LGBTQ+ Inclusivity: Rainbow Washing

June is bursting out all over in rainbows – and it is dividing opinion as to what is appropriate when it comes to organisations promoting pride themed campaigns and products. Some brands are accused of profiteering from LGBTQ+- products, and “jumping on the rainbow capitalism bandwagon” highlighting more than ever that organizations must be authentic and true to their campaigns and support they offer.

What is Rainbow Washing?

Rainbow washing refers to the practice of organisations or brands using symbols and imagery associated with the LGBTQ+ pride movement for marketing purposes without genuinely supporting or advocating for LGBTQ+ rights. It is a form of performative ally ship where companies use the rainbow flag or LGBTQ+ themes in their advertising campaigns to appear inclusive and supportive while failing to take substantive action or address systemic issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community.

During Pride Month, which is celebrated in June, rainbow washing becomes particularly prevalent. Companies may release limited-edition rainbow-themed products, change their logos to incorporate rainbow color, or engage in pro-LGBTQ+ marketing campaigns. However, these efforts often lack meaningful action or investment in LGBTQ+ causes and may even perpetuate stereotypes or contribute to the commodification of the LGBTQ+ community. This practice can undermine the authenticity and significance of Pride Month and dilute the original purpose of the LGBTQ+ pride movement, which is to raise awareness about LGBTQ+ rights, celebrate diversity, and advocate for equality and inclusion.

Critics argue that rainbow washing perpetuates a shallow and opportunistic approach to LGBTQ+ inclusion, where companies prioritize profit over meaningful support and engagement. It is important for consumers to be discerning and look beyond surface-level gestures to identify companies and organizations that are genuinely committed to advancing LGBTQ+ rights and fostering a more inclusive society. By focusing on surface-level gestures during Pride, rainbow washing often diverts attention away from the larger systemic issues and challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. It can create a false sense of progress while neglecting the need for meaningful social and political change.

How to Prioritise Inclusivity in the Workplace

Offering honest support and a commitment to LGBTQ+ people at work goes beyond hanging some rainbow flags and putting on a Pride-themed event. While these are admirable gestures, LGBTQ+ employees value more than these surface-level actions. Research by TUC found that 1 in 5 workplaces do not have any policies to support their LGBTQ staff.

To make an authentic difference and celebrate LGBTQ+ employees during Pride Month and beyond you can take small steps such as encouraging the sharing of pronouns in emails and on name badges and offering gender-neutral bathrooms. This approach can also apply to imagery that is on display throughout the workplace and in communications. If your company is displaying the Pride flag, consider updating it to the Progress Pride flag , which more explicitly represents queer people of colour, the trans community, and intersex people.

Ensure family leave reflects every type of family and consider offering support for things like gender-affirming care. Lack of inclusion is highlighted when employer benefits and policies don’t reach everyone within the business. Less than half (47%) of HR managers told the TUC that they have family policies (such as adoption, maternity, paternity, and shared parental leave policies) that apply equally to LGBT workers. Benefits like family leave should reflect all the different ways families are created, such as through adoption or surrogacy. Employers should also double-check and make sure that all family leave is equitable rather than focused on the binary of maternal and paternal.

Leadership should create safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ employee groups and employees to lead the discussion around workplace inclusivity. You can build belonging all year round through establishing mentorship networks and employee resources , this shows ongoing support for the professional growth of LGBTQIA+ employees.

When employers invest in ongoing diversity training, they are demonstrating their commitment to creating a broader atmosphere of understanding and acceptance throughout the year. Providing diversity training that specifically addresses LGBTQ+ issues can help educate employees and create a more inclusive workplace. Training like this increases awareness of unconscious biases, promotes respect and provides practical tools for fostering an inclusive environment.

How Can Wellity Support You?

It is important for companies and organizations to move beyond rainbow washing and engage in meaningful action, advocacy, and support for LGBTQ+ rights. Research has found that only 1 in 3 companies who have LGBTQ policies have updated them in the last 12 months. Genuinely inclusive practices involve actively promoting equality, fostering safe and inclusive workplaces, supporting LGBTQ+-led initiatives, and advocating for systemic change to create a more equitable society for all.

A Wellity session ‘Inclusive Leadership’ will empower attendees with the awareness and knowledge to cooperate and communicate with respect, embrace differences, address concerns in a constructive way and help contribute towards a collective vision built on a collaborative, respectful and harmonious work culture.

Objectives:

  • Envisaging what a positive and inclusive working environment looks like
  • Understand the benefits of fostering a positive and inclusive working environment and working relationships

For any information on this session or others we offer, contact us at hello@wellityglobal.com.

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