Every second Wednesday of April is recognized as International Day of Pink, a world-wide anti-2SLGTBQAI+ bullying and anti-homophobia day to raise awareness, encourage bold and courageous conversations and stand up against regressive practices of discrimination, homophobia and transphobia. Recent studies by Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) show that while we have progressed in awareness, discussions, and actions around acceptance, kindness and diversity, there is still a long way to go, as 2SLGBTQAI+ workers continue to face barriers to decent work, health care, inclusion and experience racism, ableism, and other forms of oppression.  

Bringing these pivotal discussions to the forefront and standing strong to our values by being real, bold and impactful, TechAlliance of Southwestern Ontario created space for experts and community leaders, Frank Emmanuel, Director of Strathroy Pride; Nadia Ladak, Co-Founder and CEO of menstrual health brand, Marlow; and Quinn Palmer, Freelancer Writer and Owner of Bruce Apparel Co. to come together and share their best practices, insights, and knowledge on harnessing the power of thoughtful and inclusive language when creating marketing and web content. Here’s what these innovators and change-makers had to share about inclusive language, best practices and more: 

Starting with the basics, what do we mean when we are talking about pronouns in a business environment? 

“I think showing that not only you’re not making assumptions [about someone’s pronouns] but you’re beginning to normalize that practice for everyone. Stating it at the beginning of the conversation, putting it in your name beside zoom panelist or in the email signature, we’re just showing that it should be a normal practice when we’re introducing ourselves and showing that we’re creating a safe space,” shares Ladak.  

Including pronouns is a small step in cultivating an inclusive workspace, one where everyone feels safe and seen. This simple towards inclusive communication and language, could also lead to more courageous discussions, thought- provoking ideas and conversations around allyship, and the impact for your venture. 

“If you are the only person in your company spearheading and sending every single email with those pronouns on it, you’re going to be giving exposure to people who maybe don’t understand the conversation. You’re going to start conversations and you’re going to have people looking introspectively into whether they want to be doing that for themselves,” shares Palmer.  

What are some ways in which you demonstrate that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is top priority for you through your everyday work? 

“For me, I was always worried about being too gay in front of my students. I did not grow up with a lot of representation around me and so, being a parent, a teacher and an active community member, I realized that it is okay and rather important to show that there are gay adults in the community who lead regular, normal lives,” said Emmanuel.  

Using inclusive language and challenging historical marketing language and practices is one of the ways that Marlow is disrupting in their sector. 

“Growing up, we’ve been socialized in a certain way when we refer to the menstrual industry and a big goal of ours is to take everything we’ve learned about this space, all the stereotypes, and just throw them out the window. We do this around language by stepping away from words such as ‘feminine hygiene’ and use more inclusive terms like ‘menstrual products.’ Similarly, we have stepped away from the pink, flowery and overly feminine packaging to create a branding that will speak to menstruators,” shares Ladak.  

Perhaps we can move towards pointers and best practices, can any of you speak to some common mistakes you see and how do you advise those who are looking to implement better practices? 

“Making decisions on communications or events for a community, you have to make sure that queer people are not just being spoken to but are the ones speaking or, at the very least, are at the table running the project. Having those voices speak to their own communities makes a huge difference,” shares Palmer. 

From seeing ‘Mother’ and ‘Father’ in various forms and applications, hearing stereotypical thought-processes and making assumptions on what a traditional family structure looks like, to misinterpreting the values, ideals and mission of a brand, our industry experts reflected on their experiences and emphasized on making people, especially 2SLGBTQAI+ folks, feel seen, safe and important. Emmanuel stresses that “putting money where your mouth is” and shares his thoughts on how allyship is more than putting a rainbow in your logo during pride month, “I love seeing how people change their logos with a rainbow, but you need to do something about it too. Give some money to a local pride organization, support causes and take initiatives year-round.” 

When it comes to best practices, businesses and community members need to be introspective about their support, actions and efforts to understand if they are truly an ally. Having short-term goals including promoting allyship at your venture, adding your pronouns, celebrating pride month are all great and much needed, but long-term strategic changes and plans around reviewing company policies, deploying diverse and inclusive hiring practices, and building a progressive workplace culture will bring the change that we wish to see. 

“Taking a look at some of the policies at your organization around paternity leave, access to menstrual health products in your workplace is a bigger and even deeper way of showing that you’re supportive and truly care for your employees. Lobbying for overall cultural, societal changes and policy shifts and keeping it at the forefront of what you’re doing shows that you’re supporting everyone in terms of inclusivity and beyond,” shares Ladak.

Language is a powerful tool, one that holds the capacity of creating far-reaching ripples and actions and so, it is important to leverage this tool to its best advantage, adapting to the changing, forward-thinking and inclusive communication practices to help your business speak to anyone and everyone. This International Day of Pink, take the time to revisit your communication strategies, company policies and actions. Evaluate, speak up and act, today and beyond.

To know more ways of supporting International Day of Pink, visit The Canadian Center for Sexual + Gender Diversity