The world is a better place with you in it.
This seems like an odd way to start this blog, but it feels important to recognize one of the most powerful reasons that visibility for members of the LGBTQIA+ community remains vital. Pride was not originally a festival, a celebration, or a party. Although we may all enjoy that the spirit of these events can have that type of atmosphere in society today, it was not always this way. Pride was a riot, a fight for freedoms, for recognition and for equal representation under law and throughout society.
We enjoy the privileges and freedoms we have today because of those who fought before us.
So, what is it like in the workplace for members of this community? The short answer is, it depends a lot upon the organization, its culture, geographical location, the industry, and the lived experiences of your colleagues and your own. Research (McKinsey Quarterly, 2020) suggests that:
- One in four LGBTQ+ folks are not out at work.
- Those who have come out, often have to do so repeatedly. This experience can be uncomfortable. Even if unintended, cis-gender, heteronormative comments (‘Do you have a boyfriend/ girlfriend?’; ‘What does your husband/ wife do?’) are not typically, intentionally derogatory or challenging, but that may not soften their reception. This is particularly true for non-binary or transgender individuals.
- Coming out at work is especially challenging for less senior folks and women.
- Many people regularly feel uncomfortable at work.
- Folks in this community, especially women, feel they must work harder to justify their skills or experience to grow their careers.
On a personal level, I would say very honestly – ‘Pride’ took me a long time to understand. Growing up in this community was difficult. At times, very difficult. This likely led me to be more fiercely independent and to strive to constantly prove to myself that I can make something of myself and offer value. However, I would say that generally, this produced far more positive than negative outcomes and made me a strong, resilient person. I am very lucky to be growing, finding more confidence, and building a network at work – and outside of work – that is supportive but continually challenges me to do and be better.
In my career, I have been especially lucky. The organization I work for today has enabled me to grow and flourish unabated and, for the most part, this isn’t even a consideration. It wasn’t always this way. My previous experience led me to think that it was not important to lead by or share my example. I believed I had to completely separate my professional and personal lives and that there was no point being an example because nobody would see me as one, nor did I need to be one if I was in a place where it mostly doesn’t matter. I was wrong. It is important to be an example and if sharing your story helps even one person feel a little more confident, it is valuable.
Overall – the intersection of the two industries I work for: Software and Hospitality are more open to embracing change and people from diverse backgrounds. Helping them to grow and develop with less fear and restrictions than in other industries. I recognize however, the inequity of my perspective and the large impact that the organization, location, country, and where you are in the community can all have a significant impact on your lived experience.
With this in mind, I wanted to share some places where I believe there are bright spots we can accentuate:
- Encourage true advocacy and challenge people, gently, where they appear to be or are expressing bias against a candidate for factors of their lives, other than their ability and potential.
- Ensure that your policy is to encourage folks to leverage preferred pronouns and to use neutral terms where they are not available (“
guys”) and not to use heteronormative terms when socializing (“how is your partner?”).
- Try to find the confidence to be an example: Your story is and can be valuable, especially if you are a leader or growing in your career, sharing your experience can inspire and provide helpful tips to others.
I believe Pride still matters today:
- The fight is not over: In many countries, the rights of this community are being challenged or eroded. In many countries the fight continues.
- Equity: We need to continue to move towards people in this community and many others that are traditionally impeded by their gender, race, or socio-political status, feeling they have equal representation and potential to grow.
- Your self-worth matters: You are important to many people – inside and outside or work. Pride isn’t about being proud of your sexuality or gender identity. It’s about being able to be proud of who you are, even if that means you are different from what’s considered a societal norm.
We are standing on the shoulders of giants, and we need to continue to use our voices to support those gaining theirs – or those who cannot yet find the confidence to use theirs.
As a private person: This isn’t the type of thing I usually share, but I want to acknowledge my gratitude to every one of you for being part of my journey and hope at least one of you benefits from me sharing my story and being a little vulnerable. Leadership and Pride can take many forms as I am learning, a little more each day.
You are amazing, stronger than you realize, and doing the best you can.