What Mastercard can teach us about LGBTQIA+ inclusion in product design

November 8, 2022
LBGTQIA+ inclusion doesn't start and end with Pride Month. Mastercard shows us how product design can evolve to meet the needs of the transgender and non-binary folks.

Pride Month tends to bring out a flurry of support for the LGBTQIA+ community from corporations around the world. However, most efforts don't go beyond performative marketing and branding campaigns. Support tends to vanish after the end of June.

And so in the spirit of learning, let's take a look at an example of LGBTQIA+ inclusion — from a product design standpoint — done right by Mastercard.

The exclusion problem

For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, the names used for legal documents, financial accounts and for an array of products and services don't align with their true names and gender identities.

Changing legal names can be a hurdle for many. A "mismatch" between someone's "perceived" gender identity and the names and gender shown on an identification card can lead to painful consequences. This can range from emotional and psychological distress to verbal harassment, denial of services and benefits, and even assault.

The idea

According to Lucas Crigler, an Associate Creative Director at McCann (a creative agency) who was working with Mastercard on Pride initiatives back in 2017, the idea for the product feature came directly from his lived experience.

He recalls an anxiety-provoking experience of being outed in public during his transition while buying a sandwich, all because of the name on his credit card. He had the idea, "Why not let consumers choose the names that display on their cards?",  which he pitched to the creative team and ultimately turned into a product feature.

Since no bank would launch the feature, Mastercard decided to create it themselves as a challenge to the industry. This is how the True Name card feature emerged in 2019, which empowers transgender and non-binary individuals to use their true names on their credit, debit or prepaid cards without a legal name change.

Visual of a credit card  wit by Mastercard with "True Name" highlighted on the bottom left
Visual of a credit card with Mastercard logo and "True Name" highlighted on the bottom left

The deployment of a more inclusive feature

We see a strong, authentic commitment to inclusion and equity in the deployment, communications and marketing of the feature.

There is the compelling ad campaign video featuring trans actors that won multiple awards for creative excellence. The ad had over 3 billion impressions in its first 3 weeks of its release.

There's a landing page for the feature that centers the experiences of transgender and non-binary individuals, showcases  partnerships with financial institutions that have made the feature available and promotes support of LGBTQIA+ organizations.

And there's also communication coming all the way from the top that reinforces the company's commitments and partnerships to support the LGBTQIA+ community and anti-LGBTQIA+ policies worldwide (see CEO statement posted on LinkedIn below).

See transcription of screenshot in the original LinkedIn post

Opportunities for greater impact

While Mastercard's work on this feature is outstanding, there are a few ways that they could have gone even further.

For instance, Citi's communication efforts around their adoption of the True Name feature show a strong commitment to public awareness-building. They educate on the importance of name and identity with an interview with one of their LGBTQIA+ employees, share lessons on championing transgender representation from a LGBTQIA+ leader in the company and even offer a version of their product video with audio descriptions for users with visual impairments.

Mastercard's CEO, however, has recognized with humility that they're only at the start of their journey and that there's still much work  to do to bring about true equity.

What we can learn from Mastercard?

  1. Sometimes inclusive product ideas can come from unlikely sources (in this case, a marketing idea turned into a product). But nothing can replace lived experience, as the idea came directly from someone in the LGBTQIA+ community.
  2. LGBTQIA+ inclusion isn't only relevant during Pride Month. It should be intentionally weaved into intersectional DEI strategies across business functions throughout the entire year.
  3. Conviction, courage and risk-taking are necessary elements of product inclusion efforts. Without the support and allyship from senior leadership, many inclusive products and services may never see the light of day.
  4. Compelling marketing campaigns can go a long way to raise awareness on the inequities faced by marginalized communities and to propel wider industry change. Cross-functional alignment across product, design and marketing teams is essential for greater impact for inclusive product launches.

Resource Spotlight

To better design for the LGBTQIA+ community, it's important to understand identity and lived experiences. Check out my LGBTQIA+ explainer and Introduction to Intersectionality that I published earlier this month as part of Pitch’s Inclusion at Work series.

You'll find many other fantastic resources in the rest of the collection.

If you'd like to follow in Mastercard's footsteps and are looking for guidance on how to get started, take a look at my training programs.

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