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So Many Rainbows - Corporate Allyship During Pride Month

Hello,


My name is Ben (they/them). I am a trans non-binary documentary film maker/storyteller, and trans inclusion specialist at Every Gender.


In this article, I’m going to talk about the ups and downs of corporate allyship.


I’ve been writing this in the lead up to Auckland Pride. That’s the month where queer folk throw epic parties for each other, and a bunch of corporate logos change to rainbow colours.


You’ll probably see your media threads flooded by clever marketing campaigns saying things like - "Look at how supportive our business is of the rainbow community! We are such an inclusive and trustworthy company. See?! 🌈🌈RAINBOWWWWS🌈🌈"


Rainbow Pride hand painted sign
That rainbow looks trustworthy.

But how do you (the consumer) know if we (the marketing teams) are being honest with you? It’s so difficult to spot the difference between an ally company and a company just putting on a show to bag more sales.


To give us all a leg up on our ally-spotting missions, I’ve set out to answer two key questions. Those questions are:

1. What is corporate allyship, and why is it worth doing well?

2. In a world where everything is some weird subtle form of marketing (yes, even this blog), how do you figure out who is an ally and who is just pretending?


Enough preamble - lets goooooo!


1. What is corporate allyship, and why is it worth doing well?

Corporate allyship is a set of behaviours that organisations employ to actively support, advocate for, and create inclusive and equitable spaces for marginalized or underrepresented groups of people. That is a long-winded way of saying ‘Businesses taking well informed steps to support the people who need it most’.


This might look like:

  • Building inclusive policy.

  • Creating appropriate data capture systems.

  • Resourcing employee advocacy groups.

  • Proactively educating its workforce.

This is a very short list just to give you the idea. If you want to dig deeper, we’ve created a free diagnostic tool that anyone in an organisation can use to figure out where you’re at in your trans inclusion journey. You can download that here.


It’s important to understand that there is no universal set of ‘allyship’ behaviours that are suitable in every situation. Society is always changing - both within the microcosm of each individual organisation, and the macrocosm of our increasingly globalized culture. The interplay between different communities can be really complicated, and the solutions for each situation need a lot of nuance.


In essence, an ally must be mindful of who they are, where they’ve come from and who and what they’re interacting with if they are going to have a hope of making choices that bring about positive change.


That all sounds like work, and I am not going to sugar coat it - it is.


So, why do it?


Why is it worth doing well?

I’m going to speak mostly about Trans Allyship here because it’s my main jam.


It’s worth doing well because:

  • It helps to make life easier and more enjoyable for your trans employees (current or future). This reason alone should be enough, but there are other big picture benefits I want to share.

  • Having high diversity of thought and experience in your workforce makes life easier and more enjoyable for all of your employees. This also has significant positive impacts on worker engagement and productivity, which helps your business do better business. - Deloitte

  • It builds momentum. As one corporation takes a stride forward in allyship, others notice. The fear of being left behind becomes a catalyst for larger positive change as other companies are prompted to take a look at their own inclusion efforts.


When corporate allyship is done well, it strengthens every layer of an organisation, positions companies as industry leaders, and induces a ripple effect that exponentially grows collective support behind the current civil rights movement.



2. In a world where everything is some weird subtle form of marketing (yes, even this blog), how do you figure out who is an ally, and who is just pretending?


Pride Equality Dogtags
Is it allyship, or is it rainbow capitalism?

Being called an ally is like being given a gold star from your favourite primary school teacher. It means something because someone that you respect has recognised the work you are doing.⭐


Claiming ‘I’m an ally’ when you haven’t really done the work is like buying your own sheet of gold star stickers and sticking them all over the cover of your workbook, without even opening up the pages… it’s deceptive, and you’ll probably lose friends if you keep that up.


You earn the term ‘ally’ from the community you’re supporting when we see you doing the work.


With all that in mind, here are some telltale signs to distinguish true allies from those just riding the pride bandwagon:


  • Consistency over Time: Allies don’t just pop up during Pride month, when it's fashionable to be inclusive. They demonstrate a consistent commitment to diversity and inclusion throughout the year. Take a look through the company website, blogs, and social media to see if you can spot ongoing examples of allyship that exist outside of Pride Month. If you can’t find any examples, it’s likely their allyship is not entirely genuine.

  • Actions Speak Louder Than Logos: While rainbow logos are nice, allies back them up with concrete actions. Look for companies that are transparent about their inclusion strategies & policies, and who invest in the very communities that they claim to support. If a company or organistaion isn’t upfront and open about their inclusion work, there is a good chance it’s because there isn't any meaningful work happening behind the rainbow logo.

  • Employee Testimonials: A company's current and former employees can provide valuable insights into the authenticity of its allyship. Keep in mind that the testimonials you see in promo material are highly curated, so it would also be worth looking through what employees are saying about the company on social media, news articles or over at GlassDoor.co.nz. You can also reach out to the unions to get a more complete picture. If a company is really doing the work, their employees usually want to give them gold stars on those metaphorical public sticker charts. ⭐⭐⭐

  • Inclusive Policies: Allies have robust, well integrated policies that use accessible and inclusive language so that all employees can understand and embrace them. As an employee, you should have easy access to your company’s policies - and if you are not employed by a company, you can always ask them about their inclusion policies. Their openness about their inclusion policies and strategies can tell you a lot.

  • Intersectionality Matters: If a company understands marginalization, it will know that no person is only a singular identity. Most of us are gender non-conforming as well as migrants, or or tangata whenua, or neurodivergent, or disabled, or living with mental distress or illness... Take note of the ways that an organisation uplifts different marginalized identities throughout the year. If their supportive actions are thin on content or leave out glaringly obvious marginalized groups, it’s likely they are not investing in truly diverse and intersectional allyship.

This is far from an extensive list, but it’s a good place to start. If you have other things we can look out for when ally spotting, or if you find any really good ones, please add them to the comments section below. Good Luck!


Child looking through binoculars
This is what I look like when ally spotting.

In Conclusion,

Corporate allyship isn’t about rainbow logos and catchy slogans; it's about contributing to deep-rooted, long-lasting positive change.


As we party our way through Auckland and Wellington Pride months, let’s challenge ourselves (and each other) to go beyond thinly veiled, performative actions and embrace meaningful, ongoing support for each other; because allyship isn’t a fashion statement. It's a commitment to taking part in making the world better.


And that, my friends, is a cause worth fighting for — rainbow logos optional.🌈🌈🌈

- Ben

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