Pride Month at YLD
by YLD • July 27th, 2021 • 7min
Pride Month is a celebration dear to our heart — a moment to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ communities as well as everyone who advocates for equality, diversity and inclusion. This article is thus a reflection on the importance of celebrating Pride in the workplace and the ways in which we can all support the LGBTQ+ community.
The history of Pride Month
In honour of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising movement, every year in the month of June we commemorate Pride Month, a month that praises the LGBTQ+ communities. This internationally adopted acronym represents Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or Questioning), and other non-binary and gender nonconforming individuals.
What had once started as a riot to protest a police culture of discrimination and ill-treatment of the gay community has now become a celebration of inclusion and diversity; a festivity of rainbow flags among all those who advocate for equal rights and equal opportunities. Every year, millions of participants get together for parades, concerts, workshops, picnics, exhibitions, memorial services and other activities to keep striving for diversity and inclusion. Throughout the last decades, this month-long celebration has gained an increasing importance to emphasise the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the larger society, as well as to commemorate great changes and wider social implications that have been achieved.
The first LGBTQ+ parade took place more than 50 years ago in Chicago, USA and since then a lot of progress has been made to minimise social injustices and prejudices. However, we are far from having achieved a much needed total equality, and so celebrating Pride Month is highly important not just to encourage inclusivity and diversity policies, but also to raise awareness on a great number of unaccomplished tasks and missions across the globe.
LGBTQ+ community and the tech industry
While the low representation of women, as well as other racial and ethnic minorities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles has lately received a lot of attention, there isn’t much data available on how the LGBTQ+ community is fairing. According to Scientific American, more than 40% of LGBTQ+ people in the STEM field are not out to their colleagues neither they feel safe or supported. Likewise, a study run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), featured in the Diversity in Tech article, uncovered that nearly 30% of LGBTQ+ young people in the UK aren’t considering a career in tech due to concerns about discrimination. Stereotypes around STEM roles prevent many talented professionals from showcasing their full potential, while also creating roadblocks for innovation and progress.
Faced with these circumstances, what can we in tech do to become allies of the LGBTQ+ community? What measures can businesses undertake to support the LGBTQ+ community’s workers? We believe one of the first steps is to adopt inclusive policies for all employees, including such options as parental leave and time off to care for dependents regardless of sexual orientation or gender. For instance, our Family Friendly policies at YLD cover maternity, paternity and shared parental leave, including adoption — a small step towards wider social changes we all look forward to. While in search of new talent it’s also important to use gender-neutral language in job descriptions so that it won’t demotivate future candidates from applying. Something as simple as a small statement added to the job offer, showcasing a company’s ongoing commitment to non discriminatory policies, can have a great impact on candidates.
Another important step is to pay special attention to training on diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Providing this type of information to employees will certainly help to create a more inclusive environment — something we at YLD are committed to.
Understanding comes from knowledge so it’s no less important to foster discussions and create time and space for dialogue. To celebrate this year’s Pride Month, our People team organised two special meetings for our team and you can read more on them below.
YLD Learning Lunches: Pride Month edition
For the last four years we at YLD have hosted internal fortnightly Learning Lunch sessions where one of our teammates talks about a hot topic of their liking. For us it’s always been a great opportunity to learn from our peers and share knowledge as well as encourage communication among the team. This year during Pride Month we decided to give voice to the LGBTQ+ community and prepared two special talks for our team to engage in: the first one featuring Zoë Chowney, a passionate advocate and campaigner for the LGBTQ+ community, and the second one with Sara Soares — a Project Technician at ILGA Portugal.
1 — Learning Lunch with Zoë Chowney as a guest speaker
As part of celebrating Pride Month, Zoë Chowney joined our Learning Lunch session as a guest speaker to kindly share her moving life journey. Zoë is a qualified accountant and experienced technology entrepreneur, serving as the first openly transgendered woman co-chair of Gay Women’s Network. Among many other professional successes, Zoë is the founder and co-chair of Pride in Business, a frequent public speaker and writer of a number of articles across a range of topics for publications such as Gay Times.
During the conversation with our team, led by Luis Klefsjö, Zoë shared the transition she has been through to become the person she always knew she was meant to be, and the implications it had on her career. No limits were set as Zoë strongly believes that questions, regardless of how inappropriate or inquisitive they might sound, are necessary for more people to understand and also to accept the LGBTQ+ community.
‘I remember from the age of three or four years old categorically knowing that this is wrong — I’m in the wrong body. (…) I assumed that as I grew older the intensity of gender dysphoria would reduce and unfortunately, as I found out, that’s not how it works. If anything it just gets stronger every year that passes.‘
According to the NHS, gender dysphoria describes a sense of unease that a person may have due to a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity. As Zoë explained, unlike a gay or bisexual person who normally gets the opportunity to choose who to let know about their sexual orientation, transgender people don’t get that chance. Many times ‘the coming out’ is faced with criticism, ingrained prejudice or even ignorance that negatively affects their personal and also professional life. As stated in the Trans Report, two in five trans people (41 per cent) and three in ten non-binary people (31 per cent) have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their gender identity in the last 12 months to the research — a distressing statistic that must serve as a call to action to provide greater support to the LGBTQ+ community.
‘I want people to accept us and people only accept if they understand — and they can only understand if they have their questions answered’.
The conversation followed with many engaging questions from the audience that Zoë gladly accepted to answer, finishing on the positive note — the acceptance comes when you free yourself from the social constraints and it comes down to all of us to knock them down.
2 — Learning Lunch with Sara Soares from ILGA Portugal
During Pride Month, 28th of June is a special day as it marks the date of the first Pride march held in New York City in 1970, related in turn to the Stonewall riots in 1968. On this occasion we held another special Learning Lunch featuring Sara Soares as our guest speaker.
Sara works as a Project Technician and co-coordinates the legal department at ILGA Portugal — a not-for-profit private association, recognised as an institution of social solidarity and of public service. Founded in 1995, it’s the oldest association in Portugal standing for the rights of LGBTQ+ (referred more commonly as LGBTI+ in Portugal) people and their families.
To kick off our online conversation, Sara presented a little quiz with a challenge to write down some words that come to mind when thinking about the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. While many wrote words such as ‘inclusion’, ‘acceptance’, ‘understanding’ and ‘empathy’, others noted down ‘discrimination’, ‘fight’, ‘prejudice’, among many others. This exercise mirrored both negative and positive aspects related to the LGBTQ+ topic, reinforcing the pressing need for change. Next Sara presented three different sentences that our team had to ‘rate’ from strongly disagree to strongly agree. A so-called ‘barometer of values’, this exercise was meant to assess our own biases and inner prejudices in an attempt to better understand how we deal with them.
The exercises were followed by a group discussion covering topics such as the importance of improving the legal and policy situation of LGBTQ+ people, and what it really means to ‘treat everyone the same way’. This session reinforced the need to listen, broaden one’s horizon as well as to allow oneself to think twice before jumping into any conclusion. As Sara mentioned, ‘people are who they think they are’ and that should be at the heart of the values we advocate for.
In our workplace we’ve always tried to bring and cultivate a multicultural environment while fostering an inclusive community for all of our employees. For us at YLD it’s crucial that each member of our team feels safe and comfortable to be their true self at work, around their colleagues and clients.
We are fully aware that we as a company can always do more, learn more and continue to contribute more towards awareness on LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace. Our ambition is thus not only to lead by example but also to take lessons from other businesses to continuously enrich our work culture. Our journey into this field started off with joining our LGBTQ+ colleagues in Pride Runs, as well as supporting and encouraging their participation in panel discussions around topics close to their hearts. Since then we’ve also contributed to some great organisations that do fantastic work for the LGBTQ+ community, both in the UK and Portugal, and we will continue to do so.
Pride month might end but our commitment to create an inclusive, informed and welcoming workplace is a year-round one. So if you’re looking to work for a company where the values of cultural and social empathy are at the core of the business then don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com or look at our open positions here. Let’s strive for a brighter and more inclusive future together!
Written by YLD • July 27th, 2021
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