GLAAD CEO: Winning Begins When Leaders Embrace LGBTQ Rights as a Human Cause, not a Political Debate

**Staying True to Company Values: The Benefits and Challenges**

In this episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, co-hosts Alan Murray and Michal Lev-Ram speak with GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis about the importance of companies staying true to their values. They discuss the challenges companies face when waffling on their commitment to Pride and the LGBTQ community and the significance of playing both the short and long games in business.

**The Changing Landscape of Business Leadership**

Over the past decade, there has been a significant shift in the way companies approach social and political issues. Previously, businesses avoided taking a stance on controversial topics. However, since 2015, CEOs have increasingly spoken out on such matters, particularly in support of LGBTQ rights. This shift in approach was sparked by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s protest against Indiana’s religious freedom law, which was seen as discriminatory towards the LGBTQ community.

**Backlash to Pride Celebrations**

Despite the increasing vocal support for LGBTQ rights, companies that celebrate Pride have faced backlash from both right-wing activists and the LGBTQ community. This backlash has led to downgraded stocks for companies like Target and AB InBev. The controversy surrounding the promotions of Bud Light, which featured a transgender influencer in their ads, resulted in boycotts and a decline in sales.

**Responses Vary: To Pull or to Double Down?**

Companies have been faced with the difficult task of responding quickly to the backlash. However, their responses have varied. While some, like Target, have chosen to pull Pride-related merchandise from their stores, others, such as Cracker Barrel and North Face, have decided to double down and continue their Pride celebrations and ad campaigns as planned.

**Leadership Obligations in Society**

The evolving landscape of business leadership includes a focus on social responsibility and the role CEOs play in broader society. Companies are increasingly expected to address social issues beyond their financial interests. This is why Leadership Next was created three years ago – to explore these changing expectations and the way leaders navigate them.

**Interview with Sarah Kate Ellis, CEO of GLAAD**

Alan and Michal welcome Sarah Kate Ellis to the podcast. Sarah Kate is the CEO of GLAAD, an organization that has transformed from a media watchdog group to a powerful advocacy organization. GLAAD now provides guidance to companies on how best to support the LGBTQ community. They recently rallied corporate support with their statement of support, which saw many major companies signing on, including Cisco, Dow, Eli Lilly, HP, Intel, and McKesson.

Overall, this episode highlights the challenges and benefits of staying true to company values, especially when it comes to supporting the LGBTQ community during Pride month. It delves into the various responses companies have taken and the significance of playing both the short and long games in business and leadership.

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