While pursuing a B.S. in apparel and textile marketing management at Indiana University Bloomington, Kim Pitsko ran the school’s LGBTQ+ organization. She oversaw support groups for queer students and ran events including a campus drag queen pageant. She received an award for her leadership but was advised not to include the accolade on her resume. That was 2006. The times have changed—for the better.
“There’s always a concern of sounding ‘political’ on a resume, but when you’re in the LGBTQIA+ community, your identity is forced into a political issue. So, it’s not possible to erase politics from your resume and career,” Pitsko said. “People don’t hope for tolerance anymore. They demand acceptance.”
Pitsko earned an MBA in marketing from the Robinson College of Business in 2014. While working full-time at Macy’s as a sales manager and attending classes at night, she also got involved in Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ activism scene. She currently serves on the board for the Sandy Springs chapter of national family and ally organization PFLAG; she also volunteers for Georgia Equality.
The MBA positioned Pitsko to move up in the marketing space: as a brand manager for a cosmetics line, then a digital marketing manager for a network of restaurants geared toward business diners, and now a senior marketing manager for B2B software company CINC Systems. During the same timeframe, Pitsko watched companies embrace diversity more and more: through inclusive hiring practices, the establishment of employee resource groups, and marketing campaigns that celebrate diversity. She sees “rainbow capitalism” (think Target’s Pride Collection and Walmart’s Pride Shop) through a mostly positive lens.
“There are kids from one-stoplight towns who are in a lot of pain. They don’t have access to information and education,” Pitsko said. “Pride merchandise sold at Target might be the greatest form of support they’ve experienced. From that standpoint, the commercialization of Pride is a good thing.”
However, organizations have to earn what Pitsko calls their “rainbow stripes.” Brand authenticity is more important than posting rainbow avatars and temporary logos. Companies that participate in Pride also should have baseline practices in place like providing gender-neutral restroom options and offering career development opportunities for minority talent.
“If you’re selling rainbow merchandise but not promoting the use of pronouns in your workplace, you’re using Pride as symbolism over actionable work to create progress,” Pitsko said. “If your company leadership doesn’t understand gender pronouns, your workplace has a problem, and you won’t recruit new talent, period.”
Society has come a long way since Pitsko finished her undergraduate degree. Now, instead of being hidden from her resume and LinkedIn profile, the term “LGBTQ+ leader” is highlighted where it belongs: front and center.