Nicky Buckley

HR expert warns business owners against corporate rainbow washing this Pride Month

As organisations around the world are gearing up for Pride Month, it’s crucial to approach your own celebrations thoughtfully and avoid falling into the trap of ‘corporate rainbow washing’, according to a local HR expert.

“Rainbow washing” is a term used to describe an organisation’s behaviour when they use LGBTQ+ symbols and themes for their own commercial gain, without actually showing any commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and equality in practice.

Nicky Buckley, an HR expert and owner of East Midlands HR in Northamptonshire, says “A common example of rainbow washing is when an organisation ‘washes’ their logo or brand in the colours of the rainbow or displays rainbow flags around the office for Pride Month – but not much else.”

She continued, “Understandably, your employees are likely to view this as an empty gesture if it’s not backed up with any real support for the LGBTQ+ community and your own employees.”

Rainbow washing can also be seen as ‘piggybacking’ an awareness month, and this runs the risk of making your staff feel angry and disengaged, especially during an awareness month that holds so much significance for many people.

It’s also harmful as it undermines the true meaning of Pride – a protest against discrimination. Pride events typically cluster around June 28th, marking the anniversary of the Stonewall protests, and celebrate LGBTQ+ identity, resilience and activism.

Instead of making superficial gestures, organisations should consider how to commemorate Pride Month meaningfully, engage and galvanise all of their employees, and leave a lasting impact.

Nicky said, “One of the mistakes that businesses make is to focus all of their efforts during Pride Month rather than embracing diversity and inclusivity all year round.”

There are several ways to ensure that your efforts during the month make a positive impact for your LGBTQ+ colleagues every day in the workplace, including:

  • Show a consistent approach by conducting a thorough review of your company policies, initiatives and benefits to ensure they are fully inclusive, use neutral language and make everyone feel welcome.
  • Ramp up your education and awareness-training. Host workshops with LGBTQ+ advocates/experts from outside of the business, including events that cover the history of the LGBTQ+ movement, to engage and inform people. Inviting colleagues to share stories and experiences could galvanise allies to spread the word that inclusivity is celebrated by your business.
  • Help people feel involved by creating, or elevating, Employee Resource Groups to offer peer-to-peer support. Additionally, leverage these groups to gather valuable insights, promoting accountability within your business.

Nicky goes on to say, “It’s easy to fall into the trap of second-guessing what people want, but even with good intentions this can go badly. I recommend getting out into the business; speak to your employees – LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ – and ask them what inclusion really looks like and feels like to them.”

Celebrating Pride Month meaningfully, and without rainbow washing, can help to build an inclusive and safe workplace culture. It sends an important message to your LGBTQ+ employees; that you care about them and want them to know they can feel safe and respected at work, not just during Pride month, but all year round.

“My team and I are available to help shape your strategy for Pride Month and support both you and your organisation to build an inclusive workplace.”

Business owners can arrange a free 30-minute consultation by visiting

East Midlands HR was formed in 2019 and outsources a full range of HR services and recruitment to local businesses, as well as a number of learning and development courses.


carlton cole landscape