Pride month is approaching fast. This is the time when organisations will change their logos on social media to include the “rainbow” and put out statements of support for queer and LGBTQIA+ people – we see it every year, but do we stop to consider if it is authentic or simply pinkwashing?
What is pinkwashing? It’s a term to describe when companies or corporations use support for causes related to the LGBTQIA+ community, such as Pride month, to distract from or improve their public image, rather than providing tangible support.
This can be done in a number of ways, such as making donations to charities or sponsoring Pride events, but at the same time failing to ensure that the people or organisations these donations support are actually LGBTQIA+ friendly.
There are a number of reasons why pinkwashing is problematic.
First, it can give a false sense of support to those who are unfamiliar with these companies’ practices. This means they may be less likely to critically examine the actions of these companies, and more easily swayed by their marketing efforts.
Secondly, pinkwashing perpetuates harmful stereotypes. It suggests that supporting causes related to LGBTQIA+ people is simply a public relations exercise for companies, rather than a genuine desire to support marginalised individuals. This can have negative consequences for the community, such as contributing to the idea that LGBTQIA+ people are not truly equal or worthy of respect.
Finally, pinkwashing can actually be harmful to organisations that genuinely support the LGBTQIA+ community. When businesses engage in pinkwashing instead of investing in authentic assistance, much-needed support is diverted away from those who could truly benefit from it.
Ultimately, pinkwashing is problematic because it allows companies to exploit the struggles and experiences of marginalised people for their own gain, without putting in any real effort at support.
Until we put an end to this practice, companies will continue to capitalise on the LGBTQIA+ community for their own benefit, while the community itself continues to suffer.
Having said that, I also recognise the challenge staff networks or employee resource groups have in trying to persuade corporate marketing teams to take a risk on promoting the queer community. It can be problematic for them in territories that still criminalise being gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. Employee safety is a major a consideration for multinational organisations.
My challenge to you is to be authentic – be led by your internal pride colleagues and make meaningful statements that are backed up by sustained support and change.
Joanne Lockwood, an inclusion and belonging specialist with SEE Change Happen, is s guest writer on behalf of s1jobs.