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OutReach Pride Parade

Johnice Miller, left, of the Madison-based LGBT band Color Me Once, sings during a rally in front of the Capitol after the OutReach Pride Parade in August 2015.

Every June we celebrate LGBT Pride Month. This is not only an opportunity to reflect on the advances we’ve made as a community in securing equality and fairness, but also to remind ourselves of the work that still has to be done to ensure all people are treated with dignity and respect.

It is important for individuals to take part in celebrating equality, but also for businesses — big and small — to step up to the plate and be an inclusive work environment.

At the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce, it has been a year of great strides toward the goal of equality in business. That goal, of course, is still a long way off, but if the gains we have made prove anything, it’s this: Equality in business is good for everyone. Not just the LGBT community. Not just the pro-equality businesses in our state. The entire economy benefits from diversity, fairness, and mutual respect within the business community.

The benefits of a pro-equality business culture are significant no matter how large or small a business may be. A 2013 UCLA study found that “individuals within the workplace benefit as they experience less discrimination, increased openness, improved health, increased job satisfaction, greater relationships with co-workers and supervisors as well as a greater commitment and other positive workplace behaviors and attitudes. It was also shown that the business is affected on an organizational level.”

It’s a simple principle: Treat everyone with equal respect, and everyone benefits. Business culture does affect how well people work and how well a business performs.

That is why it is so significant for companies to pledge to be an ally to people who identify as a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community not only during Pride Month, but year-round.

When companies and organizations take a public stance in support of equality, it cements their commitment to an important issue. Although there are those who oppose any involvement like this from big companies, there are millions applauding the use of a company’s voice to make a difference and bring awareness to discrimination issues.

Take for example the more than 90 companies voicing their opposition to the North Carolina House Bill 2 legislation. Under this law, transgender people are not allowed to use the public restroom in accordance to the gender they identify as. Since the passing of the bill, companies like IBM, Google and Facebook have urged North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory to overturn the bill.

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Here in Wisconsin, some of our state’s best companies have already committed to building a pro-fairness workplace and business community and are reaping the benefits. We encourage any company, large or small, to join the more than 415 businesses that are members of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and declare your business as an ally and partner in fighting for fairness and equality.

Working together, we’ll celebrate LGBT Pride not just during June, but year round.

Jason Rae is the executive director of the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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