By Corey Carlisle
Throughout the year—with a particular focus in June—cities and towns across the United States and internationally celebrate the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities by sponsoring festivals, parades and other events. Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall riots that occurred in New York City in June 1969, when gays and lesbians responded to years of police harassment, setting off a movement that continues around the world today. While many Pride festivities were suspended this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, over the longer run, banks are increasingly using these events as opportunities to affiliate their brands with inclusivity as key strategies for customer retention and employee morale.
Beyond the festivities and branded swag, these events provide opportunities for attracting customers and talent, as attendees at these events—particularly younger people—tend to take notice and become loyal customers or interested job candidates.
The Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for pro-LGBTQ public policies and business practices, recently updated its Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies on criteria in three areas: non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, and supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility. This year, an impressive 42 banks received a perfect score, and many more were included in the rankings. “These companies know that protecting their LGBTQ employees and customers from discrimination is not just the right thing to do—it is also the best business decision,” says HRC President Alphonso David.
Citi, which has received a perfect CEI score every year since 2004, will be taking part in over 20 marches and related events across its global footprint. The bank also plans to raise rainbow flags at many of its locations.
In addition to its commitment to Pride events, Citi partners with SAGE, a prominent nonprofit organization dedicated to the needs of the elder LGBTQ community—who often face high levels of discrimination, including when seeking affordable housing—in the United States. SAGE’s efforts help ensure communities are equipped to support aging LGBTQ residents through capacity building, consumer education, advocacy, training and the construction of more LGBTQ-welcoming housing.
In October 2019, with support from Citi, SAGE brought together housing developers, nonprofit practitioners and policy experts from across the nation for an inaugural LGBT Elder Housing Symposium in Washington, D.C. SAGE’s National LGBT Elder Housing Initiative aims to make the housing sector more welcoming of older LGBTQ people. These efforts aim to contribute to meeting the need for affordable housing within the 3 to 7 million LGBTQ people aged 50 and above expected over the next decade.
Citi was recently ranked as the most inclusive financial services employer in the United Kingdom by the LGBTQ charity Stonewall for 2020. “These honors reflect the leadership of our senior executives and our Citi Pride affinity networks—expanding inclusive workplace policies, advocating for LGBT+ equality and supporting community partners—and that of individual employees, LGBT+ advocates and allies who share our commitment to inclusion and diversity,” says Clare Eastburn, the bank’s global head of operational regulatory change and co-chair of Citi Pride Network London.
In Colorado, Lakewood-based FirstBank will be sponsoring Denver Pride again this June, where over 100 team members will march in the parade and enter a float. The bank plans to expand its engagement in Arizona as well. The bank amplifies its diversity and inclusion focus by hosting large fundraisers. For the past three years, FirstBank has collaborated with a popular Mexican restaurant chain and another ice cream company to create Pride-inspired treats and refreshments. FirstBank donates proceeds from this effort to a local nonprofit community center, which runs the Rainbow Alley, a safe space for LGBTQ youth, contributing thousands of dollars to their cause and helping the organization gain visibility.
“We stand behind the LGBTQ community. They’re our family, colleagues, customers and friends,” says Jim Reuter, CEO of FirstBank. “We recognize LGBTQ individuals, especially young adults, can face harassment, bullying or worse, and need access to a safe and caring environment like the one Rainbow Alley provides. This promotion offers us a fun way to give back to a life changing cause, while supporting local business.”
Corey Carlisle is the executive director of the ABA Foundation.