Meet our Vice President, Social Impact, US, Adrienne Ankola-Rochetti
To mark Pride month, we spent some time talking to Adrienne Ankola-Rochetti, Vice President, Social Impact, and a proud member of the LGBTQIA+ community to find out what Pride means to her, her take on ‘rainbow-washing’, and the importance of an inclusive workplace.
What does Pride mean to you? How will you be celebrating Pride this year?
While Pride certainly should and does extend beyond the month of June, this marker on the calendar has always been a reminder, for me personally, to reflect upon my journey as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. This year has felt particularly special celebrating as my wife and I welcomed a baby into our family. We are incredibly grateful that we were able to find a pathway to start our family and feel it’s important to raise awareness around the many structural barriers the LGBTQIA+ community faces when it comes not just to family building, but in many other aspects of our lives.
Pride can serve as an important time to bring visibility to these issues, which feels particularly urgent this year. The Human Rights Campaign recently declared a state of emergency for LGBTQIA+ people in the United States for the first time in their 40-year history following an unprecedented spike in anti-LGBTQA+ hate and an increase in discriminatory state laws. Globally, there are still 67 countries that have national laws criminalising same-sex relationships.
With the heightened focus of the public discourse and media attention on the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride, it can serve as a pivotal platform for bringing these pressing issues to the forefront by mobilising people, brands, properties/talent, and leaders to take action.
Stats show that people are up to 30% more productive when empowered to be their true selves at work. From your own experience, how much does that sentiment resonate and what do you think is the key to companies building an inclusive workplace for the LGBTQIA+?
In my own journey, and that of many LGBTQIA+ people, financial independence and inclusion is a critical factor in enabling social inclusion. Having access to a safe working environment, meaningful and dignified work, and colleagues who embrace and celebrate one’s identity can be a life changing network of support. That said, companies are in a position to advance important change for the community by creating economic opportunity. Ensuring LGBTQIA+ people have pathways to the hiring pipeline and an inclusive workplace where they can thrive is, in my opinion, one of the most impactful things companies can do to advance change. As state and national governments, healthcare, and housing systems continue to fall short in adequately and equitably serving the needs of the LGBTQIA+ community, companies who take a mindful and inclusive lens to designing their policies and practices can help address those gaps.
What steps would you like to see the sport & entertainment industry take in order to support the LGBTQIA+ community better moving forwards?
The sports and entertainment industry commands eyeballs and attention. Its properties and talent wield incredible influence, especially on youth. I’d like to see the industry continue to recognise this position of reach and influence and leverage it with more care and thoughtfulness. Take, for example, Pride Nights. In the U.S., sports property-led Pride Nights have come under criticism for sports teams making commitments and then taking them back due to athlete and fan backlash. This has certainly sparked media attention and debate, but it also raises important questions like were these Pride Nights truly moving the needle in a positive direction in the first place and what’s the year-round extension that unlocks potential for greater impact on the LGBTQIA+ community?
What does a more thoughtful approach with expanded potential for impact look like? The NY Liberty’s Pride Night this past weekend stands out for how they leveraged the moment to raise awareness of fertility access as a hurdle faced by the LGBTQIA+ community while putting infrastructure in place to drive on-going impact in the community. The team, in recognising the importance of access to fertility support given the players’ demands in the recent collective bargaining process, secured an “official fertility partner” relationship with Shady Grove Fertility (SGF) New York. In addition to serving the broader NY Liberty community, SGF came on board as the presenting partner for the Liberty’s annual PRIDE game and provided educational resources on LGBTQIA+ family building and reproductive health.
Lastly, I’d like to see the sports industry work with strategic partners to put in place more accurate diagnostic measures to assess the state of LGBTQIA+ fan, athlete, and workforce experiences. For example, do fans feel safe outwardly expressing their identities and orientations at games and in online communities? Do LGBTQIA+ athletes and allies feel comfortable living their truth and expressing their beliefs? This information, along with the practice of designing efforts in close collaboration with issue matter experts and strategic partners, can inform better support for the LGBTQIA+ community from sports properties.
Given your role as Vice President, Social Impact, we are interested to hear your thoughts about some of the brands who are doing a great job in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, not just during Pride, but all year round. We’ve seen a lot of brands get called out for rainbow-washing during Pride, what is the key to ensuring authenticity in this space and truly uplifting the community?
Two key measures brands can take to ensure authenticity and avoid the rainbow-washing trap are: (1) Ensure that their own house is in order by working with Impact & Inclusion experts and internal LGBTQIA+ resources like an Employee Resource Group (ERG) to assess how the company’s policies, practices, and culture is currently serving the LGBTQIA+ community and (2) For external efforts, engage issue matter experts and strategic partners with deep and intersectional knowledge of LGBTQIA+ issues to co-author initiatives that address the most pressing needs of the LGBTQIA+ community and tap into the brand’s unique super powers for driving change.
Airbnb stands out to me as a brand being really mindful in the approach it’s taking. Airbnb ranks on the list of top places to work for the LGBTQIA+ community according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. In addition to its policies and activations during Pride, such as its 2020 World Pride campaign to bridge the generational gap within the LGBTQIA+ community, Airbnb has commissioned studies to assess the state of its business such as the extent to which hosts are using inclusive language. Airbnb has also instituted the Airbnb Community commitment, requiring everyone who uses Airbnb to agree to treat each other with respect and without judgement or bias. The company has walked the walk in enforcing this policy with more than 2.5 million people being denied access to or removed from the platform to date for not complying with the policy..
Hinge’s Mental Health Advocates of Tomorrow campaign is a good example of a brand looking at the issues faced by the LGBTQIA+ community that are also closely relevant to how the brand interacts with the LGBTQIA+ members. In Hinge’s case, this was LGBTQIA+ daters and their access to adequate mental health resources to best support them in forming healthy relationships. In recognition of the shortage of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ therapists to fully understand and empathise with the lived experiences of those communities Hinge created a fund to provide aspiring BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ therapists and counsellors financial resources to help cover the costs of their education. To architect and roll out the initiative Hinge incorporated LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC voices from within its organisation, through spokesperson Fariha Róisín (multidisciplinary artist and mental health champion) and partnerships with Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective: BEAM and Inclusive Therapists.