Summer is coming right around the corner, and along with it, Pride Month. Pride Month is a month dedicated to the celebration and the recognition of LGBTQ+ voices and culture. Nationwide there are parades, protests, performances, and celebrations held to honor equal justice and equal rights for those of the LGBTQ+ community. This month aims to draw attention and support the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had historically, locally, and internationally.
Pride Month is celebrated annually to honor the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. It is regarded as the first major protest for equal rights for LGBTQ+ people. In the early hours of June 28th, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay club in New York City. The series of demonstrations that followed were spontaneous and were in response to these raids. Stonewall soon became a symbol of resistance against police discrimination and the support of equal rights for those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Recognition and celebration matter. Pride Month was born out of a struggle for representation and equality, a struggle that is unfortunately also very much prevalent in today’s workplace.
These stats are according to a study presented by the HRC Foundation.
Employers, as well as each and every employee, can and should play a part in creating an equitable space of safety and inclusion for folks in the LGBTQ+ community. This role falls even more strongly on those in the HR and People space to be an example in recognizing the uniqueness of individual employees, protecting employees' rights, and shining a light on diverse voices. Everyone deserves to feel welcomed and valued, regardless of their sexual orientation, sexual identity, or gender identity.
But, for a company’s efforts to celebrate PRIDE to create a true impact in welcoming and valuing every employee within the LGBTQ+ community, celebrations need to continue past the June workshop, rainbow party, or movie screening. Companies must make a conscious and sustained effort to move beyond public or single large gestures of support for the LGBTQ+ community and expand their focus on creating a supportive work environment 365 days a year.
Sustained diversity and inclusion efforts allow companies to engage employees, as well as create a foundation for positive company culture, engagement, and career progression.
While we all love some rainbow swag, intentional events and initiatives are the movements that lead to a constantly supportive and welcoming space. Below is a list of meaningful initiatives that can help employers kick off PRIDE month and continue through to the rest of the year.
Start at the top! Walk yourself through your recruiting and onboarding process. Does this process support and communicate inclusion? Have you read through your employee handbook to ensure you’re not using gendered language when it comes to dress code, family leave, etc. Do potential employees get an opportunity to request a meeting with a current employee they can identify with before signing an offer letter? Evaluate your efforts to support your employees past onboarding as well. Does your organization have a visible and well-known safe space, anonymous reporting software, suggestion box, employee resource group, mentorship, or buddy program? Ask yourself how your organization is making sure that you have tools and resources to retain a diverse workforce after hiring one.
First and foremost, start your intentionality by genuinely walking the talk. Posting on Instagram externally but failing to evaluate internally just won’t cut it. Take a detailed and thorough exploration of your current processes, benefits, and systems. Do you have fail-safes to ensure that all of your employees are consistently paid equally and fairly? Are you supporting all employees equally, acknowledging and empowering those who may do the best work but fly under the radar? Are you creating clear and deliberate career plans and check-in processes so that employees feel supported and don’t slip through the cracks? Have you taken a look at your benefits to make sure that they are LGBTQ+ inclusive: support non-traditional paths to parenthood, gender transition treatments or surgery, and same-sex partners?
Education, learning, and unlearning are the first step to understanding and supporting. Online or in-person workshops can provide you and your employees with the necessary language and history you need to learn and communicate inclusively. LGBT Life Center provides both training and workshops to businesses and other organizations. If your team is working within a remote environment, that isn't a problem as they offer virtual workshops. The Rainbow Center also offers similar programs. Laurie Lynch, Rainbow Center's Manager of Education, hosts a YouTube vlog channel to help you learn to be a supportive community member and ally. Presenting these videos, workshops, or training to your employees can help those within the LGBTQ+ community feel valued within your organization and help educate other employees on the LGBTQ+ community and being a true ally. But, inclusion doesn’t stop with just one workshop or one community, uplift other communities and expand on your inclusion series to educate and support employees in being allies to all historically marginalized communities.
Source insights, learnings, or advice from folks who would like to share their experiences. Keep in mind that because this approach is more personal, employees may not feel comfortable being involved or volunteering to share their stories for many reasons. So, be sure to be mindful of how you are asking for support and involvement. If you are starting an initiative or creating an event, take on the heavy lifting yourself, and don’t assume that LGBTQ+ employees will want to be involved. Lean on outside sources and source speakers, materials, and resources from outside your company as well. Make an effort to source individuals who actively represent the LGBTQ+ community, not general corporate speakers or companies.
Openly acknowledging and celebrating Pride Month provides an encouraging environment for LGBTQ+ employees to feel supported, valued, and uplifted to share their stories and their sights. But, condensing the celebration of a community into just one month can’t be where your events, initiatives, and acknowledgments begin and end.
To genuinely create a safe space of inclusion, you will need to show your support and enact change all year round for those in the LGBTQ+ community. Simply put, one day or one month of recognition is not enough and could potentially do more harm than good if this value isn’t emulated into your day-to-day operations. So, throw that party, hand out that rainbow swag, and continue your efforts to learn, unlearn, listen, empower, retain and build systemic processes of inclusion and belonging.