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Working the Rainbow: 5 Retailers that are Real about LGBTQ Support

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By: Bryan Pearson |

Posted on July 16, 2019

We saw a lot rainbows in June. But what about the rest of the year? While an avalanche of retailers came out to support the LGBTQ community during Pride Month — typically through the sale of color-splashed products — those rainbows tend to fade and with them, seemingly, so does the support.

It is during the rest of the year when the public should measure how well corporations stand behind equal human rights and inclusivity. In few ways is this measure as effective as in the workplace: A recent Glassdoor survey conducted by The Harris Poll reveals that 53% of LGBTQ employees (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning) have experienced or witnessed anti-LGBTQ comments by co-workers.

So instead of lauding the brands that supported Pride in June, how about recognizing those the LGBTQ community supports all the time, through their hard work? Here’s a list of five retail brands that support LBGTQ rights year-round and are embraced by the community, based on Glassdoor rankings.

1: Ikea Group

The Swedish home furnishings merchant Ikea has formally embedded diversity into its values and expects its staff to practice inclusive behaviors in collaborative ways. To this end, offers training on LGBT+ inclusion to enlighten workers of their possible unconscious biases regarding sexual orientation and gender identity, and how to reduce these biases. Among its benefits for LGBT+ workers and families: Ikea’s U.S. medical plan covers a portion of gender confirmation counseling and surgery.

As one employee from Ohio describes Ikea: “I receive great benefits; as well as the equal opportunities to pass those benefits along to my wife to help start and grow our family. I am so proud Ikea honors our #uniqueness and celebrates our individuality globally.”

2: Coca-Cola

The $32-billion beverage and snack foods brand operates an LGBTQA Business Resource Group (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning and asexual), in operation for almost 15 years, and was among the first companies to support new U.N. standards for LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) rights. It also offers benefits packages that serve as safety nets for LBGTQ employees, as Glassdoor reports:

“In 2011, the company began offering and in 2015 it began assisting with the costs of taxes imposed on eligible U.S. employees whose same-sex spouse or partner was enrolled in health benefits and who lived in states that did not recognize same-sex marriage.”

Separately, Coca-Cola in January was included in the 2019 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for its initiatives involving gender equality in the workplace.

3: Gap Inc.

The fashion brand Gap in 2014 was the first Fortune 500 company to confirm that it pays men and women equally for the same work, and it extends that equality across the spectrum. Gap has organized a group within the company called GEAR — Gay Employees, Allies and Resources — dedicated to creating an inclusive and supportive environment for its LGBTQ employees.

In terms of employee benefits, GAP provides an adoption assistance reimbursement plan (important to same-sex couples) as well as a pet discount program to offset the cost of veterinarian care, per services and supplies. In 2018, employees of its Old Navy brand voted it among the 100 Best Places Workplaces for Diversity: “They walk the talk when it comes to community involvement, equality and equal rights”.

4: Apple

When a company’s CEO is gay, you can expect it opens its arms to all members of the LGBTQ community, and Apple has done so since long before appointing Tim Cook. More than half of Apple’s employees (53%) are from historically underrepresented groups in technology. And for decades, its Diversity Network Associations have presented places for workers to connect with confidence. More than 25,000 Apple employees participate in one of the associations, which include Pride@Apple, Accessibility@Apple, Amigos@Apple, Black@Apple and Women@Apple.

“Being a leader at Apple means you’re held accountable for creating an environment where people feel included and welcomed,” Apple employee Consuela, a mixed-race woman who is part of the LBGQT+ community, states on Apple’s website. “It’s not just a recommendation. It’s expected of you.”

5: Target

Target distinguishes itself among shoppers for its exclusive, limited-time designer labels, but among workers it is known for inclusion. More than 10,000 of its staff members participate in its six diversity business councils. The groups — LGBTQ+African American, Asian American, military and women — provide onboarding, networking and professional development opportunities.

In 2015, Target published a Pride manifesto to showcase its consistent commitment to creating an inclusive culture. In 2016, Target further supported its commitment by publicly reinforcing its policy on restroom and fitting room use, which states employees and customers are free to use the rooms that correspond with their gender identities.

These efforts matter every day of the year to employees, as well as to shoppers. And they should matter to all retail brands. When seeking Pride support, people are learning that the best measure of authenticity is in seeing a brand’s true colors in July, and afterward.

Bryan Pearson a Featured Contributor to The Wise Marketer and is the President of LoyaltyOne, where he has been leveraging the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences. 

This article originally appeared in Forbes. Be sure to follow Bryan on Facebook and Twitter for more on retail, loyalty and the customer experience.