Think Pieces

What businesses should be doing for Pride Month

A blog by Claire Ebrey, co-founder of Pride in Leadership, discussing how businesses need to go beyond the rainbow lanyards and strive to drive real change.

By Claire Ebrey · June 7, 2023

What businesses really need to be doing for Pride Month

Every year when Pride month comes around, we see businesses waving the flag, changing their social media icons and sharing cliches like ‘love is love’. But when young LGBTQ+ people are three times* more likely to suffer with a mental health condition, when a quarter* of LGBTQ+ young adults go back into the closet after starting work and when transgender you adults are the least likely demographic to be employed with 56% claiming to be unemployed*, it’s clear that more needs to be done.

What does Pride Month mean to me?

Pride Month provides an opportunity for businesses and senior leaders to take a step back and consider whether they’re doing everything they can to ensure their company is not just average but brilliant for LGBTQ+ colleagues suppliers and their wider community.

How I have seen the concept of Pride develop over recent years

The concept of Pride Month has been embraced by businesses across all sectors. I have no doubt that this is generally a positive step forward, particularly in terms of raising awareness among colleagues and encouraging discussion about LGBTQ+ issues. However, I feel that it can also hamper progress in other ways. This is because, so often, very little is actually done to support LGBTQ+ colleagues during Pride Month. Rather it is seen as an opportunity to wear rainbow lanyards, eat rainbow fairy cakes, and discuss “how jolly nice it is that gays are allowed to get married these days” and “haven’t we come a long way!”

It is true we have come a long way, but there are still huge challenges for LGBTQ+ people.

Despite the celebrations, there’s no getting away from the hardships that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face and the overwhelming feeling that our hard-won rights are being eroded. Recorded hate crimes against LGBT people rose by more than 40%in the year to March 2022. The number of incidents based on sexual orientation rose to 26,152 during the 12 months, up from 18,596 in the year before – that’s 41%. Those involving trans people increased from 2,799 to 4,355 (56%) over the same period.

This is all a lot to take in, so I can see why we might prefer to focus on fairy cakes and flags!

Is there a place for a more commercial side of Pride?

I genuinely do think that there is a place for a commercial side to Pride. I love to spend my money with companies that are aligned with my values, and ones that I feel are making a positive difference in the world. I see the pounds we spend as little votes for the world we want, so yes, if a business can show that it is brilliant for LGBTQ+ people, that would be a reason to consider buying from them.

However, this can backfire if, when you scratch the rainbow-covered surface, you find that the business is just paying lip service to Pride Month, hanging up a few big flags while doing nothing to generate a positive working environment for colleagues, customers, suppliers or its community.

Are businesses doing enough simply by promoting LGBTQ+ rights?

I think the real question is ‘are businesses genuinely promoting LGBTQ+ rights’?

It may be true that many have equal policies in place now, and many would happily say that they welcome LGBTQ+ colleagues and customers. But what are they really doing to promote our rights, against the backdrop of culture war, and the challenges highlighted in the statistics we continue to see?

Support doesn’t have to come through political lobbying or campaigning (although I do love brands that take a stand!). This kind of activity can be out of reach for SMEs who have less resource.

It could be as simple as considering what the additional barriers and blocks might be for an LGBTQ+ colleague to develop their career or get to the top, for a customer to access your product, or for an LGBTQ-owned business to get into your supply chain.

It might be about establishing a supportive LGBTQ+ network for staff, or a mentoring scheme – 46%* of LGBT+ young adults are currently or have previously been part of an LGBT+ network at work, and 42%* said they would like a mentor to support them at work.

Support may mean looking across your leadership and board and recognising gaps in representation, before taking a step towards filling them. It might be through providing queer colleagues with LGBTQ-specific training that focuses on their needs.

These are things that Pride in Leadership can support with. We have created in-company training especially for your LGBTQ+ colleagues. Our workshops provide access to a whole network of LGBTQ+ professionals, ready to share their knowledge and experience with one another.

What is the best way for businesses to show genuine support to their LGBTQ+ employees and the wider community, during and beyond Pride?

The challenge is not doing something; the challenge is finding something to do that makes a real, measurable, positive impact on LGBTQ+ people. You don’t need to bin the fairy cakes, just don’t build all of your activity around them!

If you truly want to support the LGBTQ+ community, during Pride and beyond, think about the real people across all of your stakeholders and do something measurably effective for them. From bespoke training like ours, to mentoring, to supporting LGBTQ networks, to thinking about what you sponsor as a business. The key challenge with all diversity and inclusion initiatives is setting a positive culture that runs through the whole business, setting targets for change and then pointing your energy and money in the same direction to make a real difference.

Happy Pride Month 🙂


*Figures from Just Like Us