June is Pride Month, and many organizations have launched marketing campaigns to emphasize their support for the LGBTQ community.
But truly supporting LGBTQ+ individuals involves more than symbolic gestures. As DEI strategist Lily Zhang wrote in the Harvard Business Review, big companies’ support for the LGBTQ+ community must consist of more than just posting a rainbow logo:
Many members of the LGBTQ+ community are tired of “rainbow capitalism,” a term coined to describe how LGBTQ+ symbolism is being wielded by companies to heighten consumerism without leading to meaningful improvement for LGBTQ+ communities.
– Harvard Business Review: “Your Rainbow Logo Doesn’t Make You An Ally”
For online platforms, faithfully supporting Pride means committing resources to build and maintain a welcoming space for LGBTQ+ individuals. The specific ways to achieve this will vary between companies, but there are a few baseline tips to keep in mind:
1. Hire LGBTQ employees
Building an LGBTQ+ friendly community starts with hiring people who are living that experience.
LGBTQ+ employees in leadership positions will knowledgeably steer company policy toward a safe and more welcoming online environment. Their first-hand insight can help create a comfortable space for LGBTQ users and educate fellow colleagues on how to approach LGBTQ+ related issues. The benefits of a diverse workplace are widely known, and making sure LGBTQ+ voices are represented will have a positive impact on users and employees alike.
2. Design products with Trust & Safety in mind
When it comes to creating LGBTQ+ friendly communities, a deliberate focus on Trust & Safety needs to be built into the product.
LGBTQ+ Americans face severe online harassment at more than twice the rate of non-LGBTQs, and online platforms must be ready to address that reality from Day 1. Proper systems to detect and delete online abuse are vital to maintaining an inclusive space. As we’ve noted before, investing in Trust & Safety is a smart decision for company growth and (most importantly) user happiness.
3. Have clear policies to welcome LGBTQ+ users
Platforms with ambiguous policies can become festering grounds for abuse or alienation.
When it comes to the LGBTQ+ community, online platforms must set well-tailored policies and intentionally foster a culture to create a welcoming space. For starters, make it clear that LGBTQ+ targeted slurs and blatant misgendering will not be tolerated. Additionally, it’s important for companies to openly feature LGBTQ+ members in their marketing and speak out on issues that affect them – neutrality only reinforces the status quo.
4. Make LGBTQ+ users feel welcome, not just safe
Making community members feel safe should be the basic first step of any online space. Per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, user safety is a no-brainer.
But the ultimate goal must be to make users feel truly welcome.
As Discord Policy Director Savannah Badalich said during our Safety Matters Summit last month, online platforms should cultivate a sense of belonging so LGBTQ+ users can thrive and have a more fulfilling experience. To achieve that, platforms must not only act swiftly to prevent harassment but also ensure that LGBTQ+ users have the moral and infrastructural support to comfortably express their identity.
Some concrete ways for companies to create a more welcoming online environment for LGBTQ+ users include making public statements of support, facilitating open community feedback, and fine-tuning product design when necessary.
5. Listen and learn from your community
Community leadership is a two-way street, and it’s crucial to listen to your users.
LGBTQ+ users may bring an issue to your attention that you’ve never had to deal with in your own experiences. For example: LGBTQ+ youth often are alienated in their offline lives, so they highly value the ability to explore their identity in online spaces with utmost privacy – which wouldn’t work well with the “require real names” policy that has been suggested to combat anonymous trolls.
It’s imperative to regularly check in with LGBTQ+ employees, experts, and users to see if you’re properly addressing any issues they might have. Online safety and inclusion aren’t a “set it and leave it” system; community platforms should continuously make sure that they’re fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment for the LGBTQ+ community amid a changing social landscape.
HubSpot DEI Senior Manager Shana Sumers described how this process worked during her tenure as Head of Community of the HER lesbian dating app:
Happy Pride! 🏳️🌈
Members of #TSCollective can watch the full session from the Safety Matters Summit on Building and Managing an Inclusive Platform for LGBTQ+.
Not a member? Join #TSCollective!
To contact Spectrum Labs to start protecting your community from hate speech, bullying, harassment, and insults, contact the team here.