Performative Allyship in Companies: A Closer Look at LGBTQ+ Support

 

In recent years, the visibility of LGBTQ+ rights has surged, with corporations increasingly vocal about their support for the community. This support is often most evident during Pride Month, when rainbow logos, inclusive slogans, and social media campaigns proliferate. However, the sincerity of this corporate allyship is frequently questioned, leading to concerns about performative allyship. In this article, we will delve into what performative allyship is, how to recognize it, and how to distinguish between companies that genuinely support LGBTQ+ rights year-round, and those that only do so to maintain a favorable public image during Pride Month.

Understanding Performative Allyship

Performative allyship refers to actions taken by individuals or organizations that are intended to show support for a cause or marginalized group, but lack genuine commitment or follow-through. These actions are often superficial, aiming to enhance the individual or organization’s reputation rather than effect real change. In the context of LGBTQ+ rights, performative allyship might involve using rainbow logos, posting supportive messages on social media, or participating in Pride events without making substantive efforts to support LGBTQ+ employees or advocate for their rights throughout the year.

What Performative Allyship Looks Like

Performative allyship can manifest in various ways within companies. Some common examples include:

  1. Temporary Branding: Companies might change their logos to incorporate rainbow colors during Pride Month, only to revert to their original branding once the month is over. This temporary gesture often lacks accompanying actions that support the LGBTQ+ community beyond June. Now, just because a company briefly changes logos during Pride then reverts, does not mean they are not a true ally.
  2. Token Representation: Featuring LGBTQ+ individuals in marketing materials during Pride Month, while not fostering an inclusive workplace environment year-round, is another form of performative allyship. This can make the representation seem more like a marketing strategy than a genuine commitment to diversity.
  3. Lack of Policy and Practice: Companies that outwardly support LGBTQ+ rights during Pride Month but fail to implement inclusive policies, such as non-discrimination clauses, benefits for same-sex partners, or transgender-inclusive healthcare, exemplify performative allyship.
  4. Silence on Key Issues: When companies vocalize their support during Pride Month but remain silent on critical LGBTQ+ issues, such as discriminatory legislation or violence against LGBTQ+ individuals, their allyship appears performative.

Genuine Support vs. Performative Allyship

Distinguishing between genuine support and performative allyship involves looking at a company’s actions beyond their Pride Month activities. Here are several indicators of genuine support:

  1. Year-Round Commitment: Companies that genuinely support LGBTQ+ rights demonstrate their commitment throughout the year. This includes having ongoing initiatives, programs, and events that promote LGBTQ+ inclusion and awareness.
  2. Inclusive Policies: Genuine allies implement and enforce comprehensive non-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ+ employees. This includes ensuring equal benefits for same-sex partners, offering transgender-inclusive healthcare, and creating safe and inclusive workplaces for all employees.
  3. Leadership and Representation: Companies that are true allies often have LGBTQ+ individuals in leadership positions and ensure diverse representation across all levels of the organization. This demonstrates a commitment to inclusion that goes beyond mere tokenism.
  4. Advocacy and Action: Genuine allies actively advocate for LGBTQ+ rights outside the company. This can involve supporting LGBTQ+ organizations, participating in advocacy efforts, and speaking out against discriminatory policies and practices.
  5. Transparency and Accountability: Companies that are truly committed to LGBTQ+ rights are transparent about their efforts and hold themselves accountable. This might include regular reporting on diversity and inclusion metrics, as well as seeking feedback from LGBTQ+ employees and communities to improve their practices.

How to Tell the Difference

To determine whether a company’s allyship is genuine or performative, consider the following questions:

  1. Are They Consistent?: Does the company’s support for LGBTQ+ rights extend beyond Pride Month? Look for year-round initiatives, policies, and actions that demonstrate ongoing commitment.
  2. Do They Have Inclusive Policies?: Check if the company has comprehensive non-discrimination policies, benefits for LGBTQ+ employees, and other practices that support an inclusive workplace.
  3. Is There Representation?: Are LGBTQ+ individuals represented in leadership positions and throughout the organization? Genuine allies prioritize diversity and inclusion at all levels.
  4. Do They Advocate for LGBTQ+ Rights?: Does the company support LGBTQ+ advocacy efforts, speak out against discrimination, and contribute to LGBTQ+ organizations? Genuine allies are vocal and active in their support.
  5. Are They Transparent?: Does the company regularly report on its diversity and inclusion efforts and seek feedback from LGBTQ+ employees and communities? Transparency and accountability are key indicators of genuine support.

Examples of Genuine Support

Several companies have set themselves apart as genuine allies through consistent and meaningful support for LGBTQ+ rights. Here are a few examples:

  1. Salesforce: Salesforce has been recognized for its strong commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, both within the company and externally. They offer comprehensive benefits for LGBTQ+ employees, have a dedicated Office of Equality, and actively support LGBTQ+ organizations and advocacy efforts.
  2. Google: Google has a long-standing commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. They provide extensive resources and support for LGBTQ+ employees, including employee resource groups, and have consistently supported LGBTQ+ rights through advocacy and philanthropy.
  3. Microsoft: Microsoft has implemented a range of policies to support LGBTQ+ employees, such as inclusive healthcare benefits and non-discrimination protections. The company also actively participates in advocacy efforts and has received high marks from organizations like the Human Rights Campaign.

Using Pride Month as a Platform for Genuine Allyship

It is important to note that companies should not be automatically branded as performative allies just because they change their logos and don the rainbow during Pride Month. Pride Month can serve as an extra opportunity for companies to be proud of who they are and what they stand for. When used correctly, these visible signs of support can amplify the impact of a company’s ongoing efforts and help foster a broader cultural shift towards acceptance and inclusion.

As an example, Tier4 Group, a women-owned and LGBTQ-owned company, exemplifies what it means to be a genuine ally. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is not confined to a single month but is woven into the fabric of our values and operations. We actively support LGBTQ+ rights through inclusive policies, diverse representation in leadership, and ongoing advocacy efforts.

 

Performative allyship can undermine the progress of LGBTQ+ rights by creating a false sense of support and inclusion. It is crucial for companies to move beyond superficial gestures and demonstrate genuine commitment through year-round actions, inclusive policies, and active advocacy. By recognizing the difference between performative allyship and true support, individuals and organizations can hold companies accountable and encourage a more authentic and sustained effort toward LGBTQ+ inclusion and equality.

Tier4 Group stands as a prime example of how companies can use Pride Month to highlight their ongoing efforts while ensuring that their commitment to LGBTQ+ rights is a constant, integral part of our corporate identity, and we work closely with clients and candidates who take the same approach to inclusivity. 


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