Since 1970, LGBT/LGBTQ+ people and their allies have marched to celebrate Pride, with June officially designated Pride Month in many countries. Colourful parades can be seen in many city centres, and an increasing number of brands support LGBTQ+ causes through donations, Pride-themed events and the ubiquitous rainbow-hued merchandise.
Pride celebrations are a great way to celebrate diversity and have fun doing it. But Pride is not just about rainbow lanyards and street parties once a year — it is a movement for unity and solidarity. How are organisations supporting their LGBTQ+ workforce year-round? I asked three leading organisations about their LGBTQ+ networks and initiatives.
Atos, a digital workplace leader, strives to be a safe and inclusive employer for LGBTQ+ people, and provides a community space for news, discussion and questions through its Pride network. Recognising that education is a key tool to help any company become more inclusive, the network regularly hosts webcasts to raise awareness and understanding of the issues the LGBTQ+ community faces. Atos works with organisations such as Stonewall and LGBTQ+ mental-health charity MindOut to ensure consistent and appropriate support for LGBTQ+ colleagues and raise money through initiatives such as ‘Stride for Pride’.
Rainbow-themed displays are evident in Marks & Spencer stores each June, but Pride celebrations are not restricted to front-of-house. To celebrate Pride this year, colleague areas were provided with ‘selfie stations’ where teams shared celebratory photographs, and participation in local Pride events is encouraged. But the company also addresses inclusion on a more day-to-day level, working with its colleague networks to introduce simple changes such as the option to include preferred pronouns on name badges and updating its uniform ordering system to enable colleagues to select the items most appropriate to their identity. As part of its inclusion activity M&S has updated the charities supported through its Sparks loyalty programme to better reflect the issues that matter most to its colleagues and customers, including the addition of LGBTQ+ youth homeless charity AKT, because no young person should have to choose between a safe home and being who they are. If customers select this as their chosen charity M&S will make a donation every time the customer shops with the retailer.
Archway, the LGBT+ employee network of Network Rail, who own and operate Britain’s railway infrastructure, take a whole-industry approach with a rail industry Pride festival that brings together 32 companies across the sector. This connectivity can also be seen within the organisation, with the 2021 festival featuring a collaboration between Archway and Network Rail’s BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) employee network Cultural Fusion to present a webcast on the history of Pride.
Archway runs internal ‘lunch and learn’ events that are open to members and the wider industry, while colleagues can connect internally through weekly ‘Inclusivitea’ sessions. Archway members around the U.K. are encouraged to attend local Pride events, and the network attends London Pride as a group to demonstrate publicly that the railway is an inclusive place for LGBT+ people.
The visual appeal of Pride celebrations as a signifier (and indeed as a marketing tool) is undeniable. But to be true supporters and allies, we must always look beyond the rainbow.
Five ways to help ensure that your organisation supports its LGBTQ+ workforce year-round
- Encourage a culture of allyship across the organisation.
- Work with and support LGBTQ+ charities that help you understand and support the needs of a diverse workforce.
- Identify other organisations in your industry to collaborate with.
- Look at the bigger picture — adopting a rainbow logo means little if your organisation is not campaigning for change.
- Be consistent — do your organisation’s values, policies and actions reflect your public image?