A week before Pride Month began, communicators were once again reminded of the role we play in fostering a culture of inclusion and belonging at work.
Last week, Target received several threats for its in-store displays of Pride merchandise, including some directed at employees directly. Fearing for the safety and wellbeing of its workers, Target pulled much of the merch, while CEO Brian Cornell defended the choice in a letter to employees that also reiterated his, and the company’s, support for the LGBTQ+ community.
While some applaud Target and Cornell for centering their decision around employee wellbeing, some experts warn against the precedent that canceling Pride campaigns sets. But for communicators, this incident also highlights the tightrope many organizations must walk between espousing values of inclusion and belonging that are important to some stakeholders without fear of riling up others. And in the context of Pride Month, such instances are a reminder that pointing back to the work you’ve done throughout the year remains the best way to demonstrate consistent support—the kind of support that withstands even the most vocal aggressors.
To Target’s credit, the company has made its always-on support for LGBTQ+ employees a core value of its employer brand. A company page offers an overview of its decade-plus engaging with Pride, its Pride+ Business Council ERG, information about the LGBTQ+ organizations and suppliers it partners with and more. These are all valid and important pieces of its larger inclusion story—and worth shouting from the rooftops when detractors accuse you of being inauthentic or opportunistic.
This begs the question— what are other organizations doing to support the LGBTQ+ employee experience? How are leaders modeling this behavior in authentic, non-gestural and non-performative ways? How is HR ensuring its benefits are expansive of all lived experiences? And how can an organization view its Pride communications as only the beginning of a long journey?
Treat Pride Month as an activation for larger initiatives.
While supporting LGBTQ+ employees should be ongoing, Pride Month offers a timely news peg for centering your work around a core theme or focus. This year, a key focus of PayPal’s Pride efforts is centered around how seemingly small acts contribute to culture in large ways.
“This year for Pride Month, we are rallying around the theme ‘Visibly Proud,; which focuses on promoting small, but meaningful acts of visible allyship,” said Josh Criscoe, senior director of corporate affairs and communications at PayPal. This includes a resource guide for leaders on the importance of normalizing pronoun use and a push for all leaders to add their pronouns to their intranet profile, Slack, Teams and email signature, along with Pride-themed virtual meeting backgrounds available for all employees to use throughout the year and more.
“These seemingly minor actions send visible signals of allyship, promote inclusion and add further a culture of belonging,” Criscoe said.
The work continues through PayPal’s eight employee resource groups (ERGs) that are also empowered to support talent recruitment and retention, supporting business initiatives while fostering a culture of belonging at the same time. PayPal also launched an inaugural ERG summit and ERG Academy to further promote collaboration, share best practices and build subject matter expertise.
Encourage leadership to model actionable allyship.
It’s often said that true change starts at the top, and demonstrating allyship is no different.
At Pfizer, EVP and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Sally Susman regularly ranks as one of the most well-respected corporate leaders who identify as LGBTQ+, and her internal influence, along with her frequent external thought leadership, reinforce the work being done by members of its OPEN colleague resource group elsewhere in the organization. This sends a signal to all stakeholders that Pfizer walks the talk.
“Our leaders recognize the paramount significance of fostering equity, ensuring that every colleague thrives in an environment dedicated to their professional and personal triumphs,” Jennifer Kokell, director of digital communications at Pfizer, told Ragan. “By guaranteeing equal access to growth opportunities, mentorship, and advanced learning resources for every colleague, we empower them to unleash their full potential and fulfill our purpose — breakthroughs that change patients’ lives.”
For PayPal’s leaders, showing what actionable allyship looks like includes a mentorship program that pairs Pride members with senior executives. In one meeting, a leader shared a personal story about coming out to his parents and spoke vulnerably about his struggles with being accepted. PayPal CEO Dan Schulman is personally championing the company’s core value of inclusion, too, interviewing Kelley Robinson, the new president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to talk about key issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community in 2023 with a focus on how PayPal can get involved.
Offer inclusive benefits and volunteer opportunities.
Working with HR to socialize how your benefits are inclusive and expansive of all families and genders also sends a signal to your workforce that those who control the spending will put their dollars where their corporate value statement is. Farmers Insurance exemplifies this by offering 10 weeks of 100% paid parental leave for all parents, regardless of gender identity, including those who become a parent through surrogacy or non-family adoption.
The company’s commitments to this work have also helped earn Farmers a 100% score from the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index for Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality. “We strive to foster an engaging and dynamic work environment that supports employees bringing their whole selves to work,” the company told Comparably. “Celebrating the LGBTQ community helps Farmers foster a culture of inclusion and connect colleagues.”
Remember that benefits manifest in many different ways. Keeping with its 2023 pride theme of “Visibly Proud,” PayPal is also offering volunteering opportunities through its partnership with nonprofit Out in Tech, connecting technologists with LGBTQ+ organizations that can benefit from their skill sets.
PayPal, Pfizer and Farmers are only a few of the organizations doing this work, but their efforts illustrate how Pride Month is a timely opportunity to refresh and realign your DE&I work with larger organizational strategies and ESG goals. Of course, doing this will take a lot longer than one month — and that’s the point.
“Pride for Pfizer is not timed to a month,” said Kokell. “Making sure everyone is seen, heard and cared for It is culturally engrained in everything we do every day through our core values – courage, excellence, equity, and joy. When colleagues bring their authentic selves to work, creativity thrives, passion leads and collaboration blossoms.”