You only have to log onto your social media channels to know that in June the world celebrates LGBT Pride. Year on year, it’s become an increasingly common sight for brands to change the colour of their logo to the iconic rainbow flag that has been the global symbol of the LGBTQ+ community since it was devised by Gilbert Baker in 1979.
These acts definitely help to create awareness and support, but is it enough? Is this rainbow slapping tokenistic, or a real show of support for the LGBTQ+ community? I’m always intrigued to see what else businesses are doing when you scratch below the surface to champion this community.
And I really hope that businesses are not only doing more but that it extends year-round, not just for the month of June. Pride, along with every intersectionality, should be socially accepted so that we don’t need a month to celebrate it.
I’m not part of the LGBTQ+ community. This means I will never fully be able to appreciate the challenges this community faces and the discrimination they frequently feel. I am a proud ally and a leader, so I have a responsibility to continually challenge the status quo.
Diversity is embedded in my company’s DNA; our founder Steve is part of the LGBTQ+ community, so when the band’s frontman is leading the chant, it’s very easy for the rest of the team to pick up an instrument and play to the beat.
Great leadership means developing a culture that celebrates individuality, and when you have leaders who represent it we can attract diverse talent.
We know that we need role models to help break down the barriers of entry and for people to see leaders with who they can identify with. It’s like a snowball effect as diversity leads to more diversity. Here are three initiatives from my agency that have helped drive great inclusion at distillery.
Diversity means being diverse
Having so many backgrounds and beliefs in the team is amazing when it comes to creative brainstorms or trying to find solutions to client problems or briefs. Different perspectives birth ideas that you could never achieve if the team were all cut from the same cloth. This is especially important in APAC where we have such a diverse melting pot of people.
If you have someone in your team that comes from that country, is embedded in that culture, or has similar values to the target audience, they can act as a fantastic sounding board for what will work, and what won’t. We use this logic whether we’re walking (or Zooming) into a New Business meeting, or delivering a multimedia campaign.
Everyone has to get stuck in
But our team doesn’t have all the answers; no one does. Diversity is a continual journey of exploration, so it’s important that we fuel debate and education amongst our employees. We recently ran an initiative called the Diversity Type Project to promote diversity in the creative industry.
Whilst every team member at the distillery was involved, we had to engage a range of people from different organisations and bodies that could add value and experience to the narrative. We knew we didn’t have all the answers, but by asking for input from the people we’re trying to speak to, we were able to find the right direction.
I find that a lot of brands and businesses aren’t sure what to say, or they are worried about getting criticised, so they don’t say anything at all. But by staying quiet, you’re not helping either.
What is amazing about diversity is that it brings diverse opinions. And you can’t, and won’t, please everyone. But as is human nature, we learn and evolve by giving it a go.
We learn from others to create a community
We also actively surround ourselves with people and organisations that we can collaborate with or reach out to when we want to broaden our thinking. Steve (our founder) and Lucy (our strategy director) sit on the board of ‘Outvertising’; a not-for-profit focussed on making advertising more LGBTQ+ inclusive.
We partner with the Diversity Standards Collective, which gives us guidance on how brands communicate with specific communities. We also have a number of allies from the creative industry who are part of different communities that we consult when we need a specific opinion.
We also bring these people into our business to run education sessions, feature on our podcast, or share work that they have created. All of our staff have access to this, and we encourage everyone to get involved.
The acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community is growing in momentum across APAC, and it’s only a matter of time before nations like Singapore legalise same-sex relationships (it still blows my mind that I even have to write that).
Until then the least I can do as a business leader in APAC is be an active ally to the community.
I encourage everyone else to do whatever they can within their remit to break down the barriers and actively champion equality. It will make our work, society and workplaces much better when we embrace each other’s differences.
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