Pride Month 2023: 6 Lessons from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia on How To Make Your Workplace LGBTQ+ Friendly

Pride Month 2023: 6 Lessons from Tom Hanks’ Philadelphia on How To Make Your Workplace LGBTQ+ Friendly

Since its inception, cinema has often been a powerful medium to convey potent social messages. One such powerful cinematic masterpiece is the 1993 film Philadelphia, directed by Jonathan Demme. Based on the life of Andrew Beckett, a gay lawyer diagnosed with AIDS, the movie provides a glaring reflection of the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace. It also offers us crucial lessons on how not to behave toward a member of the community in a professional setting.

Curb Discrimination

The heart of the narrative is anchored in Beckett’s painful ordeal. As a proficient senior associate at a reputable law firm, his abrupt dismissal due to his HIV status, closely tied to his concealed sexual orientation, echoes loudly in the corridors of workplaces even today. It punctuates a persistent issue: discrimination not based on competency but on personal identities.

Informed by this narrative, workplaces must enforce stringent anti-discrimination policies. An environment where professional merit takes precedence over personal attributes is not just a desirable goal but an ethical imperative. 

Combat Fear and Prejudice

The debilitating ramifications of fear and prejudice underscore Beckett’s unjust dismissal. The irrational fear and bias his employers harboured towards his sexual orientation and health condition scarred Beckett and disrupted workplace harmony.

Workplaces should react by fostering open dialogues about personal biases, embedding diversity and inclusion into their ethos, and promoting leadership that radiates acceptance. By addressing fear and prejudice head-on, we can architect workplaces that appreciate individual uniqueness over stereotype-driven prejudices.

Unleash the Power of Empathy

Philadelphia magnifies the role of empathy in professional environments. Beckett’s plea for understanding was met with callous discrimination, unveiling a distressing empathy deficit that can toxify work atmospheres.

Inspired by this narrative, workplaces should instill a culture of empathy, encouraging open communication and inclusive dialogues. By organizing empathy workshops and promoting compassionate leadership, we can engineer work environments where everyone is seen, heard, and valued.

Normalise Coming Out at Workplace

In the film, Beckett initially hides his sexual orientation, fearing exclusion and mockery. The subsequent revelation and its catastrophic effects underscore a silent struggle many still grapple with today. While societal acceptance has evolved since the ’90s, prejudices stubbornly linger, making the journey towards total inclusivity a work in progress.

Foster Courage and Resilience

The film symbolizes the resilience and courage required in the fight for equality, embodied in Beckett’s monumental legal battle. His undying spirit inspires us to build accepting cultures, implement inclusive policies, oppose discrimination, and become advocates for equality and respect.

Educate one and all

Joe Miller’s transformation from an initially homophobic lawyer to an informed ally in the film encapsulates the transformative power of education. This metamorphosis encourages workplaces to foster environments where biases are actively challenged through dialogues, workshops, and respectful conversations on LGBTQ+ issues.


Philadelphia transcends cinematic boundaries, serving as a compelling social commentary and a blueprint for inclusive workplaces. Set in the ’90s, the narrative’s lessons remain timeless and relevant. The story prompts us to champion respect, empathy, and equality, stand steadfast against discrimination, and believe in the transformative power of education. As we reflect on Beckett’s story, we must endeavour to craft workplaces that celebrate diversity, inclusion, and mutual respect, echoing the true essence of humanity.


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