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LGBTIQ+ Leadership and PRIDE Month- what can we do better?

Dear readers/followers of the RAHM Insights article series,

we hope you enjoyed the first edition of the column, and we will go straight ahead with a new one. As PRIDE Month (June) is just around the corner, I would like to stress the importance of LGBTIQ+ leadership not only in June, but all year long.

“If people are really engaged and actively involved in diversity management, it must be recognized and appreciated appropriately.”

We will see a lot of rainbow flags in front of company headquarters, recognize that company logos are covered in the colors of the rainbow, and we will read a lot of postings on social media, where rainbow cakes or other colored gadgets are provided to the employees. Don´t get me wrong- I highly support PRIDE Month as it is still necessary to have milestones in our calendar to remind ourselves and others of the meaning of Diversity Management and the hard-fought efforts of LGBTIQ+ movement.  But I don´t like using PRIDE month as a tool for so called “pink washing”- This means that the rainbow symbol is used as an attribute to make the impression of a diverse and inclusive environment without a sustainable diversity management and real commitment to make an impact with regards to diversity and inclusion. LGBTIQ+ leaders are fighting for equal rights and against discrimination, bias and even hate. Diversity Management needs a lot of loud voices, strong leaders and constant commitment to really make an impact and to effectively enable change to happen, not only in June. And is not sufficient to make a lot of oral promises without a proper action plan to follow. To present the rainbow flag and then put it back to the closet (spoiler: notice the choice of words!) for the rest of the year is not Diversity Management- this is FAIL. Remember what the rainbow flag stands for- every color has a meaning and reflects the high number of role model LGBTIQ+ leaders in history, who fought for LGBT rights and even risked their lives for that! It is not a good move to misuse this symbol for “pinkwashing”.

The role of LGBTIQ+ leaders in PRIDE months and every other month of the year is to highlight exactly this. It is our responsibility to question the status quo and to look for real impact for a more diverse and inclusive environment. In case of PRIDE month I would like to invite you to look into commitment posts regarding PRIDE activities and to follow-up on those during the rest of the year. Ask yourself the following key questions:

– Are their clear goals and actions defined?
– Are the adequate resources/budget in place?
– Is there a measurement/ monitoring of progress planned?
– Are people part really involved in the activities (or is it just managed as a HR topic)?
– Do you (as part of the LGBTIQ+ community or ally) really feel comfortable with the program?

In my personal opinion LGBTIQ+ or Diversity related topics in whole are often used to stress that people are in the focus of the activities, but in reality the employees are not really involved in the activities and it is more a political move than a commitment to the peoples´ needs. In a lot of companies you can witness that there is a diversity manager in place, but there´s no dedicated budget nor other resources granted. This is the first hint that there is no real commitment for an effective Diversity Management. We all know, that D&I activities need long-term actions and constant and strong voices as the implicated changes in society and behavior of people take a lot of time. Employees cannot do this job add-on to their regular jobs as kind of a private hobby. If people are really engaged and actively involved in diversity management, it must be recognized and appreciated appropriately.

I do believe that all activities around D&I are necessary and valuable, if there is real commitment and a sustainable strategy behind, as every step forward is a good step. The change of habits and biased-related behavior is nothing that will change overnight. And we must be realistic, that there always will be steps backwards in business in society, as a natural amplitude over time. These steps back should not lead to resignation but encourage us keeping track. We are strong and we have a lot of creative, well-educated and effectively connected colleagues around us and we have the power to make an impact. It not always about getting a part in the book of history, it is about to use the talents we have in hand to change things we are able to as enablers themselves to make a bigger change happen in future. And as said repeatedly as kind of a mantra: “Every voice, every hand and everybody is needed!”

About the writer


David Holthöwer is a member of the RAHM Leadership Council. Working as an Associate Director Pharmacist in Hesse (Germany), he is part of the Communication Committee of our Council.

Know more about the RAHM Leadership Council here.

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