On Thursday, June 25th, I hosted our second annual Pride edition of our Future of Branding roundtable series, featuring a conversation with LGBTQ+ and ally executives. (You can watch the recording here.)
Amid the pandemic and protests against police brutality, Pride events look and feel very different this year. It is worth noting that the roots of the LGBTQ+ rights movement stem from acts of resistance led by lesbians and trans women of color—from 1966’s Compton’s Cafeteria riot in San Francisco to the more widely known Stonewall uprising in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Our lively discussion traversed many areas from how our panelists honored and supported Pride, both as individuals and brands, the critical importance of visibility and vulnerability, to making Pride more than a seasonal checklist for brands.
In closing, I posed the questions, how important is it to emphasize the LGBTQ+ component of your identity and support others, and what is your commitment as a marketing leader to advance inclusivity? Here’s what our panelists had to say.
It’s vital to me; it’s part of my identity. I cannot work effectively nor serve my community unless I am exactly who I am. When you arrive at the point where you can be yourself and are fortunate enough to be able to be yourself, whether at work or in your country, then it becomes a part of who you are. I fundamentally believe that. It’s critical. Once you get to that point, you have a duty to advocate, encourage, inform, and listen. Continue to support grassroots movements; be visible. And try to have compassion for the people who are not there yet. Many times, I try to understand why people don’t understand the importance of gender equality, and I try to put myself in their shoes.
Continuing and committing to advocating and informing and having a compassionate approach to explaining things to people, in a simple way, is my personal commitment. Not everyone is at the same stage in their understanding, and I have found that the more compassion I bring to the table, the better.
—Tifenn Dano Kwan, Chief Marketing Officer, Dropbox
I came out in the 80s, and back then, when you came out, you were an activist because everyone was dying around you. You were at more funerals than pride parades. So being gay was the central part of my identity; everything else was second. But this has evolved. The gay community, the issues, and the identities have evolved. And I have evolved too. I see my responsibility to look and see the beauty of young people expressing themselves in new ways, in ways I could never imagine. In that world, it’s not about one dimensional being gay or not. It’s the interconnectivity between multiple issues. These intersections are what I am focusing on. The world is changing, and we’re changing with it, and that’s really beautiful.
—Sven Seger, Global Creative Director, Microsoft
For me, the most important things are visibility and vulnerability. Those are the two lenses that I use. The story I often share with people is that ten years ago, working at a big company, I never would have imagined I would be CMO of a high-tech company in Silicon Valley. I thought that I could never be who I was and might have to settle professionally. I was hoping maybe I could be a VP, at best. I’m sure many young people feel the same way—that they have to settle because they can’t be their full selves. I recognize that the more visible I am, the more I can inspire others.
Secondarily, vulnerability is essential. You can be visible, but if you don’t show who you are, others cannot understand your personal journey. For me, sharing my story, whether it’s my failures or lessons I’ve learned, helps people know that this is not a perfect journey. There are so many zigs and zags, so many disappointments that aren’t seen. I want people to understand that the more I share my story, the more empowered they are. Those are the two lenses that a lot of leaders with my opportunity can share with others outside.
—Steven Tristan Young, Chief Marketing Officer, Poshmark
As an ally, my commitment is to continue to ensure in the business I work in, that the culture is inclusive and authentic, and not just a phrase on the wall or something spoken from a stage. I want people to feel it and ultimately be themselves day in and day out.
Secondly, I want to ensure that all of our creative work absolutely pushes the boundaries, in a positive way, to reflect the UK and reflect the world that we want to see, where people can be free to be themselves.
—Peter Markey, Chief Marketing Officer, TSB Bank
It’s crucial to be open and authentic about who I am and bring my whole self to work. But there’s a balance as well. For a few years, people would come to me as the “gay issue” person, and I became pigeonholed. When I spoke, I could sense that people thought I’d be talking about my issue and my issue alone. So, I really needed to diversify with other matters, such as sustainability and race. I became more vocal about my multiple dimensions. I have to be careful about using my voice and power as a leader in the company. Ultimately, it’s about balance. It’s how and when, and how I might ask allies to share his or her voice. That’s powerful as well.
—Gwen Migita, Global Head of Social Impact, Equity and Sustainability, Caesars Entertainment Corporation
This is a biweekly series for brand-side senior marketers. To request an invitation, visit events.siegelgale.com