Throughout June various events were held across North Wales to celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Pride Month. These events brought people together in a welcoming environment to promote diversity and inclusivity, and a sense of community and belonging for all individuals. These events celebrated the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in the US, which was a tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the country. There are key lessons to be learned from Pride Month if we want to grow North Wales’ (and the Welsh) economy.
In the late 1200s, Florence grew from a second-rate town in Tuscany (Italy) into the largest and most economically dynamic city in the region. By the early fourteenth century, Florence had become one of the largest cities in all of western Europe. Florence was able to grow because it became open to new ideas and tolerant of different people. A similar pattern was seen in Amsterdam in the 1620s and Shanghai in 1920s – all these great entrepreneurial hotspots had one thing in common: they were open, they were liberal, and they were tolerant. Even the incredible economic growth seen in Ireland over the past 30 years is attributed to the liberalisation of Irish society.
But how does this relate to Pride Month?
The reason is very simple. Tolerance of LGBTQs is a telling modern pointer to tolerance of other things and tolerance has always been associated with economic vibrancy. It signals being tolerant of other people too, such as immigrants, outsiders and those who simply do not easily fit in. All these have profound impacts on the economy, the way it works and the end results. If we are comfortable with all classes of people, then we are open to change and, if we are open to change, we can take onboard new ideas and effortlessly take on the competitive challenges that are placed on our economy.
In 2015 the New York Times publishing some fascinating data on the concentration of gay men and women in various US cities and correlating it with economic wealth. What emerged was that the cities with the highest concentration of gay people were also by far the richest. Obviously, correlation does not imply causality, but it does suggest that cities which are welcoming to gay lifestyles are also welcoming to something else and that something else is driving economic growth. These wealthy cities were tolerant; they had an open environment that was tolerant of the LGBTQ+ community and also of new ideas and innovations that drove economic growth.
We can view the economy as this unbelievable creative force that is always coming up with new ways of doing things. The most impressive economic machine in the world is the human mind; that creative impulse to say something new, to do something new, to take ideas and make them a reality. To drive North Wales economy forward we need to copy the mindset of those in Florence, Amsterdam, and Shanghai and be tolerant of different people and new ideas.