Mandy Rayment is Director Of Communications at Publicis Media and sits on NDA’s Media Pride Advisory Board.
What is the biggest challenge for members of the LGBTQIA+ community in the digital industry and how is it being overcome?
It’s Pride season, so we are awash with rainbows and Kylie has made an epic comeback with what is sure to be the anthem of this year’s Pride, if not the summer! But while “Padam” may be pumping out of bars and parties up and down the country, Pride this year is sadly set against a worrying backdrop of rising LGBTQIA+ hate crime in the UK, a toxic anti-trans debate and a very well-coordinated backlash against several brands for their trans-inclusive marketing.
So much progress has been made in recent years in LGBTQIA+ inclusion, and our industry has played a big part in that. Especially in driving better representation in ads, which has helped several marginalised communities feel seen and accepted. But there is so much more to do and if more brands begin to withdraw from their support for fear of backlash, the progress could very easily slip backwards so we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.
These societal issues naturally have an impact on people in our industry so it’s perhaps unsurprising to see that LGBTQIA+ people are under higher levels of work stress and anxiety, and 27% are currently thinking of leaving, according to the recent All-In Census. Firm and meaningful support is needed more than ever to keep our industry moving in the right direction and ensure that queer people feel welcomed and accepted.
What three things could employer companies do to make the digital industry better for the LGBTQIA+ community?
Own your DEI responsibilities. I can’t stress this one enough… don’t leave it all up to your LGBTQIA+ employee network/resource group. Their role is vitally important in driving inclusion, but the burden shouldn’t be on these volunteers alone and must be backed up by proper organisational support and commitment. For example, when it comes to stamping out bad behaviour the onus should be on the organisation that robust policies and processes are in place. We all like a bit of banter in the office, but this should never be at the expense of somebody’s feelings, so help people understand what is and isn’t okay, and make sure there’s a clear, simple and safe way to call out behaviours that cross the line.
Keep on learning. Calling yourself an ally is easy, but to actively engage and support you need to understand and learn from LGBTQIA+ people themselves. Put training and awareness programmes in place to help educate everyone on challenges the community face to foster a more welcoming and accepting environment.
Support the T in LGBT+. With the current “culture wars” stoking the fire over trans rights and fuelling rising transphobia, there are clear steps companies can take to support the most targeted part of the community right now. The inclusive use of gender pronouns, introducing or updating policies to support those transitioning, plus dispelling the countless myths and misinformation, are all good places to start.
What impact can a more inclusive approach to LGBTQIA+ communities in our industry have on society as a whole?
As an industry, we are in a powerful position in terms of the messaging we send out into the world. We have the opportunity to tell unheard stories and highlight people who are marginalised in positive and creative ways, to bring representation and advocate for change. Eliminating discrimination against LGBTQIA+ people elevates all of us, we need to be on the right side of history. It also makes business sense! We need to continue to help brands understand how being inclusive plays into their values, and what long-term profitable value that can bring.
What support structures and organisations are most important and effective to the LGBTQIA+ community in the digital industry?
Alongside support from agencies themselves, any industry body can make a difference to the LGBTQIA+ experience and drive positive change by encouraging more active allyship from companies and people across our industry. Organisations like Outvertising are doing great work but, like many other brilliant support organisations set up specifically for our industry, they could do with a lot more support – such as attendance at their conferences, training and events, volunteer time and endorsement of their campaigns. Additionally supporting LGBTQIA+ advocacy and community organisations outside the industry such as Stonewall, Mermaids, Open for Business, Out Leadership, and the many Pride events around the country.
How effective are trade bodies, industry awards, and the industry press at supporting and promoting LGBTQIA+ inclusivity?
The volume of support from across the industry is good, and we always see a good amount around Pride month, but the impact is questionable. This Government is already talking about changing the Equality Act, an incredibly important legislation to protect our communities. So, a lot of good work has been done and it’s important that we have visible advocacy and allies, but we need to see it all year round.