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Pride and pinkwashing: Pride to me

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Pride365 CEO Jack Mizel shares his professional journey with Pride and talks about how genuine DEI dialogue can change the world we live in.

15th Jun 2022
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The idea of pinkwashing has been around for a while now, and most people will recognise the signs. Rainbow flags appearing on pack in June and July, participation in Pride marches, and then… not a lot for the rest of the year.

My passion is to take the positive intentions of short-term marketing strategies and encourage them to develop into a long-term meaningful organisational commitment that leads to real sustainable change. 

Acceptance should have no caveats

The nineties

In the 1990s, I worked with LGBT+ member Steve Anderson in a custom publishing business operating both in the UK and the US. Pride Magazine was one of many successful titles published. Prior to this relationship, my interaction with the LGBT+ community had been minimal. 

At that time, attitudes still existed where senior marketers would routinely make disparaging comments and assumptions about a gay audience. It’s hard to believe now, but even mentioning the “G” or “L” words might elicit responses that people simply wouldn’t dream of uttering today. 

Selling niche sponsorship and advertising in the 1990s was difficult, especially for Pride Magazine, and required an extremely talented and dedicated sales team. We were determined to make a real difference and were rewarded by building the business into a very successful publicly quoted company. It’s fair to say that Steve and I were amongst the forerunners who pioneered true diversity and inclusivity.

The business quickly gained a reputation as a workplace where diversity was a natural and organic process, and equal opportunities for employment and advancement were based on ability. We had a happy and friendly workforce and workplace. 

A golden era

The result was a dynamic and diverse talent pool with about 25% of the workforce coming from within the LGBT+ community. The absence of traditional barriers created an amazing working environment, and strong social bonds were forged across the entire workforce.

To this day, many of those employees remember that job as their greatest job, the golden time. 

I believe that acceptance should have no caveats. What matters is character and heart. 

This started what has become a lifelong affiliation with the LGBT+ community, working with many Pride organisations, promoting events and publications.

What matters is character and heart. 

Pride365

This is what led me to create Pride365: an organisation dedicated to bringing about an end to pinkwashing. 

Our mission is to bring about positive change in our society, by working with corporate partners who are committed to helping create a culture within their organisations where this positive change can come about to its fullest extent. Where everyone feels welcome and people are able to live and work as their true authentic selves. 

During Pride month, it is particularly important that business understands that supporting the LGBT+ community is something that needs to happen every month, every week, every day. This is what we mean by ending pinkwashing. 

Being seen as an ally in Pride month is no longer enough. The LGBT+ community are looking to work for (and bring their custom to) businesses that support them 365 days a year.

Meaningful communication

We believe that true inclusion can only come about when meaningful dialogue begins. Good communication can unlock the conversations that need to happen, and help prevent mistrust and misunderstanding. 

In the current climate of cancel culture, many employers hesitate to begin conversations that may take them into areas where they feel less sure of their ground. This is where employee resource groups and ally groups can help open up the channels of communication and begin to make real changes to company culture. This is where diversity is recognised and celebrated, but most importantly, it is where true Inclusion begins.

HR and Pride 

From an HR perspective, when real inclusion happens, the results in terms of recruitment and retention will speak for themselves. A perfect score is never attainable, and the focus should be on incremental improvement. 

Most organisations are already well underway in their efforts to improve their D&I work and the effects are beginning to be felt in many businesses. 

But it is important to communicate and amplify this work to the wider LGBT+ community. We can shine a light on this important, yet often unseen work and use it as a beacon to attract the community we serve to those businesses who are authentic supporters and have made demonstrable commitments to the LGBT+ community.

If I can offer one tip this Pride month, promote honest and open dialogue within your organisation. It’s from these conversations that great colleagues and friends are made. Nothing will help you more in breaking down barriers and creating a truly inclusive business.

Interested in this topic? Read Pride but not proud

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