Rachael Porthouse
April 10, 2023
Diversity & Inclusion

Progressive or Performative? It’s more than a rainbow flag.

World Pride Month is a time to celebrate diversity and inclusivity, as well as raise awareness for issues that still affect the LGBTQIA+ community. Throughout this time, it is common for organisations to boast around the rainbow flag and even merge it into their branding to communicate the message they support inclusion and celebrate diversity. Often, their attempt at inclusive messaging doesn’t match their actions. Challenges persist for members of the LGBTQIA+ community within the workplace, so it is worth asking if these public gestures are progressive or simply performative.  

Rainbow flags may be everywhere you look but that doesn’t mean we still don’t have an inclusion problem. A study conducted by the Diversity Council shows that 45% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people said their employers discriminate based on sexual orientation, and roughly 2 in 3 said their identity means they have to work harder to succeed. Encountering discrimination at work isn’t the only issue, actually coming out at work has proven to be difficult for LGBTQIA+ workers, with only 32% saying they are out to everyone at their work. Further research conducted by Deloitte in 2019, stated that 45% of LGBTQIA+ employees who aren’t out at work are 45% less likely to be satisfied with their job.  

We know that inclusivity is important for both employees and the business they work for, but what actually makes a workplace inclusive? Too often a company will adopt a DEI policy which protects LGBTQIA+ people and think they’ve done enough and although it’s a great starting point, there is more work to be done. Inclusion and diversity begin in the culture of a workplace. Building and maintaining a culture which allows employees to feel physiologically safe to be themselves and feel accepted is what will make a difference when attracting and retaining LGBTQIA+ employees. Key basics which allow this culture to form include creating a structural support for LGBTQ+ employees, and stamping out inappropriate, microaggressive and demeaning behaviour.  

This is absolutely a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and to boast the pride symbol of the rainbow flag, but don’t let it become a shallow, public gesture with little substance behind it. This is the time to really strip back the curtain ask if we are doing enough when it comes to ensuring inclusivity and diversity remains an active priority within our workplace.  

The conversation doesn’t have to stop here, let’s keep it going! People often shy away from topics they don’t necessarily understand themselves, but that can often lead to LGBTQIA+ peoples being highly underrepresented and marginalised in the other 11 months of the year. This conversation should be constantly ongoing and not confined to 1 or 2 weeks in the year.  

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