June is Pride Month in the United States, a celebration of the LGBTQ community. Many companies are showing symbolic support, but could they be doing more? Michelle Margulis - Macmillan's own editorial manager of podcasts - shares her advice, insights, and personal experience as a gay woman in the workplace.
June is known as Pride Month here in the United States. Commemorating the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Pride Month has become a recognition and celebration of the LGBTQ community. In recent years, many companies have taken to publicly celebrating Pride Month in order to honor and support LGBTQ employees and consumers through rainbow-hued marketing and storytelling. It’s encouraging to see well-intentioned companies signaling their support. But I’ve wondered – how well are these efforts resonating with the LGBTQ population? And are there ways in which companies might bump up the impact of their efforts to something more than symbols of support?
I spoke with Michelle Margulis - Editorial Manager of Podcasts at Macmillan (the parent company of the Modern Mentor podcast). She’s a member of the Macmillan Pride Affinity Group for LGBTQ employees, and in this interview she shares her experiences as a gay woman in the workplace, while offering both companies and individuals some practical advice on how to maximize the impact of their efforts during Pride (and every!) month.
Listen to our full interview here [LINK]
Here are some of the highlights:
Organizations should take a hard look at employee benefits and ask themselves some critical questions:
- Do you offer equitable parental leave regardless of gender?
- Do you offer trans-related healthcare?
- Do you provide mental health support?
Beyond benefits, leaders should also consider everyday norms of their company’s culture:
- Are diverse opinions and experiences welcome?
- Are people free to dress in authentic and self-expressive ways?
- Do you harness the strategic wisdom of your LGBTQ employees, inviting them to inform your outreach, your marketing, your product development?
Symbols are good, actions are better
When in doubt, begin with humility. There is no one right way to support the LGBTQ – or any – community. The only way to know what they need is to ask them.
Margulis sees Pride Month as a wonderful opportunity for “leadership to get really humble and open themselves up to suggestions and to let LGBTQ staff speak to their concerns and needs and hopes for the future without worrying about repercussions.”
“I think it’s all about authenticity, she shared, “and the best way to drill into authenticity is to actually be hearing the voices of the affected community.”
June tends to see a lot of marketing and storytelling overlaid by rainbows. And symbolically, this is a start. But there is opportunity to shift some of those investment dollars toward supporting non-profit organizations that serve the LGBTQ community. And seeing these investments, Margulis explained, will likely have more resonance with employees and consumers than flashy ad campaigns.
Some worthwhile organizations include:
- The Trevor Project: Suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth
- Trans Lifeline: A hotline for trans people of all ages, run by members of the trans community
- GLSEN: Providing LGBTQ educational curricula to schools
- National Black Justice Coalition: On a mission to end racism, homophobia, and LGBTQ bias and stigma
Saying the wrong thing is better than staying silent
Sometimes people outside of the LGBTQ community want to be supportive. But fear of saying or doing the wrong thing may keep them silent. Margulis addresses this as well:
“This stuff is hard and everybody is going to make mistakes. Even LGBTQ people will make mistakes that hurt other members of the community. No community is a monolith.” Saying the wrong thing with a willingness to be coached or corrected is better than saying nothing. Take guidance seriously, but not personally. We’re all on a journey to get better at this.
“Allyship is active and it’s something that you do. And you can’t be an ally unless you are really taking steps that help people and the best way to learn what those steps might be is to listen with an open mind. Meet your colleagues where they are.”