Why Pride is more than just a monthby
While LGBTQ+ communities celebrate Pride around the world this month, it’s important for firms to remember that allyship carries on past June. Will Cole talks with Jay Wilson on how his firm shows support all year round.
As companies change their logos and tweet support for the LGBT+ community, the same argument is levelled against organisations who arguably pay lip service to Pride month while failing to act throughout the rest of the year.
A prime example was M&S’ somewhat misguided attempt to market their ‘LGBT sandwich’ to customers in 2019; the lettuce, guacamole, bacon and tomato sandwich was met with ridicule.
This cynical and somewhat corporatised view of Pride is something that Jay Wilson, the openly gay managing director of Newcastle-based firm Jaccounatancy, finds somewhat irksome.
“As I follow these bigger brands across their social platforms, you can see that, for the month of June, their logo will have either a pride flag in the background or an added rainbow. Yet, from the first of July, these logos quickly revert back.” Wilson said, adding that “I don't know whether changing a logo for 30 days has that much of an impact on the community.”
Putting the work in
Yet, where other companies fail to do more than simply change their logo once a year, Wilson and the team have fully ingratiated themselves into supporting the LGBT+ community, with the firm recently being given the headline sponsor for the upcoming Northumberland Pride event.
Commenting on the recent announcement, Wilson felt honoured that his firm could represent the gay community in the Northumberland area, saying that while the opportunity to increase brand awareness was a factor, the chance for his firm “to help strengthen the community and to support local LGBT artists who are performing at the event” was something he held especially close to his heart.
However, the work doesn’t stop there for Wilson and his team, as the firm looks to continuously support the LGBT community throughout the year.
“It was only three months ago, in Newcastle upon Tyne, we sponsored the North’s largest non-televised drag competition,” Wilson said.
“We also try to trade with other LGBT businesses. For example, we advertise on the radio stations Gaydio and Pride Radio. It almost has an ROI, as we have LGBT people who are in all sorts of industries listening in and hearing about our accountancy outfit.”
A positive culture
This commitment to supporting LGBT+ causes has also had a positive effect on the overall culture of the business. Wilson said that by structuring his firm’s values on a foundation of diversity and inclusion, he believes his staff feel happier and more comfortable being open as a result.
“In terms of values and beliefs, we pride ourselves on being an inclusive workplace. And while every workplace should be inclusive and diverse, we’re definitely an open forum.
“If somebody has childcare problems and needs flexibility to work from home, or if we have somebody who’s mental health is absolutely in pieces, they can speak up and they can get help and support.”
The team’s social calendar revolves around their local LGBTQ+ community, with Wilson remembering a recent Christmas party at a local drag event, which eventually led to further business with the venue.
“We had a Christmas party at a fantastic drag queen-orientated space in Newcastle upon Tyne called Boulevard. And what was great about it was that the queens entertained us for the Christmas party then ended up joining us as clients.”
An accidental niche?
The above example wasn’t the first time the Newcastle LGBT+ community enlisted the services of Jaccountancy. Of the over 400 clients the firm serves, Wilson said, “when we look at the clients that we've got, the majority of our client base is gay.”
And while Wilson never planned to be “the gay accountant for LGBT community”, he believes the firm’s unique position as an open and active supporter of the movement has meant many gay clients in the area have resonated with Jaccountancy’s approach.
“We're an accountancy service provider first and foremost, and it's all about providing a great service to clients regardless of whether practitioner is gay or straight,” Wilson said.
“Although it’s essential for all firms to offer an excellent and compliant service, the opportunity to sponsor gay parades or to go on the gay radio stations is a nice caveat to the business as well.”
Although Wilson was happy his firm is able to positively represent his community, he was also passionate about the core reasoning behind why continued support for LGBT+ causes is still so important:
“Obviously, Pride is a good thing, but the really important thing is to remember is that there are still 50 countries in the world today where the penalty for being gay is death.
“52 years ago, being gay was a crime in the UK, and yet, here I am now as a successful, gay business owner. So I'm very grateful that I get to do what I do, but we need to recognise that there's still a whole world more to be done in terms of of supporting the community and pushing forward of gay rights."