It’s Pride month, and many firms across the country and the world will be marking it with events, changing their corporate logo to reflect the colours of the rainbow and voicing their support for the LGBTQ+ community.
But in this day and age, is it still important for organisations to mark Pride? The answer from me is a resounding “yes”, and even more so after a year like no other.
Let’s not forget that it wasn’t long ago that it was quite unusual for people to be “out” in the workplace. Turn back time a little bit further, and being LGBTQ+ was reason enough to lose your job.
Even now, with changing attitudes and huge progress being made towards securing equal rights and protection from discrimination, many in the LGBTQ+ community still do not feel comfortable being out at work. For some junior employees starting work, this even means going back into the closet.
Hiding a large part of your identity from colleagues is a stressful experience and does not make for a happy and productive working environment.
I can relate. It mirrors my own experience when I started working in the City 15 years or so ago, and it’s sad to see that it is still the case for many of the younger members of my community now.
Even these days, having been out for most of my professional life and now working in a senior position in a progressive law firm, I often think twice before I mention my husband in a conversation with new colleagues, clients or contacts in situations where for others the conversation might quite naturally turn to a bit of personal “chit chat”.
Hiding a large part of your identity from colleagues is a stressful experience and does not make for a happy and productive working environment. Conversely, companies that create a setting where people feel they are able to be themselves report higher rates of business success and wellbeing among staff.
Lack of representation
While undeniably great progress has been made, parts of the LGBTQ+ community remain very much under-represented or invisible across the sector, particularly in senior leadership positions. Their talent is lost to the sector, and that is a travesty.
Add to that the challenge of Covid-19 over the past year, when many in the LGBTQ+ community will have been cut off from much of their support network, be it friends, LGBTQ+ colleagues or allies. As a recent EG survey showed, the pandemic has hindered further advancement of LGBTQ+ inclusion. For many starting out in the sector, there will have been limited opportunity to meet LGBTQ+ role models in their place of work who can give them the confidence to be themselves.
That, for me, is why marking Pride remains so important. It provides an opportunity for businesses to really show that they are serious about LGBTQ+ equality in the workplace. And while it is a colourful start, marking Pride should really go beyond turning the company logo into a rainbow.
Companies can use this month to give a platform to LGBTQ+ role models and their allies, raising awareness of the work they’re doing to implement meaningful change. It’s a chance to find out about the rich history of the LGBTQ+ equality movement.
Companies can use this month to give a platform to LGBTQ+ role models and their allies.
One of things I personally enjoy most about Pride month is the energy it creates, not just in OpenAG, our own LGBTQ+ network, but also in the positive engagement it engenders with straight colleagues and with clients.
Supporting the LGBTQ+ community
With real estate being so tangible, firms can also reflect on what the sector has done and can still do for the community, not just in a work sense. Whether it’s developing innovative and supportive living solutions or ongoing efforts to protect queer social and arts venues. It has been great to read recently about Britain’s first LGBTQ+ retirement home, set to open this year, for example.
Most importantly, celebrating Pride helps create an environment where anyone can truly be themselves and convey a resounding message to the sector’s current and future LGBTQ+ talent: “You are not invisible to us, and we are proud of you in any month of the year.”
Finally, for all the seriousness underlying its cause, Pride is a great excuse to have a fun party too, whether virtual or in person. And after a year of lockdowns, who isn’t in need of some fun?