Beyond Performative Rainbows: How Businesses Can Support the LGBTQ+ Community for (and with) Pride
Excerpt published by Success
Written by Megan Nicole O'Neal
Celebrated since the 1970s to honor those involved in the Stonewall Riots of June 1969, June is officially recognized as Pride Month—a monthlong promotion of love, self-expression and the continued push for equality. Parades, festivals and concerts celebrating the LGBTQ+ community now span across the globe; however, as Pride Month becomes more widely celebrated, in recent years, we’ve begun to witness a rise in performative support.
This looks like companies that wave their rainbow flag only during Pride Month, filling their shelves with rainbow-clouted products and promptly wiping their prismatic logos clean come July 1 without truly bettering anything besides their own bottom line. However well-intentioned, painting rainbows on your marketing materials and social channels does not support the LGBTQ+ community. Because despite years of temporary rainbow logos, many LGBTQ people continue to face discrimination in their personal lives, in the workplace, the public sphere and in their access to critical health care, according to a 2020 survey by the Center for American Progress. Brands looking to support Pride need to dive deeper and earnestly consider what the LGBTQ+ community needs and not just what their board wants to see.
In April 2021, Q.Digital, the largest LGBTQ+ media company in the U.S., surveyed nearly 1,000 of its LGBTQ+ readers concerning their attitudes about brands that create products for Pride. If a company has a Pride/LGBTQ-inspired product, the top three most important things readers felt the company should also do were:
- Have strong pro-LGBTQ+ internal policies
- Contribute to an LGBTQ+ charity or nonprofit
- Advertise in LGBTQ+ media
So what does it look like when a company celebrates Pride with authenticity?
A brand that’s built a give-back component into the company’s DNA is sustainable bamboo toothbrush company, MamaP, which offers its rainbow-bristled LGBTQ+ Equality Bamboo Toothbrush year-round. For each toothbrush from the rainbow line sold, 5% of proceeds go toward The Trevor Project, an organization that serves and supports the mental health of diverse LGBTQ+ youth. MamaP also has brushes that benefit Black Lives Matter, Ocean Conservation, Mental Health, Womxn’s Rights and saving those precious bees.
“During Pride Month, people jump on the bandwagon, but [the LGBTQ+ community] wants to see more LGTBQ+ individuals and families represented all year long. That shows true inclusivity,” said Gena Jaffe, a member of the LGBTQ+ community and founder of connecting rainbows, a new database that provides a list of legal and fertility experts across the U.S. and Canada who are vetted and will approach their work with kindness, compassion and advocacy. As a lawyer who personally evaluates each company listed on connecting rainbows to ensure LGBTQ+ are not discriminated against, Jaffe has gained more than a few insights into what authentic support of the LGBTQ+ community looks like.
“If your business uses forms to collect information, please ask for pronouns. When it comes to wedding documents, don’t require people [to] fill in the blanks for husband/wife. When it comes to employees, encourage adding pronouns to email signatures and provide an anonymous comment or concern box for HR,” Jaffe recommended. “We aren’t asking for anything crazy or innovative; just to be acknowledged and treated the same as everyone else.”
In 2020, Glassdoor allowed users to voluntarily share their demographic information, allowing LGBTQ+ employees (as well as other groups like race and gender) to see how companies are rated by specific demographics. The data was analyzed in May 2021, and the findings show LGBTQ+ employees are overall less satisfied at work; most notably, LGBTQ+ employees are less satisfied with the company’s senior leadership, career opportunities, and compensation and benefits when compared with non-LGBTQ+ employees. As Jaffe suggests, companies should take a look at their practices internally and examine how they can create safer spaces for their LGBTQ+ employees.
One company proactively addressing such gaps is Datasite, a SaaS provider that powers 20% of mergers and acquisitions deals globally, which created its Datasite Diversity and Inclusion Council in 2020. Comprised of employees from all regions and functions within the company, the Datasite Diversity and Inclusion Council aims to provide meaningful programs, educational resources and awareness to help all employees, regardless of their background or demographic, feel connected and seen.
In the past year the council spearheaded quarterly diversity events and provided digital resources sharing diverse cultures and perspectives surrounding Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and is focusing its efforts on Pride Month for June. Working alongside datasite chief product officer Thomas Fredell, the council is celebrating Pride Month on June 10 with a virtual, internal event for all 850 employees. The event will feature an hourlong discussion around tolerance, inclusion and bringing your authentic self to work with Esera Tuaolo, former NFL football player and author of Alone in the Trenches: My Life as a Gay Man in the NFL—showing that corporations can honor Pride and be an ally in more ways than we often think.
As we strut into Pride Month 2021, consumers can also help the cause by shopping more intentionally and backing the brands and individuals who are putting real resources (read: money) where their rainbows are, and pouring tangible support into the LGBTQ+ Community. Buy your Pride gear from LGBTQ-owned brands or perhaps some of the companies listed below, which is just a sampling of brands that have committed to spreading equity to the organizations doing big work for and with the LGBTQ+ community.
MamaP Bamboo Toothbrushes
The LGBTQ+ Equality Bamboo Toothbrush ($8), as well as the Equality Kids Bamboo Toothbrush ($8), is available at MamaP.life and in the MamaP storefront on Amazon, and benefits the Trevor Project year-round.