Fisher-Price puts corporate support for LGBT projects into play

Mainstream corporate America is showing growing willingness to stand for gay rights and families.

Courtesy: Proud Parenting
A screen grab from the Proud Parenting website, showing the Fisher-Price-sponsored family photo galleries.

Fisher Price is sponsoring a new parenting photo gallery, showcasing some of America's three million lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) parents. The company (owned by Mattel, which makes some of America's most iconic toys, including Barbie, Hot Wheels and American Girl) is partnering with Proud Parenting, an online community forum for LGBT parents.

Andy DiAntonio, digital media manager for the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) says in an interview that having support of Fortune 500 and other major corporate partners isn’t altogether new to the LGBT community.

“It's not just Wells Fargo or Fisher-Price. We've seen over 300 major corporations stood up for marriage equality in recent years,” Mr. DiAntonio says. “We’ve seen so many companies through their marketing and advertising supporting the LGBT communities and pride events.”

But major corporate support for LGBT families is a fairly recent phenomenon. There has been a "sea change in public opinion on LGBT tolerance in the last two years alone, since the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage," John Ullyot, a GOP strategist and managing director of High Lantern Group, a management consulting firm in Washington, D.C., told The Christian Science Monitor, adding that "corporate America often responds to shifts in public opinion much faster than political parties.”

Of course, for corporate America, the bottom line is profit. Companies promoting LGBT rights "are not promoting liberal idealism over profits, business analysts say," wrote Harry Bruinius in The Christian Science Monitor. "Their vociferous response is a recognition that – at least when it comes to the issue of gay marriage – social activism is also good business."

One reason this issue has become so appealing to corporations is that their sense that this is the best way to capture the loyalty of a new generation.

A poll taken in April by Generation Progress, the youth engagement arm of the Center for American Progress, found that 65 percent of Millennials showed support for federal, comprehensive LGBT nondiscrimination legislation.

 "A lot of the change has to do with Millennials," writes Brunius, "who have come of age and are willing to choose companies who they perceive as being transparent about their social views. It is also being driven partly by the development of social media and the prominence of big data, business consultants say, when every corporation has a Twitter feed and Facebook Page that allow companies to interact directly with consumers and keep their fingers on society’s pulse.

For some members of the LGBT community, like Caroline Hart, co-founder of Hart2Hart films in Somerset, Mass., corporate support is appreciated, but just out of reach.  “Seeing a major company like Fisher-Price join Wells Fargo and others giving greater visibility to LGBT families is really wonderful for the whole community,” she says. “But the truth is that LGBT rights are still a long way off yet. Many projects, like ours, are still looking for their Fisher-Price or Wells Fargo to come along.”

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