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  • Writer's pictureMichael Goettler

Catalysts for Change: Why We Need Corporations to Drive LGBTQIA+ Community Now More Than Ever

Michael and his son

June is a time to celebrate the diversity, resilience, and accomplishments of the LGBTQIA+ community. Looking back at Pride Month 2023, it’s clear that now, more than ever, we need to stand together and advocate for equity and justice in all aspects of life, including the workplace.

Since 2015, when same-sex marriage became legal, Pride events around the country have taken on a celebratory atmosphere. This year’s festivities have unfortunately been marked by a backlash against the LGBTQIA+ community. Millions of LGBTQIA+ Americans took part in this year’s celebrations against a backdrop of increasing attacks, both online and offline.

According to data compiled by the Crowd Counting Consortium, there has been a noticeable rise in anti-LGBTQIA+ demonstrations in 2023. Added to this are threats of violence and ongoing moves to restrict LGBTQIA+ rights.

There are close to 500 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills that have gone before state legislatures since the start of this year, an unprecedented number, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Those efforts focus on health, particularly gender-affirming health care for transgender youth and education. State legislatures are pushing to prevent discussions in school regarding sexuality and gender identity.

Companies that celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community have been censored. I have observed many toning down celebrations because they have faced hostility for acknowledging Pride Month. Anheuser-Busch, Target, Kohl’s, VF Corp.’s North Face brand and more have felt the rage. Some gave in to boycotters’ demands because they do not want to be caught in the crosshairs of negative media attention.

Target announced that it would remove some of its Pride Month products after receiving backlash against the items and threats against its workers. While Starbucks formally denied a ban on Pride decorations, Starbucks Workers United claims that corporate and district management gave instructions to take down the pride decorations that have become an annual tradition in stores.

As national corporations have reached out to LGBTQIA+ consumers, there has been a reciprocal rise in anti-LGBT attitudes, with many of the more conservative groups gloating about the success of the protests.

This is an alarming development that highlights the critical role corporations play in driving a more inclusive workplace and society at large. Corporate America knows that being more inclusive is not only the right thing to do but also the right thing for business. Diversity and inclusivity are competitive advantages that have been proven by various studies and over and over again throughout history. With that said, the inverse is also true: regression to undo the progress we have made for a more inclusive and diverse workplace will undoubtedly be detrimental to business. Corporate leaders instinctively know this and must continue to drive what is right for the business and for society at large.

CEOs play a key role

CEOs play a key role in setting the tone at the top and investing in corporate LGBTQIA+ equity initiatives. Their actions need to be authentic, transparent, and accountable. A genuine commitment to inclusivity goes beyond PR announcements and clever marketing campaigns; it requires a comprehensive integration of values, policies, and practices throughout the organization.

We can achieve this in four key ways:

  • Creating a workplace where LGBTQIA+ employees feel heard and valued requires leaders to educate themselves and their colleagues (allies are key!) about LGBTQIA+ issues, terminologies, and experiences.

  • Opening our minds to different perspectives and challenging biases.

  • Cultivating an environment where everyone feels safe to be their authentic selves, and promoting acceptance, respect, and zero tolerance for discrimination.

  • Ensuring that LGBTQIA+ voices are heard by providing platforms for open dialogue and actively seeking their input and supporting LGBTQIA+ organizations and initiatives.

Let's not be intimidated by political rhetoric. Let's continue to move forward and work together towards a future where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive and feel equal.


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