27 June, 2020

Taking pride in Pride Month – 2020 and beyond

It’s the end of Pride Month 2020 and though coronavirus has put a stop to the colourful street carnivals, the party continues in cyberspace. Meanwhile, while the world is taking small legal steps towards becoming more inclusive, prejudices prevail in more nuanced forms and continue to threaten progress. With LGBT+ hate crimes on the rise, how can we play our part in creating safe inclusive work environments for our LGBT+ colleagues? 

Pride Month 2020

In 2019, over a million people attended the Pride parade in London and while Covid-19 has meant the traditional celebrations are cancelled this year, many events have moved online. For example, Amnesty International has teamed up with UK Black Pride, Stonewall and ParaPride to create a 100% digital experience called PRIDE INSIDE, running an online series of gigs, comedy shows, panel discussions, and arts-based events from Sunday June 28 to Sunday July 5.  It is uplifting to see that events like this are still going ahead and equally important that we follow suit within our own organisations.

The evolution of Pride and LGBT+ inclusion

 The first UK Gay Pride parade was held in London in 1972, inspired by the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York. Since then, there’s been steady progress in LGBT+ rights, including the first same-sex marriages taking place in 2014 in England and Wales. More recently, progress was made in USA, where the Supreme Court has now ruled that employers who fire workers for being gay or transgender are breaking the country’s civil rights laws.

This legislation represents a significant win for the LGBT+ community and its allies in the US and should most certainly be celebrated, however, we must not forget the fights still to be had elsewhere. For instance, did you know that same-sex relations are still illegal in 70 countries? And that in nine of these countries, the penalty is death? Even in places where such laws are not strictly enforced, the fact they exist encourages prejudice against LGBT+ people who are unprotected from harassment, blackmail and violence.

While there is progress being made with more and more countries de-criminalising LGBT+ activity, this alone will not end prejudice. Inequality can be embedded in culture, even in seemingly liberal countries such as the UK, and progress is uneven across LGBT+ groups, with transgender people suffering greater levels of discrimination globally. Analysis by the Guardian newspaper finds that homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, including stalking, harassment and violent assault, have more than doubled in England and Wales over the last five years, while attacks on trans people in the UK have trebled since 2014.

And as shocking as these statistics are, they are based on reported hate crimes. They do not include the more subtle microagressions that LGBT+ people face on a daily basis, often intentional and sometimes not, that communicate an indirect derogatory or hostile message and are sadly still common in workplaces and even among so-called friendship groups. Just as with sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination and prejudice, homophobia and transphobia have evolved and taken on new, often more subtle, forms. Your organisation may have set up a designated LGBT+ employee network and hosts an annual pride event, which of course is a great positive step – however that alone does not make it inclusive.

The impacts of COVID-19 on the LGBT+ Community

With the added operating and economical challenges we face as a result of COVID-19, some businesses view diversity & inclusion as a luxury add-on which can be put on hold until things return to normal. However, if in our haste to manage the immediate challenges, leaders do not keep up the momentum gained, the price will be high and the damage much more difficult to reverse. We may not know what the “new normal” will look like, but we can be proactive in ensuring we are in the strongest possible position to face it and this means supporting inclusive working cultures where individuals can belong, thrive and do their best work.

If the pandemic has made one thing clear, it is that we are in fact not ‘all in it together’. The impact has been felt differently by different groups and understanding this is the first step in developing cultural and emotional intelligence - necessary for all inclusive leaders.

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted how some diverse groups can be disproportionately impacted.  Working with and speaking to LGBT+ colleagues, friends and networks, it is evident that for some the lockdown has been a very challenging time. Many LGBT+ people are out to friends or work colleagues, but not to their families or others who they are in lockdown with. This has meant that they have faced the daily strain of not being able to be their true self, which has, significantly affected their well-being.

Additionally, according to the LGBT Foundation, LGBT+ people are more likely to have poor mental health or problems with substance misuse and with lockdown disrupting routines and support services, such issues can escalate with serious consequences. It is important to look beyond this as just a statistic and recognise why this is the case. Sadly some individuals have faced pro-longed bullying, harassment and prejudice and had to cover up their true identity and life experiences in order to fit in to a culture which isn’t always accepting – whether this be in a work or societal setting.

How to support LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace for Pride 2020 and beyond

So, while we enjoy the rest of Pride Month 2020 and celebrate the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court, lets also remind ourselves of why Pride and the fight for LGBT+ inclusion is still so important. And as businesses and organisations, although we may not be in the office, let’s be visible in our support and consistent in our commitment to LGBT+ inclusion, ensuring that we do not become complacent in our allyship, at a time when it is needed more than ever. Here are a few ways how:

  • Host or support a virtual Pride 2020 event.
  • Understand the important role an LGBT+ ally can play – actively support LGBT+ people and rights, by calling out inequalities and observed prejudice.
  • Work to embed an inclusive culture throughout the organisation. Utilise regular engagement methods to understand the experiences of individuals and to ensure that no differences in these experiences exist.
  • Assess the current state of the culture of your organisation, ensure that any D&I vision, strategy and action plan identifies any improvements that need to be made and who that will be accountable for these.
  • Ensure that LGBT+ inclusion is integrated into your organisations D&I strategy and action plans, recognising the different challenges faced by individuals within this group.
  • Continue to raise awareness through leveraging the power and influence of employee resource groups.
  • Make sure our advocacy of LGBT+ people is not confined to Pride Month. While it’s an amazing opportunity to celebrate LGBT+ communities, support must be ongoing.

Green Park fully supports Pride Month and helps organisations both nationally and internationally to create diverse, inclusive workplaces. For further information, please contact Green Park’s D&I, Culture & Ethics Consultancy.

Jo Heath

Written By

Jo Heath

Managing Partner

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