Although Pride Month 2021 has come and gone, the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community globally remain one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time. In the United States, state legislators across the country have already introduced more than 100 anti-LGBTQ bills this year, the majority attempting to restrict the rights of transgender Americans. Globally, at least 69 countries have enacted national laws criminalizing same-sex relations between consenting adults.
It is for those reasons (and more) that the LGBTQ+ community and its allies are turning to businesses to activate beyond pride month and to demonstrate a consistent commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community year-round.
In this piece, we share three takeaways for corporations to consider as they plan future support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Global Commitments with Targeted Solutions
How corporations support the LGBTQ+ community globally cannot and should not always be accomplished with universal solutions. Cultural nuances, local dynamics and the varied needs of the LGBTQ+ community will differ based on where in the world you’re demonstrating support. While your commitments will be unwavering, your solutions must be targeted based on local needs. It is generally a question of how you should activate, not if you should do so.
Taking this a step further, targeted messaging and strategies have become increasingly necessary given what we know about the LGBTQ+ community: It isn't a monolith.
Within the LGBTQ+ community itself, individuals cannot be defined by sexual orientation alone. Rather, the community should be considered through multidimensional and sometimes fluid markers of identity, including gender identity, race, ethnicity, class/income and more. This understanding – defined as Polyculturalism – is becoming of increased importance. Because of this, support offered to the community often requires targeted, tailored solutions and actions. As you plan for the future, think deeply about the intersecting identities of your target audiences and how your messaging and support can reflect their full identities.
Why is this important? Because employees, customers, shareholders and partners are taking notice of organizations that offer monolithic solutions vs. those that propose more nuanced, intersectional strategies, and these stakeholders are becoming increasingly vocal in recognizing that distinction.
Employee Engagement & Building a Truly Diverse, Inclusive and Equitable Workforce
Before engaging in any future external communications campaign or effort, stakeholders want to know if you’ve first turned the lens internally to assess and acknowledge where you are in your DE&I journey, and if the appropriate foundational elements are in place. Doing so helps ensure that when you activate externally, you can mitigate potential pushback of inauthenticity by pointing to existing policies, practices and internal benchmarks. As you look to the future, we share a couple of ideas below for continuing to lay that foundation.
- Ongoing education and upskilling your workforce – Employees may not understand the challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community or understand why the organization is advocating for LGBTQ+ equality. By strategically building ongoing education, trainings and resource sharing into your DE&I strategies, employees will begin to feel more comfortable and confident in the organization’s decision to take a stance. Potential topics for your education efforts could focus on understanding and adopting pronouns in the workforce; interrupting bias in the workplace; or creating a culture of everyday allyship with your employees.
- Demonstrating a consistent commitment – Deepening trust and securing buy-in from your employees for your ongoing support of LGBTQ+ equality requires finding authentic moments beyond Pride Month to demonstrate support for the LGBTQ+ community. Natural moments on the calendar to consider include LGBTQ+ Ally Week in September, or LGBTQ+ history month in October.
Inclusive Corporate Philanthropy
Activists, nonprofits and reporters are paying more attention than ever to where corporations are investing (or not investing) corporate philanthropy dollars. We are seeing two primary questions often asked:
- Does a corporation have a history of making political contributions to PACs, politicians or political candidates with a track record of supporting anti-LGBTQ+ policies/legislation? Similarly, are they using their brand capital and dollars to support pro-LGBTQ+ legislation, politicians and candidates?
- Does a corporation have a history of meaningfully partnering with LGBTQ+ nonprofits? This is particularly prevalent around the selling of Pride merchandise, and if any of the proceeds are benefitting a LGBTQ+ nonprofit. If they aren’t, corporations risk pushback related to attempting to inauthentically monetize the LGBTQ+ community and its allies and being labeled as performative in their allyship.
While you’re building or revising your DE&I and corporate philanthropy strategies, these two questions should be top of mind.
Pride Month will always be an important moment to show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community; however, a consistent, year-round commitment is what we should all strive toward achieving. The world may not be watching as closely as it does in June, but we can guarantee that your LGBTQ+ stakeholders surely are.
Saf Dogan is a Director in the Performance Media Practice at BCW, with more a decade of experience on the client and agency sides. He is also a travel influencer, LGBTQ+ rights activist and a polyglot. Originally from Turkey, he has called NYC home since 2009.
Taylor Carr is a Director in the Corporate Practice at BCW, and a member of BCW Pride’s leadership team. He counsels clients on issues related to diversity, equity & inclusion, including how they can authentically support the LGBTQ+ community.