Every year in June, more and more “woke” companies temporarily update their logos to feature a rainbow. This is somehow supposed to show their solidarity and allyship with the LGBT community.
Well, I am here to tell you that if that is all you are doing as a brand to show your solidarity and allyship—well, that is a swing and a miss.
The term “gay-washing” is the best way to start talking about this phenomenon. Brands simply flip their colors for a day or so to signal their supposed LGBT solidarity. Then, as quickly as Pride celebrations are over, they go back to business as usual for the rest of the year. I for one, along with millions of others, am gay year-round and expect more than a colorful placation.
If you are reading this and perhaps saying to yourself, “Man, I thought splashing my logo with a rainbow was being helpful,” I say to you: Challenge yourself to do more, to be intentional. It will help your brand, your revenue, and your workforce.
Here is what I mean. The LGBT consumer is loyal, beyond compare. There are countless examples of LGBT consumer battles over the years, and many brands have learned the hard way that LGBT buying power is legit. In fact, LGBT consumers’ buying power is estimated at close to $1 trillion in the US, and that doesn’t even include the millions of allies who stand with the LGBT consumer.
What does that mean to you as a CEO? Well, on the one hand it means that LGBT consumers represent revenue, and on the other it means you need to find a way to demonstrate meaningful engagement with those consumers.
About that meaningful engagement. What does that mean? How can you be intentional with your support and engagement all while increasing revenue, creating opportunities, and finding the best talent? Let’s start with procurement. Each year, you and others spend billions on products and services for your companies. Many of you have internal procurement goals for Historically Underutilized Businesses (“HUB”) or Minority and/or Women Owned Businesses (“MBE/WBE”), and that is great. But did you know that there are certified LGBT Business Enterprises (“LGBTBE”) that go through the same qualifying standards as any other HUB vendor? Adding LGBTBE suppliers to your procurement goals is a great way to demonstrate engagement.
You can also join your local LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Why, you ask? You want to attract and retain the best talent, and the Chamber is a great place to source that talent. You can then provide employee resource groups (ERGs) though the Chamber. Maybe you want to support advocacy for your workforce; let your voice be channeled through the local LGBT Chamber. These are just a couple of ways to have an impact that go beyond a rainbow logo in June.
Here’s another way to be a demonstrated ally all year long: Speak up when legislators start swinging at the old gay piñata by way of public policy. Here in Texas, it’s a biannual tradition to pull out that piñata stick and take a swing at the LGBT community. That’s not good for anyone. According to a recent Ray Perryman study, LGBT discrimination is massively and measurably detrimental to the economy. The study points out that billions are lost, skilled talent is diverted, and thousands of jobs are lost as a result of this discrimination.
For example, in 2015, Facebook announced a $1 billion investment in a new data center in Fort Worth; executives cited the city’s LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination law as part of their decision. And yet Texas policymakers keep swinging at that piñata. After the legendary failed “Bathroom Bill” of 2017, the Texas legislature still couldn’t help itself: During the following session, over 20 anti-LGBT bills were filed. And as we get under way in the 87th session, the old piñata is at the mercy of the Texas policy stick yet again, with blatantly anti-LGBT bills being filed as we speak.
This is not good for the prosperity of Texans. As I mentioned earlier, the Perryman study demonstrates the economic impact of this type of hateful legislation in terms of dollars and cents. Corporate investment is impacted, tourism dollars are lost, and skilled talent migrates to more welcoming areas of the country. This is not conjecture—this study points to real economic data. We are talking billions of dollars lost.
I believe that standing with the LGBT community is the right thing to do, regardless of economic impact. But CEOs should be aware that this is real bottom-line stuff here, not child’s play. That’s what real piñatas are for.