The queer community, encompassing all who identify with the acronyms in LGBTQIA+, knows firsthand the significance of representation and allyship in the retail space. But what does that look like and how do you do it?
First of all, what does LGBTQIA+ even mean? What are these letters?
In case anyone wants to fact-check me, we’ll default to a few Google search results: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (gender or sexual), queer, intersex, asexual, and more.
While some might consider these “labels,” those of us in the community see them as words that help people understand a vital part of our identity. After all, that’s what Pride month is about, right? Celebrating the culture and identities of LGBTQIA+ folks?
We see rainbow-colored products and decorated retail stores, so we assume the brand is an ally. But when is it actually making a difference versus being used as performative action?
A FAM contributor and podcaster, Brett Thornton, points out that women are underrepresented in the mattress industry, especially in leadership roles—which doesn’t make sense especially when considering when heterosexual couples shop together, the woman makes the buying decision about 80% of the time.
I can attest to this being true in my time with Avocado Green Brands, but what about with non-hetero couples?
We can all agree that creating a safe shopping environment where everyone feels represented broadens the reach of our demographic and customer base, especially in an industry focused on sleep because everyone wants to sleep comfortably!
Hiring such representatives for a retail space in particular is a huge opportunity because it’s a public platform. Especially if you are part of a Certified B Corp company like Avocado. We believe in equality and good business—it serves our purpose and mission well. If our employees are our first customers, we’ll need to first support them before we expect the support paid forward.
What makes hiring someone within the LGBTQIA+ community different from hiring anyone else? Let’s look at some of the benefits:
The company: social acceptance and inclusion of different groups helps us see the market through all kinds of lenses.
The customer: representation and being able to trust and build rapport without the fear of discrimination while shopping
The employee: creates a safe space that celebrates individualism, authenticity, and a certain level of resilience
Resilience? Well, maybe you can relate, but it takes a particular kind of confidence and awareness to self-identify as LGBTQIA+.
For those of us who have “come out” publicly, this highlights another level of risk and bravery; we have to overcome a fear of rejection.
In today’s society, too many members of the LGBTQIA+ community end up on the streets because their families cannot accept them for who they are; most times, we just need an opportunity to show our strengths and talents so that we can contribute to the whole. Essentially, resilience should be a valued characteristic as every business has its own hills and valleys.
What can your company do to truly start to become an ally? One thing is to have events, speakers, or representatives from the community come into your organization to help the team have a better understanding of allyship and provide a platform for your team to ask questions and build meaningful bonds.
As an example, I am a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and an employee of Avocado Green Brands myself, and I’ve seen more than a handful of our coworkers who are LGBTQIA+.
How did we get there?
Sure, Avocado could launch rainbow-colored pillowcases or face masks to show their support but instead, our people and development team partnered with our marketing team to host a meeting around Allyship with Pattie Gonia a few months ago.
In this meeting, vice presidents, founders, customer support agents, sales representatives, and everyone in between had an opportunity to share our stories, perspectives, and reflect together on how to keep the conversation going. One of the company founders, Dan D’Andrea, hopped on the meeting and even did an epic hair flip!
If we have to suppress any part of ourselves in a workplace, then the relationship lacks trust and loyalty. The power of seeing our leaders and peers in an open forum, asking questions, showing a new understanding shows us that we are valued no matter how we identify, be it race, gender, or otherwise.
After all, love is love, and whether we love who we are, love who we’re with, or love what we do, when we do things in love we all strive together to succeed in making the world a better place.
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