From Rainbow Banners to Real Change

pride-flag

By Jai Thade, Head of Content

 

It’s Pride Month, and once again we expect to see a now-familiar annual trend unfold: organisations will update their social media profiles with rainbow-themed profile pictures, banners and posts. However, here’s an uncomfortable but important question to ask – is this simply an opportunistic co-opting of a social cause for some good PR?

Before we move to more contentious waters, let’s first give credit where credit is due. It’s great for organisations to take a stand publicly. It arguably gives the cause greater visibility and serves to better “normalise” LGBTQIA+ allyship as an important part of the public discourse.

But here’s the flip-side to that. Seeing the same kind of measures year after year creates a sense of cynicism in the community. Is your organisation just trying to appear more “progressive”, “tolerant”, “youth-friendly” and “forward-thinking” or do you genuinely care about the cause? Are you an opportunist or an ally?

The most effective antidote to this cynicism is to use the momentum of Pride Month to actually make a difference to the LGBTQIA+ community.

Organisations must create an office environment where all LGBTQIA+ employees (and all employees, for that matter) consistently feel respected, valued and included. Although, this is not an issue that can be targeted solely through greater representation. We must remember that demographic changes in the workforce and leadership do not imply that the day-to-day experiences of all individuals are positive. For instance, having an openly gay CEO or board member is powerful, especially in a world where less than 20 board directors in Fortune 500 companies were openly LGBTQIA+ (as of 2018). However, this alone would by no means be a guarantee that LGBTQIA+ individuals in your organisation feel a sense of inclusion in their teams.

Research indicates that when organisations work to create an LGBTQIA+ supportive climate, put into action LGBTQIA+ friendly policies and practices, and when LGBTQIA+ individuals have supportive workplace relationships, there is a notable positive impact on their psychological well-being, job attitudes and disclosure decisions.

There are a few broad pillars of the approaches one can follow when it comes to the inclusion of sexual minorities:

  1. Amendment of policies: For instance, allow medical insurance coverage of same-sex partners and to single parents with children from surrogacy or adoption. The insurance could also be expanded to cover sex affirmation surgeries. Enacting new anti-discrimination policies is also important.
  2. Special hiring initiatives: This might be like what the software consultancy organisation, Thoughtworks, has done in their India chapter. They have an initiative called “Interning with Pride”, a 5-month technical training program for LGBTQIA+ interns, which builds skills through the industry experience of working on a real-life project hands-on. There are examples of interns of this programme becoming full-time employees as a result.
  3. Awareness building and de-stigmatizing: This can be done through organising events, conducting workshops and awareness campaigns (both internally and externally), and partnering with non-profits as well. A powerful tool here is providing platforms for LGBTQIA+ individuals to share their lived experiences. Such measures need not be elaborate, but they need to be consistent.
  4. Mentorship: It provides much-needed support and access to career-advancing information, advice and planning.

 

Ultimately, we need action, not advertisement. We need commitment, not clever copywriting. And we definitely don’t want rainbow banners and lip service; we want an undertaking of meaningful and substantial measures. This time next year, we are hoping to see not flags but new facts, facts that show the needle is moving in the right direction.

 

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Photo by Canva

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Here’s a video we created for Pride 2020 that might be of interest to you.

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