Execs caught in culture wars
CEOs are grappling with unprecedented pushback over corporate efforts to align with social causes, efforts demanded by many customers, employees and investors. With Pride month — the annual LGBTQ+ celebration that’s become a fixture on marketing calendars — now underway, some execs are weighing which social issues they should engage with and how to respond if they get ensnared in a political or cultural fight. “We don’t think it’s our job to opine on everything,” one executive tells The Wall Street Journal. But “it’s not our job to stay on the sidelines, either.”
This is my advice to every organizational leader who wants to get it right.
🏳️🌈 1. Find your North Star, and decide whether or not LGBTQ+ people have a place in the future you want to build. If the answer is yes, articulate it.
Reach deep into your mission, purpose, and values. Ask yourself, “who do we want to be?” “Who do we want to serve?” “What impact do we want to live in the world?” and finally, “what role do LGBTQ+ employees, customers, and communities play?” If these answers are authentic to your leaders and your organization’s identity, be brave and put them out into the world to ground your commitment.
🏳️🌈 2. Make the PURPOSE case for LGBTQ+ inclusion, framing inclusion as part and parcel to who you are as an organization and your purpose for existing, and be unafraid to say so publicly.
The “business case” tells communities that their inclusion is conditional on your profit margin. The “moral case” becomes hard to articulate in concrete terms. Use that pre-work from step #1 to make the case that you will protect, advocate for, and work alongside LGBTQ+ people because that’s WHO YOU ARE as an organization.
🏳️🌈 3. Take action to improve outcomes for your LGBTQ+ constituents, both inside and outside your organization.
Bring LGBTQ+ people into decision-making processes. Make your products inclusive. Implement policies supporting your LGBTQ+ employees like gender-neutral parental leave policies, inclusive physical facilities, and expansive health care benefits. Within your own industries and sectors, use your voice and influence to pass protections, lobby against hate, denounce discrimination, fund grassroots organizations, and lead by example.
🏳️🌈 4. Protect your LGBTQ+ constituents the way you would your bottom line and your brand identity.
This fourth tip is the most timely one. LGBTQ+ people are under attack in the US and around the world from a small minority of people—including powerful politicians and lobbyists—hoping to use moral outrage, fear, and hate as political tools. At some point, your own organization may face critique for supporting the LGBTQ+ community, and you’ll be faced with a choice:
Do we stand strong alongside LGBTQ+ people, because to do so is simply to affirm who we are as an organization, and denounce those spewing hate as people we don’t want business from?
Or do we cave to hate, opening the doors for further campaigns against inclusion and equity, and abandon not only marginalized communities, but the growing supermajority of Americans who stand by them?
Make your choice. Get moving. These days, #Pride is a verb.