CEO Corner: Rainbow Flags in June

Evia CEO Hilary Laney

Evia CEO Hilary Laney

It’s June! The sun is shining, school is letting out, smells of freshly cut grass and summer barbecues are in the air. And my favorite part about June – rainbow flags mounted on businesses throughout the Pacific Northwest.

That’s right, it’s LGBTQ Pride Month. I am so proud to live in a city that overwhelmingly supports this vibrant and courageous community. Year after year, I watch as local and global companies in Seattle show their support of the LGBTQ community by raising flags and changing logos from the typical black or blue bubble lettering to a vibrant rainbow of color. I love and respect this deliberate action that is public for all to see – their employees, their customers, their competition, their shareholders. Some may think it’s an incredibly risky move to make, but I believe it’s one that business leaders should be very proud of. As a business owner myself, I often struggle with how to be bold and supportive without being controversial, or feeling like I am mixing my personal beliefs and values with those of the business.

As an individual, I have always supported equality regardless of a person’s sexual orientation, gender identification, race, religion, or age. But it honestly hasn’t been something I was comfortable publicly stating on behalf of my business for fear that it might exclude others who do not feel the same. Over the years, as I have grown into my own and learned more about what it takes to be a leader others truly respect, I now realize that being bold enough to state how I really feel about this is EXACTLY what I need to be doing. If I am not honest about this then how will things get better?

I have learned that the influence we have as leaders in business - particularly business owners - is powerful and should never be taken lightly. We have the ability and a platform to raise awareness about important issues our society should be paying attention to. We have a voice in our community, and if we aren’t using that voice to influence positive change, then things will remain the same, and we will never evolve.

As a business leader, I am working hard to establish policies, best practices, and a culture that supports equality in the workplace. Therefore, it seems very fitting that we just kicked off the process of getting GEN Certified (Gender Equity Now) during LGBTQ Pride Month. I honestly feel there is no better way to show our support of achieving equality than to examine our own business policies so we know whether we are truly practicing what we preach.

We are doing the work to back up the dialogue. So far, we have only completed 1 of 4 steps in the certification process, but I have already learned so much about what it takes to honestly treat all of our employees equally. For someone who believes in my heart of hearts that all people should be treated equally, it is surprising to see how far behind we are as a society and the mental shift we as individuals must go through before we can make a difference at the broader level.

In taking this tactical action, I finally feel confident in my voice. I feel I can stand up on behalf of my business and say that we truly support equal rights for the LGBTQ community. I would encourage anyone else who has the ability in their organizations to take action. Continue to fly your rainbow flags high and promote your colorful logos, but also take an honest look at how your company actively supports equality in the workplace. You might be surprised at how big a step that is and how far we have to go before true equality is achieved.