Take Pride in building a rainbow company

Josh Graff
Out And Proud- London Unites For Pride Parade
Once a political protest demanding that LGBTQ people be given the rights and respect of everyone else, Pride has since become a celebration of diversity (Source: Getty)

Tomorrow, thousands of people will descend on London for the annual Pride event.

Once a political protest demanding that LGBTQ people be given the rights and respect of everyone else, it has since become a celebration of diversity – a chance to acknowledge how far we’ve come, and set the agenda for future progress.

Business has a crucial role in making that progress happen.

At LinkedIn, our goal is to ensure that every employee has a strong sense of belonging and feels confident and comfortable enough to bring their authentic selves to work.

Through partnerships, we hope to inspire the next generation of LGBTQ leaders, and send a clear signal that coming out is not only good for business, but it can also help accelerate your career trajectory.

Straight up

Pride might be a once a year event, but what it stands for should be considered all year round.

While Pride can be a great opportunity for brands to highlight the work they do to support the LGBTQ community, they can’t simply ride Pride’s colourful coat tails and then pause until next year’s parade.

Any brand wanting to build trust and a meaningful relationship with this audience needs to demonstrate consistency over time, otherwise they will quickly lose support from both the community and its allies.

It’s not explicitly necessary to build a marketing campaign targeted solely at the LGBTQ community.

However, I would encourage all marketers to ensure that the people in their ad campaigns truly represent the customers they are looking to serve.

More than two per cent of people in the UK identify as something other than straight, but only 0.06 per cent of people in adverts are visibly LGBTQ.

This lack of visibility isn’t just limited to the LGBTQ community – women, disabled people, and racial minorities are also widely under-represented.

Pride can be an opportunity to think carefully about other forms of diversity, and ensure that marketing campaigns work harder to reflect the full spectrum of their consumers.

The ad industry has made great progress, with companies like Aviva and Mars leading the way with innovative and diverse adverts. But there’s still a long road ahead.

Pride and joy

Brands looking to support Pride this year should also make sure that what they portray externally reflects how their business operates. Are you encouraging open conversations and championing diversity and inclusion?

How do you support your LGBT employees who work in countries where there is anti-LGBTQ legislation or prejudice? Do your employee’ benefits consider your LGBTQ staff members?

At LinkedIn, our Out@In Employee Resource Group seeks to engage, educate, and empower LinkedIn’s LGBTQ community, by fostering an inclusive environment. All these activities contribute to a workplace where people feel they can be their authentic selves.

I would also encourage companies to run ongoing programmes around unconscious bias to ensure staff are being treated fairly and equally.

At LinkedIn, we work with specialist external trainers to run unconscious bias workshops for employees across the business; helping to challenge the traditional ways of thinking.

When I came out at 22, there were no LGBTQ role models in business. Today, it’s wonderful to see the progress that society has made, and the impact that brave leaders such as Dame Inga Beale (Lloyd’s), Alan Joyce (Qantas), and Tim Cook (Apple) have had on the business community and society more broadly.

But we still have a long way to go until LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace is consigned to history. So let’s get started.

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