Why Pride makes me proud
June is international Pride month - a celebration of diversity and inclusion, a month to honor the fight for equal rights, a tribute to the LGBTIQ+ community, a reminder of the inequality that still exists today… and a period for corporations to show their commitment to the LGBTIQ+ community, by changing their logos to rainbow colors, and by participating in joyous pride parades. As a proud member of this community, but far from an activist, I feel privileged to be living in a country where I can love who I want and am protected by law, yet at the same time I can feel uneasy about the “commercialisation of pride”. I want to play my part and would gladly leverage Hyvä’s popularity to raise awareness, but for what exactly, and how do I do that with respect and integrity? Here’s my attempt at explaining why Pride is important to me, and to Hyvä.
I travel a lot for work and for pleasure, and like to visit gay bars wherever I go. There’s always that sense of recognition, of coming home, and let’s face it - these are the places with the best music. When I mention that I’m from the Netherlands, I often get very positive or even jealous responses that make me feel proud of my home country. Rightfully so: discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has for long been illegal (1994), we’re the first country in the world to open up marriage to same-sex couples (2001), sexual diversity education in primary and secondary education is mandatory (2012), and lesbians no longer have to adopt their children, but have the same parenting rights as straight couples (2014). Talking to people from other countries, not even that far from the Netherlands, makes me realize that I live in gay paradise.
And yet… our struggle for emancipation is not over. Violence inspired by anti-gay sentiments is alarmingly on the rise, depression and other mental illnesses occur more often amongst LGBTIQ+ than straight people, and when you apply for a passport, you still have to indicate whether you’re man or woman (only 2 options available). We still have a long way to go before we reach full equality. In the global corporate world, this is no different: although LGBTIQ+ represent ~11% of society, only 0.1%< of senior leadership roles are covered by LGBTIQ+ professionals1. Clearly, LGBTIQ+ professionals experience barriers in progressing their careers, more than their straight peers.
One would be inclined to think that companies care about this from an ethical point of view, and especially in times of a tight labor market, do anything to expand the job candidate pool at all levels, as well as increase the social and political status for the company. There are more reasons for companies to care about diversity, though. The Boston Consulting Group and the Technical University of Munich engaged in an empirical research in 2017 to understand the relationship between diversity in management (defined as all levels of management, not just executive management) and innovation. Their findings are the first to confirm direct financial benefits from diversity initiatives. Their conclusions are:
- The positive relationship between management diversity and innovation is statistically significant, meaning that companies with higher levels of diversity get more revenue from new products and services;
- The innovation boost isn’t limited to a single type of diversity. The presence of managers who are female or from other countries, industries, companies or sexual orientation can cause an increase in innovation;
- Management diversity seems to have a particularly positive effect on innovation at complex companies—those that have multiple product lines or that operate in multiple industry segments. Diversity’s impact also increases with company size;
- At companies with diverse management teams, openness to contributions from lower-level workers and an environment in which employees feel free to speak their minds are crucial in fostering innovation2.
To me, this is what this Pride month is about. Being a gay woman in a leadership position, I could do something to change this 0.1<. I’m aware of my visibility in the company and the Magento community, and would like to use that, especially this month, to inspire other companies to seriously engage in diversity initiatives. Lack of diversity is a common point of critique in ecommerce, and rightfully so. It would greatly benefit us all if we would increase diversity, especially for an industry that is so dependent on innovation.
At Hyvä, we’re proud to set the right example. 50% of our leadership is women, 25% is LGBTIQ+. Of course, these percentages are harder to maintain when we grow as a company, but at least we’re starting out right. Use this month to not only rainbow-dress your company logo, but actively engage in or continue the conversation about diversity in your company.
Please feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss how!