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Ellie-Mae RowlandsJun 29, 2023 9:05:32 AM3 min read

Rainbow Washing: How to support LGBTQ+ beyond a rainbow flag

Since the Stonewall Riots in 1969, June has been the month in which the LGBTQ+ community come together to celebrate love, visibility and the progress that has been made in the fight for our equal rights. However, it's also a time to address and speak up about the ongoing issues and prejudices that still impact this community around the world.

With bigotry and negative press on the LGBTQ+ community seeming more and more prevalent in the media in recent years, taking action and speaking up is just as important as celebrations and parades.

During pride month, we often see business showing their support through rainbow logos and marketing campaigns that spotlight queer people. Many businesses taking part in pride month are doing so to drive change and have the right motivations. But a lot of businesses filling their feeds with rainbows for 30-days are guilty of rainbow washing - even if, perhaps, unintentionally.

Rainbow washing is the act of using rainbow colours or pride flags in imagery, products, and advertising to indicate progressive support for the LGBTQ+ community, but without any tangible action behind it. Rainbow washing means businesses gain credibility and profit off the ‘pink pound’ (the collective spending money of the queer consumer) without having to put in any effort or commitment to genuinely supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

So, during June when faced with rainbow logos on every platform, how can you support LGBTQ+ people and be sure that your business is doing it for the right reasons? Below are some ways to support the LGBTQ+ community at work, that go beyond a rainbow logo.

Educate yourselves and others

Education is a key part of allyship, it's okay to not have all the info! Find out more about the experiences of LGBTQ+ people by reading articles, watching videos, attending events (like those hosted by mygwork) and following activists online. Stonewall have a plethora of great resources, including this article on how to be an ally in the workplace".

Also remember that the responsibility to educate doesn’t fall on LGBTQ+ people themselves. ERGs and employee-led initiatives are a great way to share experiences, feedback and educate on inclusion, but do your own research and rally senior leaders to drive change and education.

Examine company policies & procedures

Many company policies and benefits are not inclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. Make sure that policies such as parental leave consider all types of families and use inclusive language, and review healthcare policies to include things such as gender affirming care and time off for transitioning.

Familiarise yourself with reporting procedures so you can be an active ally and speak out if you see something that’s not right.

Show global support

If a business is global, make sure that commitments to the queer community are equitable in all locations, not just where it's politically uncontroversial. Review ways to provide support for employees in countries where being LGBTQ+ may not be safe for them and consider how to drive change in those locations.

Question motivations

It is a long debated question whether corporations have a place in pride at all, but it comes down to the reasons behind getting involved. If a business is turning the rainbows on to make a profit and build brand loyalty on false support, it’s a no. If it's to amplify important issues, raise awareness and give platforms to queer voices, then go ahead and hang the pride flags!

And finally - commit to support all year round

The bottom line is, if the pride flag disappears on the 1st of July, then it's probably more of a red flag. Businesses who are genuinely committed to supporting LGBTQ+ people should be showing support and showing up all year round, in pride month and beyond.

Done right, pride isn’t a corporate event to profit off a marginalised community, but a chance to centre, support and raise up the voices of LGBTQ+ people. Inclusion should be a fundamental part of any successful business 365 days a year, not just when it's trending.