5 Meaningful Ways Companies Are Supporting Their LGBTQ+ Employees This Pride
June 22, 2020
This time last year, many companies were taking to the streets with their employees to participate in Pride parades. But while health and safety concerns have led to the cancellation of most public Pride Month celebrations this year, this has given companies an opportunity to celebrate and support their LGBTQ+ employees in new and meaningful ways.
At a time when people around the world are protesting racial inequality and standing up for transgender rights, it’s important to remember that Pride is about more than a parade. Pride Month is celebrated in June in many countries to mark the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City, in which trans women of color played a pivotal role in protesting police misconduct and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.
More than 50 years later, Pride remains a powerful call for equality. Despite a recent landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay and transgender rights, there’s still a ways to go for true equality and leveling the playing field for LGBTQ+ individuals everywhere. When companies add their voice to that call, it can go a long way toward making LGBTQ+ employees feel safe, supported, and seen at work.
Here are a few impactful ways companies are celebrating Pride Month and supporting their LGBTQ+ employees this year.
1. HP is holding virtual educational workshops and encouraging employees to raise their voice
HP was the first company in the U.S. to have an ERG (employee resource group) dedicated to supporting its LGBTQ+ employees, and its ongoing commitment to inclusivity has translated to a robust program of online Pride events this year.
Built around the theme “Raise Your Voice,” HP’s Pride celebration includes several educational workshops, including one in which global teams can hear from LGBTQ+ employees to better understand their lived experiences and learn how to be a more effective ally. There’s also a webinar on the topic of inclusive leadership at all levels and a workshop on how word choice impacts inclusion.
While many of its offices remain largely empty, HP is still taking steps to build more inclusive workspaces. The company is currently displaying Pride flags in locations where employees are performing critical work that can’t be done from home. HP India has also created gender-neutral restrooms in its offices, which can help reduce the stigma and anxiety that transgender and nonbinary employees may face. And for employees who are working remotely at the moment, HP has shared Pride-themed Zoom backgrounds to make their video calls more colorful.
Of course, Pride can still be a party, even from afar. On the social side, HP is sponsoring virtual happy hours, networking events, LGBTQ+ trivia sessions, and a drag bingo fundraiser that will support year-round Pride programming, as well as supporting LGBTQ+ nonprofits.
2. Johnson & Johnson India extended its family benefits to same-gender partners
In recognition of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia in May, Johnson & Johnson India became one of a select group of companies in India that offers same-gender partner Mediclaim benefits to employees.
This follows the creation of a dedicated LGBTQ+ employee resource group (ERG) called Open&Out last year. Same-gender partners are now eligible for other family benefits too, including adoption leave.
“We believe in making inclusion real and are offering equal benefits for LGBTQ employees,” Emrana Sheik, enterprise HR head for India & South Asia at Johnson & Johnson, said in a recent statement. “This comes at a time when such coverage is difficult for a standalone LGBTQ+ customer, it becomes much easier if the company takes the responsibility. Johnson & Johnson wants to provide a safe and welcoming work environment that supports every individual in feeling proud, integrated and equal.”
3. Willis Towers Watson created a video to remind LGBTQ+ employees they’re not alone
While the coronavirus has had an effect on all employees, research shows that LGBTQ+ individuals have been disproportionately impacted. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to be socially isolated, experience poor mental health, and suffer from domestic abuse, which has risen since social isolation measures were put in place.
To help foster a sense of community and connection for its LGBTQ+ employees and reduce feelings of isolation, Willis Towers Watson, a global risk management, insurance brokerage, and advisory company, created a simple but inspiring video to kick off its Pride celebration. The video pulls together pictures from previous Pride events employees have attended and shares a powerful message: Pride is never canceled.
“You may feel alone. You are not alone,” the video begins. “You may feel forgotten. You are not forgotten.”
4. The UK’s National Health Service is bringing a Pride party to employees’ living rooms
With rainbows being used to celebrate essential workers as well as Pride this year, it seems especially fitting that the National Health Service (NHS) — which provides healthcare services across the UK — is holding a virtual Pride event.
“Here at the NHS, we have so much to be proud of, but this year we are unable to march in the London Pride parade,” the organizers wrote on Facebook. “When we would have been getting ready to fly the rainbow flag, we will be bringing a Virtual Pride to your living rooms.”
A staff-led event with the support of senior leadership, Virtual NHS Pride will broadcast live from 6pm BST on June 26 and will feature performances from employees across the NHS. The team is currently gathering pictures and videos from staff to create a montage for the broadcast and is encouraging employees who sing, dance, do drag, or want to showcase another skill to get involved.
5. Asda supermarkets asked employees to share what Pride means to them and has rolled out pronoun badges
British supermarket chain Asda kicked off Pride Month this year by creating a video featuring employees sharing what Pride means to them.
“Pride means to me that it doesn’t matter who you are or who you love, everybody is equal,” one employee’s child says in the video. Other team members talk about the importance of being able to feel accepted and live their life freely without fear.
The retailer is also offering badges to all staff that detail their correct pronouns. This can help prevent customers or other employees from inadvertently misgendering them, which can be upsetting for people who are transgender, nonbinary, genderfluid, and gender-nonconforming.
“We know this year is going to feel slightly different with Pride events being postponed,” Katie Wynn, Asda’s diversity and inclusion manager, said in a post on LinkedIn, “but we are still committed to standing with our LGBT+ colleagues and customers and marking this month with Pride”
Pride is so much more than a parade. For many of us, It’s an opportunity to bring our true selves out into the open without fear or shame. And even if we can’t take Pride to the streets this year, companies can still do a lot to support their LGBTQ+ employees and help them feel welcome, included, and listened to.
Even the smallest gestures — like asking a person’s correct pronouns rather than guessing — can make an outsized impact on an employee’s day-to-day experience at work. Listen, educate yourself, and remember that Pride isn’t just for June — it’s forever.
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* Photo from HP