures without a genuine commitment, they risk leaving out the struggles and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals and reducing the queer community to a marketing tool. At a time when only 35 per cent of queer professionals feel safe bringing their full selves to work, it’s more important than ever for employers to practice authentic signs of support.

This is a corporate headshot of Andrew McCaskill. He is is wearing a black shirt. He is smiling and his hair is cropped short.
Andrew McCaskill wants employers to support their LGBTQ+ workforce all year, not just in June. (Andrew McCaskill)

As a marketer, I’ve seen far too many companies slap a rainbow flag on the widow during Pride month, only to forget its significance by 1 July. I get why businesses want to attract LGBTQ+ consumers – our spending power in the US alone has topped $1.4 trillion (£1.01 trillion), according to Yahoo! Finance. But you can’t genuinely reach queer consumers without hiring, respecting and listening to queer employees and business partners.

We decode culture and bring authentic queer perspectives into decision-making rooms. One of the first things we’ll tell you is: “We’re queer all year long, not just for 30 days during Pride month.”

While I’m encouraged by the trans and Black, indigenous, people of colour representation gains being made in queer leadership of late, it’s the “of late” that still troubles me. So much of our progress feels vulnerable in the face of the global anti-LGBTQ+ policy, actions and rhetoric. We want our employers and their brands that seek our money, to boldly support and engage us with a 365-days-a-year mind set.

So, what does it all mean, and, more importantly, how can employers show up and show out for queer employees beyond Pride month?

Inclusive workplace policies and programming

Getting LGBTQ+ inclusion right is a journey, not a once-a-year pit stop. Real inclusivity means building a workplace culture that champions diversity, equity and inclusion at every level.

This includes putting in place policies that promote a true sense of belonging for LGBTQ+ employees, such as strong non-discrimination regulations, inclusive benefits and allyship education and training programmes that actually make a difference. Inclusion and inclusive mind sets are skills, we have to treat them as that at work.

Community spaces

Authentic inclusion means amplifying LGBTQ+ voices, providing spaces for open dialogue, and ensuring that LGBTQ+ employees feel heard and valued. This approach not only boosts engagement and retention but also creates a culture of respect and empathy from the top down.

A powerful way to achieve this is through employee resource groups (ERGs), which provide a platform for LGBTQ+ employees to connect, share experiences and advocate for change. If your company doesn’t have an ERG, gather support from colleagues, highlight the benefits to leadership and propose a clear plan to establish one.

By advocating for an ERG, you can help create a more inclusive and supportive workplace where LGBTQ+ employees thrive.

Allyship as a part of company infrastructure

Employers are the ultimate LGBTQ+ allies in creating safer, more equitable workplaces. While queer professionals have power over our own careers, building a sense of belonging in more equitable workplaces is the work of allies and employers.

Inclusion is not the job of the oppressed, but it can’t be achieved without allowing us to be candid.

One size won’t fit all. We’re diverse and dynamic, so put all different types of queer people in the rooms where decisions are being made, put us in the public discourse, and look at the data around what our needs are and prioritise them. Listen to us, too, because we’re all stronger together.

Companies can practice using inclusive language in policies and marketing. More than 25 million professionals have included their pronouns on their LinkedIn profiles. Imagine what it could signal to queer employees if leaders and allies included pronouns in their email signatures at work.

To create a more inclusive workplace, it’s important to quickly tackle any anti-LGBTQ+ behaviour and offer thorough cultural-competency training. Companies should also consider creating a gender-transition policy and remind everyone about the legal rights that allow employees to use the toilets that match their gender identity.

Allyship involves continuous education, listening to LGBTQ+ voices and using one’s influence to promote equality and respect. By standing with the LGBTQ+ community year-round, not just during Pride, allies help build trust and foster a culture of genuine inclusivity, making a significant difference in the fight against performative support.

Show me (us) the money

As a consumer, it’s also important to make sure companies are supporting organisations that directly affect the queer community, such as Stonewall Community Foundation, GLAAD, The Trevor Project, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, Out and Equal, or the Trans Lifeline. Are they engaging with organisations that offer career support for queer professionals such as Out for Undergrad, Lesbians Who Tech, or Out Leadership?

Donations are always a good indicator that a company is an ally of the queer community. Research if the company has pro-LGBTQ+ internal policies, relationships with LGBTQ+ organisations and year-long commitments to queer causes.

LinkedIn’s values matching filter helps LGBTQ+  job seekers and professionals determine if the company’s culture and values align with their own.

LGBTQ+ employees want to thrive at work and be proud to say that their employers want the best for us all the time. We want to be seen and heard, respected and valued as our authentic selves.

Authenticity and safety are where innovation, creativity and problem-solving thrive, and that’s what all of our companies need now more than ever. Happy Pride – and beyond.

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