It’s Time to Take LGBT+ Work Beyond the HR Department and Pride Month

‘CEOs have 1,000 things to do and LGBT can often be 1,001,’ Lord John Browne, the former CEO of BP once told me.

John is no cynic. He significantly shifted c-suite attitudes to LGBT+ work when he published his book, The Glass Closet in 2014. He was a GSN shareholder until Iconic Labs bought our brand this summer. And he invested in Gay Star Business as the only dedicated business news and features outlet in our global community.

But for those of us trying to drive corporate action for the LGBT+ community it’s worth reflecting that boards are busy. They are juggling the uncertainty about Brexit and the global economy, environmental pressures, new regulatory frameworks, booming data and workplaces revolutionised by technology. And that’s before they even get to sector-specific issues.

So what space is there for diversity work in general and LGBT+ work specifically?

For all too many organisations, it’s a tokenistic tick-box exercise or a hobby for highly motivated employees. In fact, many LGBT+ executives joke they have a ‘gay job’ which is in addition to their day job.


The LGBT+ opportunity

This lack of focus is because most organisations see LGBT+ work, if they think about it at all, as a problem to be solved.

Admittedly, the reputational risk of not doing LGBT+ well is high. A recent study indicated that 76% of Gen Z would stop buying and publicly criticise brands they viewed as homophobic (source: McKinsey/ Box1824).

But this is not a problem. It’s an opportunity you can seize.

The LGBT+ market is estimated to be worth at least $5trillion worldwide (source: LGBT Capital).

And research indicates that half of 18 to 25-year-olds no longer identify as totally heterosexual (source: YouGov). So as the next generations become more economically productive, the market value can only grow.

There are at least 460million LGBT+ consumers and workers out there (6% of global population). Most have not yet been touched by corporate outreach to our community. And in countries such as India, where homosexuality was decriminalised in 2018, that work has barely begun.


Go beyond HR

Sadly, where LGBT+ initiatives do exist, they are often stuck in HR departments. It’s true that LGBT+ candidates represent a great recruitment opportunity. And there is plenty of work to be done – two-thirds of graduates are estimated to go back into the closet as they start work.

But now forward-thinking boards are pushing beyond HR and D&I departments.

B2C organisations should note that 72% of LGBT+ people are keen to purchase brands they see advertising directly to them on sites like GSN (source: LGBTQ Community Survey). Meanwhile B2B companies can learn from the likes of IBM who long ago started building their networks in our community to drive relationship-based sales.

Building a committed presence within the LGBT+ community should be an essential part of brand development strategy.

The other silo where people get stuck is Pride month. It used to be heartwarming to see companies prepared to make an effort to reach us in June. But growing numbers of LGBT+ people are starting to ask why more organisations aren’t as visible year-round. Pride-only campaigns are starting to be dismissed as tokenism.

We have a dynamic community of all ages, genders, races, social backgrounds, skills and abilities. Engaging with them is not just the right thing to do but a once-in-a-generation opportunity for forward-thinking organisations.

GSN has unparalleled expertise in helping companies hone their messaging and dynamically engage with LGBT+ people to drive return on investment. With the power of Iconic Labs by our side, a relaunched GSN will do even more to help businesses help our amazing, diverse community.

Words by
David Stybr