Rainbow washing: What employers can do to turn up for employees each day and not just for Pride

Jun 22, 2022
  • 5 min read

As a people-focused business, we are committed to diversity and inclusion and promoting equality of opportunity for all and are keen to actively join in and keep the conversations going around how we can best achieve this.

As part of that, we ran a webinar in honour of Pride month. The topic was on what employers can do to show up for all employees every day, rather than just in June for the month of Pride.

The panel was led by our Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Maya Sargent, who was joined by our guest panellists Nathan Nalla, Founder & Director of Be The Riot and Stefania Chaplin, EMEA Solution Architect at Secure Code Warrior.

We’ve put together some of the highlights from the webinar below.

What is rainbow washing?

In its essence, rainbow washing is when a rainbow is added to the usual imagery of an individual, company, or corporation, in the hope that they are deemed allies to the LGBTQ+ community without working towards making a real change. In the business world, this is usually seen as companies using Pride month to colour their logos with the Pride flag whilst doing nothing with regards to making changes to their company culture and/or policies that would better the LGBTQ+ community within their current and future workforce.

What is Pride Month?

Pride is a month (June) dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities all around the world. It’s about the acceptance, equality, education in LGBTQ+ history, celebrating the work of LGBTQ+ people, and raising awareness of issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. Whilst progress has been made, there are still many challenges today that the community face and companies need to take time to listen and learn before jumping on the bandwagon and putting up the pride flag.

“I find with Pride, it’s an opportunity to be myself, which I wish I could do all year round.”Stefania Chaplin, EMEA Solution Architect at Secure Code Warrior

What can companies do to show support?

There is no one way a company can show support or roadmap they should follow, it’s important for the leadership team to look internally at what is right for the company itself and the situation that they are in. Below are a few things companies should do:

  • Listen – companies need to listen to the community for what they need, not just expecting them to come forward but actively asking for advice.
  • Create a safe space – ensure internal support and an open environment. You could do a call for people interested in joining an inclusion group, forum, or committee. Creating an open culture allows individual ideas and initiatives to flourish for example Secure Code Warrior designed a t-shirt for employees to purchase with all proceeds going towards the Trevor Project.
  • Donate to charities and organisations working to make positive change – charities are often the ones doing the work that nobody sees. Hotlines such as Switchboard are dedicated to creating a safe space for anyone to discuss anything, including sexuality, gender identity, sexual health, and emotional wellbeing.
  • Partner with charities – if you do not have the expertise in-house, there are various charities such as Stonewall and Mind Out who provide training, reports, and guidance on how to support.

Hire, nurture, and support

Hiring is fundamental to increasing diversity and bringing in the right pool of people to create the right inclusive environment, but it is equally important to nurture the talent you do have whilst they are there. Some useful tips for the hiring process and beyond:

  • Use inclusive job boards such as myGwork. It ensures you are casting the net further and you are making an active decision to tap into less accessed networks.
  • Think about the language used in the job descriptions and ensure that it does not deter anyone from applying.
  • Ensure hiring managers are knowledgeable on company policies and know how to answer questions on topics that might be sensitive to talk about.
  • Have a ‘manual of me’ – here at Tecknuovo we are encouraged to write about ourselves, including what environments we work best in, and how we like to collaborate and receive feedback. This helps with acceptance of everyone’s circumstances.
  • Welcome the use of pronouns – especially whilst working remotely including pronouns in places like your email signature is such an important small step which can make a huge difference to an individual to feel they can be their true selves.
  • Providing gender-neutral facilities.
  • Create transitioning at work/transgender inclusion policy – this provides guidance to HR and managers on how they can support a colleague in this situation.
  • Ensure that family benefit policies apply to all.

Finally, what does allyship look like?

Allyship can take many forms. It is having someone or a business or an environment where you feel entirely comfortable being yourself. During Pride, the LGBTQ+ community are being celebrated for being completely themselves. Allyship is them experiencing this all year round. Allyship is being active, actively learning and using your voice and platform to share with others.

“It’s important to keep your ear to the ground and listen out for what is happening and understand some of the battles the community are facing politically.” Nathan Nalla, Founder & Director at Be The Riot

We want to say a huge thank you to the panel who joined us and opened up about their experiences. We must continue to actively listen to the LGBTQ+ community and be prepared to do the work required to create a truly inclusive environment for all.

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