Jon Kennard interviews Jack Mizel who, through his organisation Pride 365, is working to bring an end to pinkwashing and make companies more inclusive for the LGBTQ+ community.
First off – please explain the concept of ‘pinkwashing’.
Pinkwashing is a term used to describe the action of using queer rights as a distraction, to conceal oppression, inequality and violence. Traditionally, it has been used as a political term, but in recent history, it has been applied to brands and businesses that use Pride and LGBTQ+ rights as a marketing, PR or brand awareness exercise.
They appear LGBTQ+ friendly, to suit their business needs, but don’t actually do anything to support the community or their employees.
I certify organisations that are working towards LGBTQ+ inclusion, and to put an end to pinkwashing. My primary focus is to improve inclusivity in society and the workplace and aim to achieve this by bringing greater visibility to the best and most authentic supporters of the LGBTQ+ community through the ultimate consumer facing kitemark – the Pride 365 Certification.
This ensures that the custom and revenue from the LGBTQ+ community ends up in the right hands.
Tell us how AI can help progress diversity initiatives and stop businesses pinkwashing.
AI, though not without its complications, can be used in various ways to help progression in LGBTQg+ inclusion, and to put an end to pinkwashing.
In 2021 inclusion will evolve to become an essential part of any business. Rather than being viewed as just another business tool, if done for the right reasons, it can stimulate freedom of expression and ideas – high collateral in any business.
Firstly, when used in interview processes and creating job applications, it can help to ensure unbiased interview panels and attract a wider spread of applicants by removing language barriers and formulating unbiased application forms. HR professionals use AI to help find better quality candidates, including managers and senior team members, who are keen to drive D&I within the workplace.
Businesses should work directly with AI, or machine learning, as it, in turn: learns from us and our actions; evolves and adapts over time to new data, and situations; and uses this new-found technology to continually improve its own understanding and produce data aligned with it. It can also help us address management issues and inconsistencies, and create solutions to these challenges.
In order to stop business pinkwashing, businesses using AI should and can be encouraged to provide and publish reports around their findings.
Through the implementation of real time changes into both their business and management systems, as well as the use of the data to create new initiatives specifically centred around their LGBTQ+ employees, positively encourages the provision of essential feedback. AI is very much still dependent on human involvement, and both human and technology need to work together to make real, sustainable changes.
We need to use these results to deliver significant improvements, and create better workplaces, and societies.
What do you think is HR and training’s place in all this?
Training is incredibly important to achieve LGBTQ+ inclusion. Training helps employees to focus on the real issues like broken bridges, communication breakdowns and fear, and find real solutions.
Education training creates a more understanding and actively engaged workplace. As a result, LGBTQ+ employees feel heard, understood and supported, which helps create empathy, workplace sensitivity, and the development of inclusive thinking and actions. Employees who have undertaken sensitive and optional training will most likely be more engaged, active, productive and focused, clearly driving the business closer toward its inclusivity goals.
HR is the frontline for inclusion, and plays a significant role in supporting the senior team. They are vital for driving change, and understanding what is needed to reach targets. When inclusion is at the forefront of all business agendas, HR no longer needs to worry about ruffling feathers and be much more proactive.
HR’s role is to lead, influence, drive and create new policies around inclusion. They should be reporting to the directors, not the other way around. HR needs to create an environment where all employees feel accepted. They also should be designing recruitment strategies that are open and welcoming to all candidates.
HR should lead the way with training and dialogue sessions, and are fundamental in engaging employees, as well as producing regular reports and new data to help keep track of their initiatives. And if AI is adopted, it’s HR’s responsibility to feed the technology and develop its learning, findings and observations, ideally with the same lack of bias they hope the AI to embody.
It is vitally important that HR continually monitor recruiting and interviewing processes, internal processes and planning, and the consistency of learning and training programmes.
How do you want to see D&I evolve in 2021, and how do you think it will evolve?
Firstly, there will be more business investment into using, and understanding, AI. Although the efficacy is already evident, the use of AI to improve inclusion is only scratching the surface. AI will become more automated, and more positively disruptive, improving many workplace processes including huge recruitment and hiring drives.
As its knowledge increases, the more it will start holding businesses and HR accountable. Automation means that there can be more of a human focus on employees and teams, resulting in businesses being more humane.
Also, we can’t dismiss the amount of new businesses that are run by millennials and younger generations, in whom inclusion is inherent and though it isn’t a perfect science, great foundations are already in place.
It’s no surprise that millennials are driving the way for inclusion. 20% of the generation identify as LGBTQ+, compared to 7% of baby boomers and 12% of GenX. This results in a greater number of people directly relating to the challenges caused by gender and sexual exclusion, resulting in solution driven creation.
The current 20% is a growing number, and although it’s referred to as a “minority” there is nothing minor about it. Although an increase is expected, if one out of five of the new generation identify as LGBTQ+ a strong, protective community naturally forms.
Currently dominating the workforce, millennials have more influence over policies, hiring, marketing, and business decisions, both from an employee and customer perspective.
Inclusion is not a trend. With small to medium business leading the way, it is also not unique to large corporations. In 2021 inclusion will evolve to become an essential part of any business.
Rather than being viewed as just another business tool, if done for the right reasons, it can stimulate freedom of expression and ideas – high collateral in any business. 2020 and COVID-19 has exposed many businesses. Customers have become more aware and investment astute.
They don’t want pinkwashing or diversity for diversity’s sake. They want ethical, empathetic and understanding business leaders and influencers who can relate to their entire customer base.
About the interviewee
Jack Mizel is founder of Pride 365.