During Pride Month, many companies take the opportunity to signal their values of LGBTQ+ inclusivity. While not uncomplicated, we in the LGBTQ+ community appreciate the support and affirmation from our employers and the companies we patronize.
The corporate voice in the struggle for LGBTQ+ equality could not be more important, as this year’s Pride celebrations come at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is under relentless political attack. In the first three months of 2022 alone, state legislatures introduced 238 anti-LGBTQ+ bills seeking to silence discussion about and erase LGBTQ+ people. Those businesses that have publicly opposed such efforts have become targets for their actions.
As the CEO of Out & Equal, the premier organization working exclusively on LGBTQ+ workplace equality, I want to underscore that those politicians who think they can roll back 20 years of the business community’s support of inclusion are sorely wrong. I know the effects right now are real — they’re also outliers to our wave of progress.
Many businesses have already been leaders in this space. In the last twenty years, major corporations have pressed lawmakers to extend equality to LGBTQ+ people and even when local, state, and federal policy hadn’t caught up yet (the federal Equality Act has yet to pass), the business community has filled the gaps on their own. Companies have shown allyship by implementing sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination protections, offering equitable benefits for LGBTQ+ employees and families, and adopting leading best practices to create cultures of inclusion and belonging.
The business community has risen to be one of the most vocal and powerful advocates for equality in part because inclusivity, beyond being right and good for people, is good for business. Inclusive workplaces — where employees are valued for who they are and unencumbered by fears of discrimination — are leaders in innovation, retention, and performance. This means that companies who value LGBTQ+ workplace inclusion are positioned to be the most effective and competitive. When everyone can show up to work for who they are or who they love, it translates to a better bottom line. A report from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation found that publicly held companies with LGBTQ+ friendly policies saw their stock prices increase by 6.5%.
Businesses also have an obligation to the future workforce. In a job market where employers are fighting to attract and re-train employees, the demand for inclusive workplaces is only growing. In February, a Gallup Poll found that people who identify as LGBTQ+ has doubled since Gallup first asked the question in 2012. Notably, the number of Gen Z adults who identify as LGBTQ+ has increased from 11% in 2017 to 21% in 2021, while millennials identifying as LGBTQ+ increased from 5.8% in 2012 to 10.5% in 2021.
We are all navigating a new and fraught political, social, and judicial landscape. To the companies faced with a choice right now, I urge you — do not let yourselves be bullied into backing down on your stance. Remember your values, commit to do right by your LGBTQ+ employees and customers, and look beyond June. Pride month is not just about rainbow flags in windows. Diversity and inclusion are values to celebrate all year round through tangible policies. Let’s show our LGBTQ+ employees and consumers what unwavering support looks like. They’ll remember how we behaved in this vital moment.
Erin Uritus, CEO