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Companies need to resist the prejudice of a vocal minority, and support diversity and inclusion with pride.
Corporate involvement in the June Pride Month celebrations of the LGBTQ+ community has always attracted controversy. Historically the criticism has often centered on “pinkwashing”—when some companies liberally sprinkle their logos with rainbow glitter for a month, but then do little to support inclusion throughout the rest of the year.
This year, however, the attacks have come from a very different source. Several small but vocal groups have attacked corporate involvement in Pride and occasionally attempted boycotts in an effort to reduce support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Pride is impactful
Companies need to continue to be involved in Pride. Indeed, their participation is part of the evolution of the economic model and the rise of the impact economy.
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Increasingly, people are motivated by more than purely materialistic desires; they also want to see progress on broader economic needs such as sustainability and equality of opportunity. Across the developed world significant majorities believe queer people deserve equal treatment.
Companies should not ignore this. They are a part of the economic system and, directly or indirectly, consumers will look to companies that can best meet their economic needs, including intangible desires.
Maximizing effectiveness, minimizing exhaustion
It is also in a company’s interest to make sure its employees are as effective as possible at work. Most queer people work for a company, and most people spend more of their waking hours at work than anywhere else. The attitude of a company towards the LGBTQ+ community is, therefore, especially important.
Having effective employees requires a meritocratic approach to employment that disregards irrelevancies such as sexuality. Moreover, it is exhausting for closeted employees to constantly be guarded in their speech and having to self-censor. Exhausted employees are not effective employees.
Employees who can be themselves at work are likely to perform better. This is an important asset. Companies that have the right people in the right job at the right time are demonstrably more likely to be more successful than those that do not.
Broadening the pool of employee talent also increases the diversity of views. That helps a company to make better informed decisions, especially at a time of economic structural upheaval.
Helping straight people out of the closet
Corporate support for Pride can go even further and change the behavior of non-queer employees. Creating an environment where more queer people can be out at work means employees are more likely to know an openly queer person. Prejudice depends on dehumanizing its victims, but this is hard to create when the intended targets are visible and known.
An inclusive work culture can also help non-queer people be more authentic. If being queer is not seen as negative, behavior that is stereotypically identified with the queer community is no longer something that a non-queer person feels compelled to avoid. Homophobia can thus cause non-queer people into a closet, of sorts, and inclusivity can set the straights free from fear.
The behaviors of the workplace can then start to influence behavior in society. Employees do not abandon their humanity when they leave the workplace, and inclusivity at work is likely to be carried into the social and personal spheres.
The vocal prejudice expressed during this year’s global Pride celebrations is something that companies should resist. Those who strip away their rainbow glitter implicitly accept a status quo where people are not treated equally and are more likely to be exposed as pinkwashers. Those companies that stand up in favor of humanity and equal opportunity for all are evolving to meet the future of the impact economy.
The author is grateful for feedback from: Jackie Bauer, Mike Ryan, Richard Morrow.
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By: Paul Donovan
Originally published at: UBS