How to avoid ‘rainbow washing’ during Pride Month
Every year during Pride Month, many brands and agencies are accused of ‘rainbow washing’ their communications. We are very conscious of this: while Pride month gives an opportunity to foreground such issues, tokenistic gestures towards supporting under-represented communities risk diminishing the authenticity of even the best-intended initiatives or policies, and patronising the people they set out to support.
Inclusivity, diversity and equality are central to this agency’s values; in practice they represent goals we’re striving for. Like every business we know we can always do better and find new ways to improve. As pride month draws to a close, we want the conversations inspired by the last few weeks to take place all year. With this in mind, we put a call out to anyone in the LGBTQ+ community within the agency to share what they think companies can do to promote change year round, and create a truly inclusive and safe place for all staff. Claire Feeney and Nathan Walker were kind enough to share their thoughts.
CF: As a member of the LGBTQ+ community I do take offence to Rainbow Capitalism/Washing. What we want is to be and to feel included and accepted both in & out of the workplace. This issue with Rainbow Capitalism is a lot of the time, companies that turn their logos into a rainbow often spend the rest of the year financially supporting organisations or politicians that oppose gay rights, or who actively ignore complaints against homophobia.
Luckily Space & Time is a safe space where I have confidence any concerns raised would be dealt with seriously. But as a brand, we need to think about our message towards the LGBTQ+ community year-round: do we support this community or do we support those who oppose LGBTQ+ rights? What about our partner agencies, our suppliers, our clients: how much do they support our community, and how can we work with them to do the right thing by all communities?
The Drum Creative Transformation Festival discussed this & mentioned one really important thing – if you want to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride you need to ‘get your house in order first’. What this means is proactively doing things such as donating money or ensuring your workplace is a safe space throughout the year, not just supporting us during Pride month. (link: https://www.thedrum.com/creative-transformation-festival/events/442).
Recently when communicating with clients I’m sure many of you will have noticed the use of pronouns (for me it’s she/her) in email signatures. This is a great way of showing support to transgender individuals, and allowing their pronouns to be respected at work without making them feel different. By having all employees include pronouns in their email signature, this a small way or normalising & respecting the use of correct pronouns, and removing a chance of somebody getting it wrong. Small gestures like this can go a long way to creating an inclusive environment for all members of the LGBTQ+ community.
NW: Ensure that representation is included throughout all that you do. The marketing imagery, the people you employ, the people making decisions for the company.
Don’t fall into stereotypes, there are many different ways to live and express yourself: don’t isolate audiences by perpetuating outdated stereotypes.
Avoid using gendered language where possible. This can leave people feeling uncomfortable unnecessarily.
When carrying out group activities, avoid grouping staff into gendered subgroups. This can be uncomfortable and hinder the working process as this isn’t reflective of the true nature of work.
Micro-aggressions – These subtle and indirect statements can be cutting to a marginalised person. If you wouldn’t say it to a cis-gender/hetrosexual counterpart then you shouldn’t be saying at all.