Jonathan Lovitz is the Senior Vice President of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), overseeing media relations and public policy, political affairs, and strategic partnerships. He wrote the article below in his role as a TD Bank Pride Thought Leader. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
It feels like the minute the clock strikes midnight on June 1, the entire Internet converts to Pride flags, the same way all the department stores roll out the wreaths and tinsel right after Thanksgiving. It makes me smile all month to see kids and their parents in rainbow shirts, puppies in pride bandanas and all our favorite companies showing their support online and in their stores.
Personally, Pride month is the culmination of the work I do all year with corporations, government leaders and educational institutions promoting the importance of inclusivity and opportunity for all.
This year, I am working with TD Bank who released a workplace and financial equality survey of more than 1,200 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Two-Spirit, Plus (LGBTQ2+) workers in the U.S.
As a millennial, I grew up in the decades that included some tremendous milestones for LGBTQ2+ visibility; from Ellen DeGeneres coming out on TV, the end of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” to marriage equality and beyond.
However, millennials are at a tipping point for financial security in America—as the latest survey findings from TD highlights. In fact, only half of millennial LGBTQ2+ workers rate their current financial situation positively with 60% reporting having less than three months of emergency savings.
Young people move amidst security and safety concerns
For those of us who live and work in the major cities where LGBTQ2+ individuals are an essential and welcomed part of the community, the celebrations of Pride month can feel like just another holiday on the calendar. But TD’s survey found that many young people, especially in rural areas, move to live with a greater sense of security and safety.
In fact, 41% of gay and bisexual men, 31% of lesbian and bisexual women and 43% of transgender and non-binary participants left the places where they grew up to live in a more LGBTQ2+ welcoming place. However, moving is not always a viable financial option, especially in a person’s formative years.
If the equality movement is about ensuring that a rising tide lifts all boats, then we absolutely have an obligation to ensure that every boat’s sails are as ready to catch the wind as possible, especially those of our next generation of young LGBTQ2+ advocates and leaders.
Those who reap the benefits of equality must be willing to pay it forward with guidance to future generations. Now, more than ever, we need community and workplace leaders who are mentors.
According to TD's survey, only one-third (33%) of LGBTQ2+ workers interact with senior management who are out as LGBTQ2+ community members and over one-fifth (22%) feel that being out about their sexual orientation to senior staff will hurt their career advancement. How will we ever have the next great LGBTQ2+ CEO if young people are still anxiously looking for a role model who can prove that being out at work or in the marketplace won’t hurt their future?
Consider serving as mentor
Some may challenge this by saying, “I succeeded on my own without any help, and look how well I turned out,” but I would encourage them to think about how much easier their life would have been with the support of an LGBTQ2+ mentor or support system. Mentors provide direction, wisdom, assistance and inspiration.
More importantly, LGBTQ2+ youth can relate to mentors who have endured many of the same challenges and obstacles on the path to success. TD Bank’s survey highlighted that only 18 percent of LGBTQ2+ workers indicated that they have access to an LGBTQ2+ Employee Resource Group at their place of work. That simply won’t do if we are going to continue attracting and retaining the very best and brightest for our companies.
Those who are able to mentor should strive to be good role models and set the bar high so future generations can continue to learn and grow from all we’ve overcome. When LGBTQ2+ and allied leaders champion the social and economic importance of Employee Resource Groups to the C-Suite, we see real change happen.
Showing our LGBTQ2+ millennials that anything is possible is one of the most wonderful experiences those of us who are out or are committed allies can do during Pride month, and always. They deserve to know that they are entitled to all the joys and opportunities as everyone else, and that we have their backs.
Use your platform, whether it’s merely a social media post, or leading a panel discussion at your office or school or marching proudly down the street in your finest rainbow regalia and show every young person who may be watching that we welcome them with open arms into our community.
We normally reserve the thought of giving gifts for holidays or birthdays, but in the simple act of showing your pride and committing yourself to a better world for our young people, you have the chance to give one of the most valuable and appreciated gifts of all this Pride: hope.