What is Pride Month?
In the UK and US prior to the 21st century, LGBTQ+ people were forbidden from showing pride in their sexuality and who they are as individuals. Any activities associated with being anything outside the social norm of heterosexual and gender-conforming were against the law, and of course, this is still the case in many countries around the world. Over the past 50 years, the narrative on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals has shifted from resilience in the face of intolerance to pride and a culture of acceptance in certain places helped by the activities and allyship inspired by Pride. June is the LGBTQ+ Pride month in the UK and across various countries in the world where people commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising – an event that sparked the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement and highlights LGBTQ+ rights as human rights.
The Stonewall uprising dates from events on June 28th 1969 in New York City at a place called the Stonewall Inn. This was one of the few places where people of the LGTBQ+ community could collectively gather safely and express themselves. During this time LGBTQ+ people were heavily discriminated against and as a result patrons of the Stonewall Inn, tired of the constant abuse from the police in New York City, decided to fight back. The movement ignited national outrage and inspired widespread activism in support of LGBTQ+ rights. Exactly one year later a march was organised to remember what had taken place and how they stood up to inequality. Every year this parade grew and has now become what we know as Pride. Today Pride month is celebrated by millions across the world with parades, parties, concerts and workshops. It is also a time to honour those LGBTQ+ individuals who have been victims of crimes motivated by bigotry and advocate for those in over 70 countries who are still persecuted for who they are.
Why it’s important to celebrate Pride at work
Not every business will be inclined to address social and political issues that may not directly relate to the core services however, there are many benefits an organisation can gain from standing with the LGBTQ+ community in allyship. In order to reap these benefits, the organisation has to be authentic and go beyond making empty statements when addressing matters in the LGBTQ+ community. Below are some examples explaining why companies should make it a priority to celebrate pride in their organisation:
It drives inclusion – Today approximately 3.8% of individuals in the UK identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community making it likely that this community is represented among your employees and customers. Pride is a fantastic and powerful celebration of the sexual and gender diversity.. And while it is a festival for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s a perfect opportunity for people from all backgrounds to join together and celebrate allyship, diversity and support the LGBTQ+ community. Going beyond the rainbow logo to actually celebrate Pride at work in an authentic way can be a step in the right direction towards encouraging everyone, LGBTQ+ or not, to bring their whole selves to work. Making a safe space for different voices and lived experiences can go a long way towards building inclusion for every employee.
It’s good for your customer and business brand- With the rise of social media more and more companies are speaking out and expressing their views on social and political issues. As a brand, it’s important that your expectations are aligned not only with your employees but also with your customers for your brand to thrive. In today’s business world customers, investors and allies want to ensure that they are consuming/partnering with an organisation that stands for them, their friends, family and any individual regardless of their background and identity. A study showed that in 2019 companies who used their power to fight for the powerless experienced far-reaching financial and brand exposure benefits due to their decision to celebrate Pride at work. In other words, staying silent or neutral is no longer an option as people want to know they are supporting a brand that fights for all.
What can organisations do to celebrate Pride month at work?
- Educate staff so people understand that Pride was established as a defiant response to discrimination and prejudice.
- Create authentic networks to ensure there is a balance between celebrating hard-fought rights, and the joy that we all feel when we are acknowledged and respected at work.
- Discuss Pride month with different people in your staff networks or affinity groups and think about a range of activities to engage with your colleagues.
- Listen to diverse LGBTQ+ voices and recognise that the experiences of LGBT+ people are vastly different, and sometimes conflicting, just like all other communities. There is no ‘one voice’ nor should there be
As an organisation be prepared for the usual “what about” comments (e.g. ‘when are we having a month of celebrations for heterosexual people?’). These comments tell us that there is more education and training to do. It’s important to celebrate Pride in the workplace because we must acknowledge and recognise the accomplishments of the LGBTQ+ rights movement and the difficulties our brave LGBTQ+ advocates face in their day to day lives.