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Tina Casey headshot

Despite Attacks, The Demographic Case for Pride Month Continues to Grow

By Tina Casey
The rainbow pride flag during a Pride Month celebration.

(Image: Kajetan Sumila/Unsplash)

Some leading brands are scaling back their Pride Month activities this year in the wake of last year’s attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. Nevertheless, new demographic data provides more evidence that corporate diversity and inclusion outreach is a sound business practice to highlight and celebrate, not hide away as if the U.S. workforce is a demographic monolith.

The limited success of the 2023 LGBTQ+ boycotts

The months leading up to Pride Month last year were marked by a furious spate of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and social media boycotts by right-wing media and right-wing activists. Directed at the leading retailer Target and the Bud Light brand of the beverage maker Anheuser-Busch, the outpouring of hate included several instances of physical harassment at Target stores.

In the wake of those attacks, Ad Age and other news organizations report that brands are taking a quieter, more cautious approach to LGBTQ+ outreach this year.

However, neither Target nor Bud Light completely dropped their commitments to Pride Month. On May 9, Target indicated that fewer stores will carry Pride-themed merchandise this year, but the company will continue participating in Pride Month activities.

On its part, Anheuser Busch,a branch of the global firm AB InBev, adopted a traditional sports-oriented advertising campaign this year. Still, Bud Light is the featured presenter of the high-profile 2024 Pride Fest in Chicago.

A strong majority of overall businesses also express a continuing commitment to Pride Month. PR Daily and other media cite a recent survey by the firm Gravity Research, showing that only 9 percent of companies surveyed were “definitely planning changes” in response to last year’s backlash. Another 30 percent were “unsure” as of the survey date, and 78 percent were “not planning changes.”

The demographic case for Pride Month

Among other factors, the commitment to Pride Month reflects the premium leading corporations place on workforce diversity in the context of fact-based demographic trends.

The polling firm Gallup, for example, has surveyed LGBTQ+ identification since 2012. On March 12, Gallup released the results of a 2023 telephone survey that found 7.6 percent of U.S. adults age 18 and older place themselves in non-heterosexual categories.

“The current figure is up from 5.6 percent four years ago and 3.5 percent in 2012,” according to Gallup. 

That aggregated figure of 7.6 percent masks a much more significant trend for employers seeking to recruit the next young generation of top talent.

“Overall, each younger generation is about twice as likely as the generation that preceded it to identify as LGBTQ+,” Gallup reported. More than 20 percent of Gen Z adults, up to age 26, identified as LGBTQ+ in the 2023 survey.

The impact of employee resource groups

The Gallup poll also complements the findings of another Gravity Research survey, which explores the growing influence of employee resource groups (ERGs).

On March 27, Gravity Research presented several key survey-based insights into new developments in the ERG area, as related to corporate DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts.

“ERGs are also taking on a more strategic role in shaping how corporations engage with societal issues,” observed Kendall Seketa, a Gravity Research writer.

In addition to providing a “pulse-check on internal messaging,” Seketa advises that ERGs can provide important input on external communications. Business leaders should reach out to ERGs and get feedback “before rolling out new initiatives to a wider, global audience,” Seketa writes.

Pride Month and the insurrection connection

Holding a strong line on Pride Month is not only a matter of supporting equal human and civil rights for minority groups. LGBTQ+ rights have become the front line in an increasingly fraught battle for American democracy as we know it today.

That may seem over the top, but signs of a second insurrection are growing. The forces at work in the January 6, 2021, attack on Congress have regathered in the halls of state legislatures, and they have been busy.

Earlier this year, for example, the influential right-wing organization the Heritage Foundation produced a 925-page book titled “Mandate for Leadership,” which details how the Trump administration would implement the organization’s “Project 2025” plan for establishing permanent authoritarian rule in the U.S.

“Now Trump and his allies have another opportunity to establish a 'unified Reich,' as mapped out by a Heritage Foundation book," TriplePundit reported last week, noting the potential impact on ESG investing.

Leveraging hate to recruit anti-democratic activists

Project 2025 is not just a paper-and-pen exercise, as the insurrectionists leverage anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment to swell their numbers for the next attempt.

The months following January 6, 2021, saw a sudden surge in anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures, a trend that continued into 2022. With the support of elected officials behind them, it was no surprise to find anti-LGBTQ+ activists emboldened to violence during the run-up to Pride Month 2022.

“Pride Month has now become a proving ground and recruiting tool” for the next insurrection, TriplePundit reported in June of 2022.

Separately, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have also drawn attention to anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric attributed to the ISIS terrorist organization, among others.

“Foreign terrorist organizations or supporters may seek to exploit increased gatherings associated with the upcoming June 2024 Pride Month,” the agencies warned in a joint announcement on May 10.

The U.S. Department of State also issued a worldwide travel advisory that business leaders should take to heart in the U.S., as well.

“The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events and advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the department warned.

Communication is the key

In this atmosphere of heightened risk, it is all the more essential for employers to keep the lines of communication open throughout their workforce.

“Creating a culture of open dialogue while also managing employee expectations for engagement will be critical in 2024 amidst a potentially divisive election and a desire amongst corporations to remain apolitical while also supporting their workforce and enforcing their corporate values,” Seketa, of Gravity Research, writes.

That reminder about the value of open dialog is helpful, but the “remain apolitical” guidance has become increasingly irrelevant. Beyond the impact of anti-LGBTQ+ extremists on their employees, customers, and clients, business leaders who ignore the political implications of LGBTQ+ hatred will do so at their own peril.

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey