June President’s Message: Happy Pride Month
With Pride Month as a backdrop, I’ve been thinking about the intersections of communications, careers and diversity. I’m inspired by the companies in Richmond that are making their workplaces supportive and inclusive for LGBTQ+ professionals and other underrepresented people. Richmond’s network of Employee Resource Groups is one prime example.
ERGs are employee-led groups with the purpose of supporting members and organizations by cultivating diverse and inclusive workplaces. There are several kinds of ERGs, typically for underrepresented groups and their allies such as women, people of color, people with disabilities and LGBTQ+ communities.
Some of Richmond’s biggest companies have LGBTQ+-focused ERGs, like Altria, Capital One, Dominion Energy and Bon Secours. These companies are taking the lead and showing how important it is to support and celebrate diversity by fostering welcoming communities for LGBTQ+ employees and allies to thrive.
It’s not just Richmond’s largest employers that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, so many of Richmond’s small and mid-sized businesses make it known that their workplaces are spaces for all. As someone in the LGBTQ+ community, I’ve been fortunate to have been employed at companies where inclusivity is a must. Their cultures thrive because of this mindset.
But it would be careless and dangerous of me not to mention how being “out” at work is a privilege that isn’t afforded to everyone. Today, it’s still legal for companies in 28 states to fire employees for being gay or transgender. This reality is disturbing to me, but I’m thankful for the many groups working to change this, such as Equality Virginia here in our state, and corporate partners creating inclusive policies that protect against LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.
Why is this important to communications professionals? More than ever, diversity matters. We need diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences to drive public relations counsel. Diversity is the engine that fuels creative ideas, smart thinking and innovation.
I challenge you to ask what you can do to ensure your companies and campaigns include underrepresented people. Look around in brainstorms and meetings to make sure diverse perspectives are being represented. Think about the impact your work has on all communities. Check in to see if all employees feel welcomed, respected and celebrated. Make sure your customers can see themselves in your brand. There should never be an end to this type of questioning and inclusion when it comes to our job as communicators. We aren’t doing our job if we’re not talking to and engaging with everyone.
Outside of work and PRSA Richmond, I am fortunate to volunteer with Side by Side (formerly ROSMY). The nonprofit provides supportive communities where Virginia’s LGBTQ+ youth can define themselves, belong and flourish. I love wearing the Side by Side t-shirt the organization’s junior board created and often think about and try to live by the words emblazoned on the front: Be Authentic. Be Bold. Be You.
This Pride Month – in your communities and in your workplaces – I hope you live by those words too.
Cameron McPherson, APR
PRSA Richmond President