Well crew, with Labour Day Weekend looming, it’s soon be time to tuck away the denim cut-offs, swim trunks, teeny weenie bikinis… and for many businesses and organizations, those Pride Flags they have so proudly displayed for the past two months. From the official June 1st kick off to Pride Month, until the majority of North America’s pride celebrations conclude before September 1st, organizations, and local and national businesses have hung up flags and decorated their windows to stake their claim in the fight for LGBTQ inclusiveness and acceptance.
But as Pride celebrations come to a close, some of those same organizations and businesses that displayed their alliance will neatly fold up their flags, tuck them in a drawer, and Windex their windows clean of any trace of the second most globally recognizable symbols: the Rainbow Pride Flag.
And for some companies, that’s where it starts and stops. They’re there for the party—and the influx of dollars that come along with it—but that’s it. The real work begins after the streets have been de-glittered and we’re all back at our desks.
So how does a company become a beacon of inclusivity and diversity? Is it even possible for all companies? Well, I damn well hope so! We know that diversity in the workplace is the greatest strength any organization can lean on to stay innovative and ahead of the curve. Creating a culture of diversity and acceptance in the workplace has little to do with a hot marketing campaign, or hanging pride flags in the office windows during the summer pride season. It has everything to do with the people who are the driving force behind your organization.
As a self-identified Queer man, I recently had the honour of being a guest speaker at the International Canadian engineering firm WSP Global, and I was inspired by what I witnessed. There’s a core desire from within the WSP employee base to shed itself of the “old white boys club” persona traditionally associated with the engineering industry. Employees expect and demand that their colleagues are openly supported on all points of the gender, sexual and racial spectrum and know that their place of employment is actively working to evolve WSP’s work environment.
The Diversity Committee at WSP’s Vancouver location made the conscious decision to address diversity in their workplace by starting with International Women’s Day. Instead of approaching their training through the siloed lenses of women’s issues, queer issues, or people of colour issues, they began their workshops with a broader understanding of the damaging repercussions of sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia and ageism within the work place.
Through panel discussions, guest speakers and luncheons along with open dialogue and questioning, WSP employees have been able to simultaneously address the issues which have plagued the work place for decades, while also proudly proclaiming, we are evolving! The Diversity Committee is working with their HR department on defining what an HR issue is; for example, sexual harassment, or abuse, versus an issue brought on by unknowing ignorance surrounding respectful terminology, or a lack of understanding. They are actively creating a space that allows for multiple discussions to be held at once, with an understanding that all conversations are valid and worthy of holding space.
The first step in celebrating Pride and inclusivity year-round is by creating the space to do so. Allow space for questions. Allow space for learning. Allow space for understanding that there is no singular representation of diversity or queer lives. Use the Pride Flag to outwardly show your support of diversity year-round. Build support upon a strong foundation of understanding and leadership from within a company.
It's how you make strides towards inclusion—and hex any notion that your company is an insincere pinkwasher.