At any given Pride parade, among all the rainbow and other color-variant identity flags, there’s usually a sea of corporate logos. Big corporations help sponsor Pride parades, often subsequently having employees march with flags and/or floats. But members of the LGBTQ community intensely question whether these companies genuinely support the community.
As 2021 brings a second year of limited or no in- person parades due to the lingering pandemic, it’s perhaps a better time than ever to ask: what can companies do beyond Pride Month parades and flag displays to meaningfully show they truly support the LGBTQ community.
One answer: donations.
Stacy Lentz, CEO of the Stonewall Inn Gives Back Initiative and co-owner of the Stonewall Inn, wants companies to put their money where their mouth is. And, Jay W. Walker, co-founder of the Reclaim Pride Coalition, an organization that provides a politics-focused alternative to the New York City pride parade, wants to see corporate dollars go toward helping the LGBTQ community’s most marginalized people.
“The people that really need help [are] the people at the bottom of our economic well,” says Walker. “If you help the least [fortunate] of us, you’re going to help all of us.”
Internally, companies must examine their own work culture. Lentz says companies should have employee resource groups (ERGs) for LGBTQ employees, offer sensitivity training around trans and gender non- conforming employees, and hire LGBTQ people.
“I’d rather see a corporation hire 50 [LGBTQ] people than spend half a million [dollars] on parades,” adds Earl Fowlkes, CEO & President at the Center for Black Equity, which runs DC Black Pride.
If companies really want to participate in parades, Seattle Pride offers an intriguing way they can do even that more respectfully. In 2020, Executive Director Krystal Marx says the organization introduced a requirement that all Pride parade corporate sponsors must partner with a nonprofit, to give advocacy-based organizations more of an emphasis in the parade.
RaShawn Hawkins, the Human Rights Campaign’s Workplace Equality Program Deputy Director, says companies should also politically support LGBTQ rights, such as by signing onto coalition letters like the HRC’s currently active Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
“Seeing [companies]… stand up for a marginalized community, that means a lot for a person who is isolated and living in a place that’s not supportive,” says Fowlkes. “That shows there’s hope.”
Transparency is also valued – companies should be open about legislation they support, internal inclusivity initiatives, donations, and other efforts. But perhaps the most consistent point queer leaders make is that corporate support of queer organizations and the queer community must be 365 days a year.
“It’s not just one day or one month that the community needs support and visibility,” says Hawkins. “It’s a journey and a year-round commitment.”
Adds Fowlkes: “There’s so many things that can be done that go beyond just having a [parade] sponsorship and disappearing for the other 364 days of the year. We have to ask more, demand more, and hold these corporations accountable.”