Why Most Companies Should (Not) Publicly Celebrate History, Heritage & Awareness Months

April 12, 2022

Nearly every month there’s an opportunity to do a public post or campaign celebrating the next heritage, history or awareness month. And many months of the year we’re bombarded with posts from companies around the world.  

So it seems like a no-brainer to jump on the bandwagon and put up a well-intentioned post for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, National Disability Awareness Month, etc. (here is a non-exhaustive list). Right?

But has your team stopped to ask if you actually should?  

Why shouldn’t we celebrate these months?  

First, look internally within yourself and your company. Consider the following questions:  

  • Do you, and others at your company, understand the true meaning, intention, and history behind the observance?  
  • Does your company internally speak out on issues impacting diverse groups throughout the year, or are you only celebrating cultural differences?  
  • Does your company genuinely and functionally support the group you’re posting about internally and externally?  
  • Do you have a DEI strategy and are you compensating employees for the mental and emotional toll of doing DEI work?  
  • Does DEI have a seat at the table with your c-suite?  
  • Do you prioritize accessibility and inclusion in your facilities, equipment, software, communication, design?
  • Do you intentionally recruit diverse employees and ensure there are opportunities to promote minority groups into leadership roles?  
  • Do you ensure pay equity?  

There is an unending list of questions to be asked, but in short – are you doing the real work of supporting your people?  

The reality is, while many companies seem happy to let employees talk about DEI, they are far more wary of making commitments and defining the purpose that should drive their commitments. According to Culture Amp’s 2022 DEI Landscape Report, 40% of surveyed organizations do not have a DEI mission statement, and 23% reported not having any perspective on DEI to share with external stakeholders!

So, let’s go back to the question: are you doing real work to support your people? You may not be doing all of the above... but are you actively trying to address at least 3 of them now and have a plan for the next 3?

Well… No, but advocacy is important! Right?  

Sure, but I’d argue your employees’ trust and well-being is more important than empty advocacy and performative allyship.  

By engaging in performative allyship, you’re not only risking a public call-out like this Twitter thread of companies that changed their Women’s History Month post because they still have a gender pay gap... or these companies that "support” Pride but donated millions to anti-LGBTQ+ politicians. You’re also risking alienating your employees by showing them that you care more about recognizing heritage and awareness months for marketing clout than you do about them as individual people. You’re detracting from the real and difficult inclusion, equity and social justice work by overwhelming heritage months with a false kumbaya moment.  

What should we do instead?  

Before jumping on the bandwagon and putting out public statements for heritage and awareness months, be thoughtful and honest to yourselves and your teams about whether you’re doing the real work. If you’re not, there’s no time like the present! Focus your time and resources internally to benefit your employees.  

Over the last 2 years, so many organizations have been taking steps to address inequities – there is so much work from which to take inspiration and so much to learn from. Check out our recap of Culture Amp's 2022 DEI Landscape Report to see what other companies are doing, what’s working, what’s not working, and the key items you should be focusing on to address organizational gaps in DEI.  

If you’re not walking the walk, your employees, customers, clients and vendors don’t want to see your well-wishes on the internet. They want to see change. If you’re looking for resources to help, our 2022 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Progress Report and Trend Alert and “Ask the DEI Expert” series are great places to start.

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!

Lauren James

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