Every June, companies celebrate Pride Month with parades and parties with rainbow flags. It's a month when companies can reflect and reinvigorate to continue the fight for LGBTQ rights. And there is indeed a number of companies, large and small, pushing the envelope for LGBTQ employees.
Take for example, Starbucks, which has made it clear that the LGBTQ community is important to them. During a 2013 compay meeting, CEO Howard Schultz fielded a shareholder's question about Starbucks’ support of gay marriage. The shareholder asked if the company was concerned about losing business, to which Schultz responsed: “Not every decision is an economic decision. The lens in which we are making that decision is through the lens of our people. We employ over 200,000 people in this company, and we want to embrace diversity. Of all kinds.”
Likewise, Ben & Jerry's has been supporting the LGBTQ community for years. In 1989, the ice cream company was Vermont's first major employer to offer health insurance benefits to same-sex couples. On its website, the company writes that the decision "didn’t feel like a revolutionary gesture at the time — [it] just knew it was the right and fair thing to do."
On a similar note, H&M donates 10 percent of sales from its "Pride Out Loud" collection to LGBTQ charities, J.Crew donates 50 pecent of the purchase price of its pride T-shirts and Nike has donated almot $2.7 million of its proceeds from its Be True campaign since 2012, according to Vox. But, of course, many consider just donating to charities "slacktivism," or an easy way to show support without actually supporting the community with regards to the day-to-day issues they face.
In other words, some companies claim to support the LGBTQ community, but some of their decisions and practices are contradictory. For example, just a few days after the company tweeted a rainbow picture of its yogurt containers with the caption, “Naturally Powering Everyone," Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, told MSNBC: "We are against all laws and practices that discriminate in any way, whether it be where you come from or who you love — for that reason, we oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT law." This conversation came in the midst of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, a a country with anti-LGBTQ laws. Flash forward to 2018, and Budweiser is sponsoring both Pride Month and the World Cup in Russia.
Another example is Adidas, which sold rainbow merchandise to honor Pride Month, but is also a major sponsor for this year's World Cup in Russia. And while H&M does donate to LGBTQ charities, it also has a manufacturing plant in China, another country with a history of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Studies show that when companies truly do support the LGBTQ community, it benefits both the community and the company. The Human Rights Campaign's 2018 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) quantifies how inclusive organizations are of LGBTQ employees, reviewing non-discrimination policies, benefits for LGBTQ personnel and their families, and public commitments to LGBTQ equality. And the report suggests those that scored highly in the Index are also top-performers in their industries. Specifically, an impressive 83 percent of the Fortune 500 include gender identity protections in their nondiscrimination policies, 97 percent of companies offer explicit gender identity non-discrimination protections. Another 58 percent of the Fortune 500 and 79 percent of organizations from the survey also offer transgender-inclusive health care coverage.
But, as general support for LGBTQ rights grows, as does the corporate incentive for companies to positon themselves as supporters. So, now that Pride Month is over, LGBTQ employees are questioning, is Pride Month anything more than a marketing ploy? If not, what will companies do to not only talk the talk, but also walk the walk and be consistent in their support of the community well beyond June?
We spoke with LGBTQ workers to share what they want to see companies start doing all year round.
"I actually really dislike when a lot of these companies show support for Pride because they only do walk the walk," says Josh Griffiths, a PhD student. "Take Budweiser for example. They sponsor Pride but they are also sponsoring the World Cup in Russia, a country that has some of the worst anti-LGBTQIA laws in the world. If they're willing to do more than just support Pride as a marketing ploy, they should first have some strong anti-discrimination policies in place for the hiring process. There should be clear anti-harassment policies in place, too, once people are hired. LGBTQ folks are often targeted for workplace harassment. Something needs to be put in place to protect those employees who were fairly hired. I'm a cisgender, gay, white male, so I do have a lot of privilege in comparison to my LGBT family. There can be little things done for the rest of the spectrum that show me that a company really cares — such as gender neutral bathrooms for employees and clients alike."
"I work for a gay friendly company, so I don't think there's anything more they could do," says Tyler, a tech consultant. "More time off, better pay, more staff, but that doesn't relate to anything... I like our chat channel. We have a designated LGBTQ room."
"I wish they would offer more sponsorships and events, such as happy hours and networking events after Pride month—on a regular basis," says Kyle, an environmental teacher.
"I want to see more open LGBTQ people in leadership roles," says Kelsey, a production assistant. "When I see that, it's clearer that a company supports the community because it's willing to promote LGBTQ employees and have them as the faces of their leadership."
"Companies should do more than just celebrate Pride if they actually want to support LGBTQ employees," says Daniela, who works in hospital administration. "It's great if they want to support Pride month and jump on that bandwagon, but it can't stop when June ends. These companies need to be cracking down on anti-discriminatory hiring processes, anti-discriminatory review processes and be working on diversity and inclusion programs. That said, just having a diversity and inclusion agenda isn't enough — they need to actually be exercising the practices they're preaching so there's actually no more discrimination against sexual orientation."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.
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