As Pride Month Comes to a Close, Brands Step to the Plate

    There are still countless steps to be taken.

    KFC employee in the kitchen.
    KFC
    KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands, launched a $100 million, five-year effort to “tackle inequality and invest in education and entrepreneurship.”

    During this sweltering summer month of June 2021, people worldwide have been celebrating the history, culture, and community of LGBTQIA+ members, a movement that fundamentally breaks into the professional world as well. Companies continue to implement Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts as a larger push to include workers from all backgrounds within the workplace to foster a more collaborative atmosphere. This past month, in continuation with policies inspired and built over the past few years, several retail and restaurant brands have created and executed innovative measures to achieve just this.

    Several well-known retail companies have taken 2021 Pride month as an opportunity to promote new lines of clothing or styles. Reebok released a Pride Month collection, in which the company’s LGBTQIA+ employee community, Colorful Soles, expresses their inspiration to “pay homage to ballroom culture.” Reebok recently released a line of unisex apparel and footwear with vibrant Pride Flag-inspired graphics and designs, in addition to a limited-edition Progress Pride Flag product tag. However, Reebok did not stop there; the company also released a 2021 Pride campaign film, which features celebrity ballroom dancers showing off their moves while Archie Burnett shares the importance of ballroom culture in creating a safe space for members of the LGBTQIA+ to self-express freely and creatively. Reebok has pledged to donate $75,000 to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an organization working to guarantee that all people can freely self-determine their gender identity and expression without facing discrimination and violence.

    Another retail company, Tapestry, Inc., owner of Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman, follows suit to create a safer workplace and world for these marginalized communities. This past year, the company launched an Employee Resource Group (ERG), Prouder Together, to support its LGBTQIA+ colleagues, and the group has now grown to 200+ members. For seven consecutive years, Tapestry has received a score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, an effort toward equality and rights that they push to this day. Coach, the main subsidiary of Tapestry, Inc., has also released a Pride collection along with its “Pride Is Where You Find It” campaign, spotlighting Pride as a state of mind, as well as signifying the importance of finding community regardless of where you are.

    Bombas, an apparel company with emphasis in socks, has gone above and beyond by starting and integrating conversations about pride and diversity within the workplace. The company’s all-hands meetings incorporate a form of storytelling that allows employees to share vulnerable moments in their lives. In 2018, a Bombas employee living with HIV/AIDS shared his story at an all-hands meeting and helped change the stigma around those living with AIDS. After he passed in 2019, the company has remained committed to furthering his lasting legacy. With its 2021 Pride collection, Bombas attempts to honor the “diverse experiences, stories, and intersectionalities within the LGBTQ+ community.”

    Instacart recognizes the significance of education in uprooting prejudicial institutions to build a stronger future. Throughout the year, Instacart partners with employee resource group’s to celebrate cultural heritage months company-wide, including but not limited to Women’s History Month, Black History Month, Latinx Heritage Month, Pride Month, Trans Awareness Week, and Bring Your Kid to Work Day. Each cultural heritage month has a month of programming and company-sponsored guidance dedicated to raising awareness for underrepresented and traditionally marginalized groups through education, guest speakers, projects guided by social impact, communal connection, learning and development.

    Walgreens, one of the largest pharmaceutical and convenience store chains in the world, as well one of the main drivers for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic by promising to vaccinate tens of millions in 2021 (a goal the company is on track to achieve), has made it a priority to hire disabled workers. At Walgreens distribution centers, disabled workers account for 10 percent of all employees. The unemployment rate for work-eligible disabled workers has historically been five or six times that of the American working class, however Walgreens continues to act for change. One Walgreens distribution center in Windsor, Connecticut holds the highest percentage of disabled workers and has also received awards for being the safest and most productive center year after year.

    McDonald’s has also become a pioneer for gender equality within the workplace. For years, the company has created and enacted efforts to increase the gender diversity of its leadership and upper management. By the end of 2025, McDonald’s plans to increase the representation of historically underrepresented groups in higher leadership roles within its corporate teams to 35 percent in the U.S. as well as increase the representation of women in these same higher leadership roles to 45 percent worldwide. On International Women’s Day in 2019, McDonald’a launched a global strategy, Better Together: Gender Balance & Diversity, with the hashtag #BalanceForBetter, which aimed to improve women’s representation and gender equality in career advancement. The company advances education and development programs to support women to progress further in their careers, which it began by piloting a new “Women in Tech” initiative through Archways to Opportunity to enable women to learn technical skills not typically experienced or taught in the McDonald’s work space such as data science, cyber security, artificial intelligence and more.

    Finally, equity within the fast food restaurants industry continues as KFC appointed its first ever director of equity and inclusion, John Mays, in 2020. He is leading the development and implementation of KFC’s strategies to boost equity and inclusion in not only its stakeholders but also its headquarters. KFC’s parent company, Yum! Brands, has also supported this trend toward equality by announcing a $100 million, five-year effort to “tackle inequality and invest in education and entrepreneurship.” This pledge is a commitment to improve representation of Black, Latinx and people of color, continuing provisions of inclusive and anti-racism training as well as investing in education, entrepreneurship, and social justice in cities where its corporate offices are located.

    Although these companies are making great strides toward supporting diversity, equity, inclusion and pride as everyday employers in the working industry, there are still countless steps to be taken and institutional barriers against traditionally marginalized communities to uproot. These efforts are commendable examples of how other companies can support their communities and build a stronger, safer and more inclusive workplace for everyone in the world.

    Vivian Wang is the founder & CEO of Landed (gotlanded.com). She and the Landed team are building the fastest way for the 90M hourly workers in the US to land jobs at essential food & retail businesses like Wendy's, Taco Bell, Grocery Outlet & more with video. After graduating from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, Vivian worked in roles ranging from advising European central banks on financial markets strategy at BlackRock and launching the Asia & EMEA markets at real estate tech company, Matterport (NASDAQ: MTTR), to leading special projects for the C-suite at Gap, Inc., owner of Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta, and Intermix.