I often get asked, what is the role of an LGBT business chamber? In North America, there are 65 LGBT business organizations and each has its own priori- ties and strategies. However, their common theme is expanding economic opportunities for the LGBT community and its allies. The Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) is a perfect example of a chamber that has been successful at achieving this mission. It has made a tremendous impact in their com- munity (both LGBT and allies).
Most businesses agree that protecting the rights of LGBT employees is the socially responsible thing to do. But by embracing diversity, businesses can also add to their bottom line. A recent study by the Center for American Progress pegs the cost of workplace discrimination at $64 billion annually in the U.S. That’s about the size of the entire Saskatchewan economy.
In 2010, Pride Toronto had an impact of $136 million and created 600 jobs. Pride Winnipeg has not yet studied its economic impact in our city. But we do know that last year more than 15,000 attended the Pride Festival at the Forks, and hundreds of those were from out of town. And any event that brings external dollars into the Winnipeg economy is a good thing.
One way that businesses show they welcome GLBT customers is the rainbow sticker on the door. The problem with this is that this sticker can mean anything from “I’m a business who actively supports the GLBT community” to “My cousin put this on my door 12 years ago and I can’t remember what it means.” While I encourage businesses to show their pride in this way, consumers need to look for other clues to find out just how friendly a business is.