June is Pride Month. A month set aside to celebrate, honor and reflect on the journeys of the LGBTQ+ community. It is also a time to recognize that there is still so much work to be done. Pride Month can also be a time to initiate tough conversations about what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community, even if you don’t openly identify as such.
It can be quite challenging for some people to feel comfortable coming out to family and friends, never mind coming out in the workplace, particularly if they do not feel ready or able to create the change they wish to see in their communities. According to a study by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the percentage of LGBTQ+ employees that have yet to come out to their work friends and colleagues is 46%. With 37.7% of LGBTQ+ employees experiencing workplace harassment (verbal 30.7%, physical 20.8%, or sexual 25.9%), challenges undoubtedly exist.
There is nothing inherently wrong with such celebrations. If fact, we need more of them. Our differences make us stronger! But before we can move forward on that note, it is important to look back first. We need to know where we have been, understand it fully, and then move on to create a better future. That begins with having honest, uncomfortable conversations about the past and approaching these types of interactions with more empathy and understanding. And it can't just happen once a year.
Pride Month celebrations began to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. These riots were the culmination of many years of police harassment and mistreatment toward the gay community. This hostility eventually climaxed in violence, when the police raided the Stonewall Inn bar on Christopher Street, where patrons resisted and fought back, sparking days of protests that invigorated the fight for equality.
A year later, the first Pride event took place right there in New York City. Since then, Pride months have been celebrated annually in many countries around the world.
Pride Month began as an American tradition, but as awareness has grown internationally, so has interest in celebrating Pride outside its original context. In other words, Pride is not about being proud of who you are — it is also about being proud of who others are.
Ways to support
Do not leave it all up to HR (Human Resource)! It is all our responsibility to advance diversity, inclusion, equity and belonging within the workplace. As the HR department as our champions, it is us as employees who should have the opportunity and the wanting to speak out for a coworker and those around us who do not have the same representation.
- Be an Ally –stay informed and supportive on current issues and events, supports of LBGTQ movement, uses their voices to speak up to protect LGBTQ discrimination, aligning yourself with community
- Advocate – a commitment to regularly and proactively campaign for community inclusion; advocating by speaking out publicly in favor, petitions, media campaigns, etc.; usually works within the system
- Be an Activist – one who directly campaigns or takes action, in the form of boycotts, rallies, strikes, marches, etc., to bring about social and/or political change; usually works outside of the system
Avoiding Exploitation of the 🌈
Every June when the rainbow logos are rolled out by many organizations mixed opinions ensue. Some are extremely supportive of the company’s public declaration of support and empathy toward the LBGTQ+ community. While conversely, other groups and individuals call out the many businesses for their perceived “rainbow-washing.” Rainbow-washing is often described when a business or company utilizes rainbow (Pride) colors to give the appearance of community support for the LGBTQ+ community, when in fact they put forth a token amount of effort, in support of initiatives or causes that positively affect the advancement and equality of their community.
When evaluating a company’s “Corporate Pride” vs authentic LBQTQ+ support, be leery of the following:
- Creates rainbow merch to boost business
- Does not financially donate to LGBTQ+ causes
- Temporarily changes logo
- Absence of DEIB initiatives & outcomes
Pride Month is a time to celebrate the diversity of our community and the progress that has been made toward equality and inclusion. It is also an opportunity to reflect on how much further our society still needs to go in both the workplace and in society. Let us not approach diversity as a “one and done,” “check the box,” marketing program to provide visibility for our organizations and then go back hoping LBGTQ+ talent (job seekers or employees) does not go inquiring about programs and initiatives that do not exist within your organization.
Instead let us collectively make a conscious effort to have the real conversations, address issues, and make genuine efforts to ensure ALL humans can have a sense of belonging, witness representation and provide an inclusive environment for all.
It is important to create awareness, in all communities, around issues that truly matter. Inclusion should not be limited to one month, every year. So, let us celebrate our collective diversity, more than just one month. Let diversity shine 365 days a year!