Real Talk: Why Workplaces Need More Pride

I’m still at the beginning of my Nebo journey and, you know what, it rocks. Sure, there’s the dogs in the office, the unlimited PTO, the coffee fridge. But Nebo offers me something else that’s truly special: a workplace that is open and proud of its support for the LGBTQIA+ community, and, relatedly, numerous colleagues who are open and proud of their membership in that community.  

In my career before Nebo, I fortunately never felt discriminated against for my sexuality or gender identity (let me be clear: even in 2023, I am lucky to have had this experience). But I never felt totally comfortable either. At my first agency, I was the only openly queer employee. Not feeling outwardly judged doesn’t erase the terrible feeling of otherness just by being alone in my identity.

And, in reality, there’s no way I was actually the only queer employee. There are myriad valid reasons for not being out at work that may not have to do with the workplace itself, but I can’t help but wonder, had my company been more openly welcoming, would more of my colleagues have felt safe to share their full selves? And wouldn’t that have been great for company culture? 

My next agency was a breath of fresh air simply because I wasn’t the only out queer person – but that was no thanks to the agency itself, which offered no public or internal support for LGBTQ+ employees beyond letting us exist. Emboldened by the knowledge that I wasn’t alone in my identity at work, I approached leadership about doing something – anything – to show support. The response was a no, fueled by a “lack of budget and time,” and a fear of “rainbow washing.” 

Here’s the thing about a lack of budget and time: Celebrating LGBTQ+ employees doesn’t necessarily have a direct impact on the bottom line, but I promise you it always has an indirect one. Data showed this as early as 2013 when UCLA think tank The Williams Institute released a comprehensive report that concluded, “LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships... and increased productivity among LGBTQ employees.” I lived this truth. 

At first subconsciously, my work faltered in my previous work environments. Each time I met a new client or colleague, I feared they might take issue with my identity. Even worse, I feared if that happened, my employer wouldn’t have my back. This fear impacted my confidence speaking up in meetings, leading presentations, sharing my ideas, and just generally being myself at work. All of this led to me being a less present and productive employee, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  

Here’s the thing with “rainbow washing:” no, it’s not ideal. But honestly, even changing the company’s LinkedIn logo to be rainbow colored for a month out of the year, even a single email from leadership declaring support for LGBTQ+ employees, would have done wonders for my sense of safety and comfort. It’s kind of sad when you think about how much I would have appreciated the minimum effort, especially now that I’m somewhere that strives to go beyond the minimum.

The best way to avoid rainbow washing? Don’t do it. Do more. 

So far in my experience here, Nebo does more. Is it perfect? No, because part of doing more is constantly striving to be better. By being open about the ways they currently support LGBTQ+ people, and further acknowledging that support is always a work in progress, Nebo is attracting employees like me who share the agency’s values and desire to improve. The same is true for clients. That openness, embodied by a diverse workforce where I have multiple colleagues who share my lived experiences (good and bad), means I’m more comfortable being myself at work, and speaking up about ways the agency can be better.

As a result, I’m a happier, more productive worker. And guess what? That’s great for business.   


Written by Joy Feagan on June 26, 2023


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Joy Feagan