Authentic Ways for Businesses to Show Pride

Corporate gestures of support for the LBGTQ community and visible “allyship” during Pride month have evolved dramatically in the decades since the movement began. And yet, each June, business support of the LBGTQ+ community serves as a visible example of the complex opportunities, benefits — and risks — of supporting social issues.

Companies know – and recent goBeyondProfit research confirms – that there’s loyalty and mutual progress to be built with consumers and employees by supporting community issues.

But leaders should be aware that nearly one third of employed adults in our 2021 research said they’re likely to act or speak negatively if a company is expressing a point-of-view that is performative or “only doing it for show.”

Many people feel employers and brands aren’t doing enough to support LBGTQ+ people’s fair and equitable treatment, so a cheerful post or rainbow-colored sentiment could cause more harm than good if people perceive it as pandering.

Demonstrate empathy internally first.

Georgians want to see business leaders demonstrate empathy internally even more than externally (88% and 80% respectively), so while public demonstrations of community support are important, leaders should first turn an empathetic eye internally to how employee members of the community feel safe, valued and treated equitably.

The newest Diversity and Inclusion report from Glassdoor shows LGBTQ+ employees report less satisfaction at work.  Experts cite community members’ feelings of alienation, discrimination and advancement difficulties as real professional barriers.  McKinsey’s 2020 research report explained how underrepresentation of race, gender or sexual orientation can cause feelings of isolation at work. McKinsey also echoed other frequent reports about the stressful pressure individuals can feel to represent their entire group when they’re the only one like themselves in meetings or events.

There’s a lot of information available about how companies embrace recruiting and training practices, employee resource groups, and external communications and marketing that actively support LGBTQ+ rights. These are easy resources and benchmarks helping leaders assess operations and cultural realities.

Leaders don’t have to understand, or even necessarily agree with employees’ perspectives, to show empathy and build loyalty.

More than 86% of Georgians want to see their leaders being visible and accessible, and communicating well and with transparency.

And they value genuine dialogue. They will even forgive perceived executive mistakes if the executives:

  • listen and try to understand the perspective of others,
  • express willingness to learn and evolve, and
  • are respectful of their views, can agree to disagree. 

Consider the impacts of authentic external support.

Your company doesn’t have to be perfect to express support. Even while it works to understand and embrace the needs of the community, Corporate America’s role in the progress of LGBTQ+ rights over recent decades is widely recognized and valued.

Hundreds of major brands have become regular sponsors of annual Pride events. And simply sharing messages of support add volume and credibility both benefiting the community and conveying your company’s values.

Even greater than annual acknowledgments on celebration days, some brands invest in helping drive change throughout the year. 

For example, many goBeyondProfit members support the OUT Georgia Business Alliance, the state’s LGBTQ+ and Allied Chamber of Commerce. CenterState Bank, Creative Approach, Cox Enterprises, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power, IHG and UPS are all OUT sponsors recognized for helping its mission “advocating for the most inclusive and equitable business environment; providing support and resources to fuel economic growth; and driving meaningful community connections and impact across the State of Georgia.” 

Companies are increasingly being called out for “green-washing” or “pink-washing”– conveying public sentiment for a group or cause, but not backing that sentiment up with internal practices or demonstrable efforts to solve the issues. This month, be sure to lead with empathy, not empty words, to avoid being seen as “rainbow-washing.”