How LGBTQIA+ leaders are building a culture of true inclusion

LGBTQIA+ leaders are driving diversity and inclusion, transforming workplaces, and championing stakeholder governance.
By B Lab Global
June 28, 2024

LGBTQIA+ leaders have always been at the forefront of the movement to drive change and advocate for the rights and recognition of marginalized groups. Many have worked to dismantle systemic barriers, challenge discriminatory practices, and create environments where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive. 

Historically speaking, Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician to be elected in California, sponsored a bill banning discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and employment on the basis of sexual orientation. Marsha P. Johnson, a self-identified “drag queen” and a prominent gay liberation activist, co-founded STAR House, a shelter for gay and trans street kids in New York City, providing them with food, clothing, and emotional support. 

In recent years, the push for diversity and inclusion has gained both local and global momentum, transforming workplaces, communities, and institutions. To this day, LGBTQIA+ leaders continue to be powerful catalysts for a more inclusive and equitable society.

In corporate spaces, LGBTQIA+ leaders are influencing company cultures to be more accepting and inclusive, advocating for a culture of care and accountability to all stakeholders — for example, by adopting the principles of stakeholder governance. Stakeholder governance is a model that emphasizes the importance of considering the interests and well-being of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, communities, and the planet, rather than focusing solely on shareholders. At its core, this approach fosters an inclusive culture by ensuring that diverse perspectives are valued and integrated into decision-making processes. To mark International Pride Day, we spoke with three LGBTQIA-led B Corps to learn how they have successfully integrated stakeholder governance into their business practices and how they are continuously working towards creating a more inclusive and equitable system. 

How LGBTQIA+ perspectives shape business leadership

LGBTQIA+ business leaders bring their personal experiences and values into their roles, often shaping their approach with increased empathy and a deeper understanding of inclusivity. And as B Corp business leaders, they are further united in a collective global movement for an equitable economy. Tim Frick, founder of Mightybytes, a Chicago-based impact-focused digital agency, shares, "Firsthand experiences with bigotry and homophobia—be they directed at me or those near me—definitely informed my approach to running a company." 

Mightybytes, which Tim runs with his partner, helps social enterprises, conscious companies, and large nonprofits solve problems, amplify their impact, and meet business and marketing goals. The agency strives to build brands that make a real difference, helping them to succeed in an ever-evolving cultural and technological landscape. Tim's journey has led him to champion inclusive practices and ethical business operations, aligning with his beliefs in social justice and equality.

Jorge Lopez, president of eosis, a Mexican sustainability consulting firm, actively uses his platform to advocate against discrimination. Established nearly ten years ago, eosis was one of the first Mexican practices dedicated to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) consulting; currentlymore than 100 projects are pursuing LEED certification. Jorge's experiences have led him to integrate values of inclusivity and advocate for social equity within and beyond his company: "I have chosen to turn down projects and offers from companies that display homophobic attitudes, and I make my reason for doing so explicit, with the aim of influencing positive change in their policies,” he says. 

Matt Samra and Julien Gaucherot, founders of BUDDY BUDDY, a Belgium and Paris-based nut butter coffee shop, underscore the personal investment made in fostering supportive environments. Their emphasis on creating a safe space where team members can express themselves authentically reflects a personal desire to provide the acceptance and encouragement they themselves sought earlier in their careers. “Whether it’s a deeper understanding of team anxiety by recognizing behavior that we have expressed previously, we try to lead with the values of respect and patience [...] We would have loved someone to encourage us, and now we can provide that for others.” 

LGBTQIA+ leaders' personal experiences not only shape their approach to leadership but also inspire meaningful change within their organizations and beyond. Their authenticity, resilience, and commitment to inclusivity set a powerful example, encouraging others to embrace diversity as a strength and to build workplaces and communities where everyone can thrive. As they navigate the intersectionality of their identities with broader diversity issues, they continue to redefine what it means to lead with integrity, empathy, and a vision for a more just world.

How stakeholder governance can support diversity and inclusion goals

This commitment to inclusive leadership and a more just and equitable world has led many businesses to seek B Corp Certification. Aligning with B Corp standards means meeting high social and environmental performance criteria and changing the business structure to be accountable to all stakeholders: customers, employees, communities, and the planet. Unlike the traditional shareholder model, which often perpetuates inequality, the stakeholder model values all participants, ensuring that LGBTQIA+ individuals and other marginalized groups have a genuine voice.

For Tim, embracing stakeholder governance through B Corp Certification marked a significant milestone in aligning his company's operations with its core values of sustainability and social responsibility. Achieving and maintaining certification not only validated their existing ethical practices but also provided a framework to enhance transparency and accountability to all stakeholders across all levels of the organization. 

For eosis, becoming a B Corp was pivotal in aligning their mission with measurable goals and inspiring their team towards a common vision of sustainability and social responsibility. Jorge shares, "Stakeholder governance ensures that the voices of all stakeholders are heard and respected, promoting more equitable and responsible business decisions. By making diversity visible and valued, [we] build a more resilient and adaptive business model, able to address global challenges more effectively." 

Intersectionality: a key component of inclusive practices

Navigating the intersectionality of LGBTQIA+ identity requires a nuanced approach that acknowledges and addresses the interconnected layers of discrimination and privilege present in our society. It involves recognizing and amplifying the voices of marginalized individuals who experience intersecting forms of discrimination, ensuring that advocacy efforts and policy initiatives are inclusive and equitable. 

Tim from Mightybytes emphasizes the importance of learning from one’s mistakes, embracing failure and accountability, as well as nurturing a growth mindset and culture of continuous improvement on diversity and inclusion issues. Mightybytes also implements an Impact Business Model (IBM) focused on enhancing web experiences for people with disabilities. Through this model, their work prioritizes accessibility and inclusivity as integral components rather than mere additions.

At eosis, Jorge encourages clients to integrate inclusive practices into their work objectives, such as installing braille signage, implementing accessibility ramps, and ensuring equal treatment for all genders. By advocating for historically marginalized communities beyond internal business practices, eosis aims to catalyze broader societal and systemic change.

BUDDY BUDDY also recognizes the importance of intersectionality — they celebrate cultural diversity, make a conscious effort to source ingredients from diverse suppliers, and ensure their team reflects a broad spectrum of backgrounds. A portion of BUDDY BUDDY’s profits is dedicated to charities supporting sustainable agriculture and social justice, further underscoring their dedication to creating positive change. By fostering an inclusive environment and supporting various social causes, BUDDY BUDDY demonstrates a holistic commitment to equity and sustainability, proving that businesses can thrive while making a meaningful impact on the community and the environment.

As we look to the future of business, what role can LGBTQIA+ leaders play to further advance diversity and inclusion? Their unique perspectives and experiences and the proximity to discrimination and hate converge together, emboldening leaders to create inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and respected. By prioritizing diversity and inclusion in their own operations, they set standards that encourage broader societal change and challenge stereotypes, promoting equitable practices within their organizations whilst at the same time, influencing industry norms. 

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