Channel Island Pride celebrations are just days away! Ever since gay rights activist Gilbert Baker created and paraded with the first rainbow flag in 1978, it has been a symbol of support. Whether it’s through multi-coloured logos, supporting Pride events or aligning company values and policies to be inclusive, many businesses are becoming visible allies of the LGBTQ+ community; but why are they doing it now and what would the consequences be for neglecting inclusivity initiatives? Having attended a talk where Ellie Jones, the CEO of Liberate, spoke about what businesses can do to support the LGBTQ+ community, I was inspired to consider her guidance from a reputation and communication angle.
Here are our top 5 reasons why businesses should embrace being both a visible and proactive LGBTQ+ ally:
Diversity creates a workforce of amazing minds
Diversity fosters creativity and innovation. If all your employees looked and thought the same, their ideas would be the same too. It’s undeniable that a more diverse team allows for more interesting thinking, a better culture and ultimately new and innovative ideas.
Happy employees = productive employees
Warwick University found that being happy made people around 12% more productive. The business case is simple. Stonewall found that more than a third of LGBTQ+ people are not open about their sexual orientation or lifestyle choices because they are afraid of discrimination at work. This increases if you just look at the stats for trans people and rises again if you isolate 18–25-year-olds’ data. Acceptance, respect and equality matters. Those who feel they can be themselves in the workplace will be happier and more productive.
It helps attract the best talent
Any employer wants the best, most skilled people working for them and, as with any employment drive, the key to this is attracting that talent to apply to work for you in the first instance. By 2025 it is estimated that 75% of the global workforce will be made up of millennials, and for this generation, company values matter. According to a LinkedIn study in 2018, 86% of millennials said they would take a pay cut to work at a company that holds the same values as their own, which compares to just 9% of baby boomers. Millennial attitudes aside, 1.2 million people in the UK identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, which equates to ~2% of the population. That’s a large percentage to ignore if your recruitment or company values are seen as not inclusive.
A good reputation boosts consumer engagement
Now we know that an entire generation care strongly enough about a company’s values to impact where they would choose to work, does this translate to consumer behaviour? Of course it does! 71% of consumers prefer buying from companies aligned with their values. Guernsey’s 2020 Pride celebrations attracted an estimated 5000 people last year, that’s almost 8% of the island’s population. This also doesn’t account for members of the public that support LGBTQ+ but couldn’t attend the event. Support for the LGBTQ+ community is only growing – if you want your business to benefit from the ‘rainbow pound’ then an inclusive culture is an absolute must.
Rainbow washers get called out
‘Rainbow washing’ is the exact same principle as ‘green washing’. This is when a business publicly shows support for popular movements but privately engages in practices detrimental to progress. Those who rainbow-wash do get called-out – causing problems for their reputation. Take Mac Cosmetics for example, the global brand changed its logo on Instagram to a rainbow version, but its Russian account did not. Critics argued that if they are going to position themselves as an LGBTQ+ supportive brand they need to be following this through across all parts of their business, and even more importantly perhaps in places such as Russia where the LGBTQ+ community is widely discriminated against. Companies need to go beyond the rainbow.
The Rainbow Effect
As well as providing a positive boost to its reputation and public image, we believe your business will be happier, more productive and more valued by your employees, customers and clients if it embraces diversity and inclusion and communicates those values effectively and authentically.