Why (only) turning your logo into a rainbow flag doesn’t make you an LGBTIQ+ ally

It is becoming more common to see companies and institutions displaying the rainbow flag throughout June to celebrate Pride Month. Many of them ignore the real meaning of Pride, and it gets even more interesting when we look into which initiatives they are rolling out the remaining 11 months of the year. Let us take a look into why Diversity and Inclusion are essential for any Employer Branding Strategy.

I know I am privileged. I can say that I have never felt discriminated against at my workplace for my sexual orientation, nationality, or skin color. According to Statista, in 2019, 37% of employees in Germany have felt or witnessed discrimination in their workplace. This number grows to 61% in the US, 55% in France, and 43% in the UK. On the other hand, we see more and more companies adhering to the trend of celebrating Pride Month every June. One would assume that these companies are also creating a safe environment that does not tolerate discrimination. So how is it possible that we still have these disappointing numbers? Well, I believe there are many reasons for that.

My first thought is that companies do not understand the meaning of Pride. June 28th celebrates the Stonewall Rebellion, a series of riots started by the LGBTIQ+ community in Manhattan against police intervention in 1969. Pride started as an uprising organized by trans women of color, who, to date, are experiencing violence and discrimination at a larger scale compared to cis gay and lesbians. Even though today it is about color and celebration, we should not forget its essence: reclaim equal rights and opportunities for all. It is not (only) a party. It is an act of protest and activism. As a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, I would expect that the companies and institutions that celebrate Pride Month have a strategy that honors the event of Stonewall Inn all year long.

Marsha P. Johnson (in the picture above) was one of the prominent figures in the Stonewall uprising of 1969.

My second thought would be that employers are not looking at the big picture. One may ask, but why is it so important? Someone’s sexuality and sexual identity are private matters and should not mix with professional topics. Wrong! These are indeed personal topics, but why should we have to hide them? For example, a lesbian employee just relocated to a city to start a new job. She is looking for an apartment for herself and her wife. Why does she even have to consider it when talking about her apartment search with colleagues? Some of them might assume she has a husband; others might not even think about it. Ultimately she is the one who should decide if she wants to share about her private life, not the system. Yes, one’s sexuality is a personal topic, but every workplace should be a safe space for everyone to share their families and lifestyles. Being private is not the same as being afraid.

My third thought is that Diversity & Inclusion are not included within the scope of employer branding. This is a massive mistake because employer branding is about attracting new candidates and ensuring an excellent Employee Experience. I covered this topic in a previous article that you can read here. I identified three main reasons why Diversity & Inclusion should be included in every employer branding strategy.

  • Enjoy the benefits of a diverse workforce. According to What to Become, we can see the numerous benefits of a diverse workforce reflected in the business’s culture and profitability. For example, 43% of companies with diverse management exhibited higher profits, and mixed teams are 87% better decision-makers than individuals. The right employer branding strategy will attract diverse talent, and its alignment with employee experience will ensure they are included and working at their very best.
  • Give employees a voice. One of the most beautiful aspects of employer branding is giving a voice to the employees. That means every voice. In every company, there are louder voices and the ones that often go unnoticed. It is the responsibility of the employer branding lead to give these voices a platform and finding out about their needs and listening to their ideas. In other words: it is about making sure that everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
  • There is no engagement without belonging. The ultimate goal of diversity and inclusion is to create a sense of belonging. In our human nature, regardless of our character and personality, we like to belong. To engage a diverse workforce in an environment where they are free to contribute, we need to make sure they belong. Steven Huang says it clearly in his article: “In order to build a sense of belonging among employees at your company, you must first embrace and put into practice a commitment to diversity and inclusion.” In other words: Embrace > Belonging > Engagement.

In conclusion, diversity and inclusion are not telling your LGBTIQ+ employees that you accept them. It is not making everything rainbow once a year. If we want to be a driver of change in the workplace, we need to start listening to the people around us and having more empathy. People have needs, and to embrace them, we need to understand these needs. Often we act upon what we think is the best and without understanding what the person in front of us needs.

No, the LGBTIQ+ community does not need rainbow logos. We need actions.

List of flags used by different groups within the LGBTIQ+ community.
  • Is your company an attractive place for LGBTIQ+ people to work?
  • Is it also a safe place for them to be themselves?
  • How are you ensuring that your LGBTIQ+ employees have the same opportunities to develop their careers?
  • And the less privileged within the LGBTIQ+ community, such as trans people and people of color?

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

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Victor Boscatt

Victor Boscatt

Transforming automotive mobility through Communication and Employer Branding at CARIAD — A Volkswagen Company.