LGBTQ+ History Month or Pride month is an annual celebration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and non-binary (LGBTQ+) past and present. It commemorates the Stonewall Riots which occurred in June 1969 as well as a way of including the community and moving away from cisgender norms and expectations.
The Stonewall riots are not the beginning of the “gay rights” movement. The first documented activism for gay rights dates to Chicago in 1924. Stonewall however, is the occurrence that sparked the “Pride” movement, which is celebrated via parades and other festivities. Traditionally, Pride Parades occur during the last week / weekend in June to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, where members of the gay bar Stonewall Inn in Manhattan decided to fight back during a police raid. However, Pride Celebrations are known to occur year-round. Some of the southern states i.e., Kentucky, Atlanta and Orlando, commemorate Pride during the cooler months closer to National Coming Out Day in October. And the Atlanta Black Pride, transpires over the Labor Day Weekend.
As any group, the LGBTQ+ Community is diverse. For example, not all Pride flags are the same. The Pride flag that is flown to represent the entire community is the most familiar. However, the Transgender Pride flag represents a segment of the community, as does the Bi-sexual Pride flag and others.
These flags represent the vast diversity and continuous evolution of the LGBTQ+ Community. Ironically, as large as the community is, there seems to be a significant number of individuals who choose not to “come out” for reasons ranging from lack of support from family, friends or fear of workplace retaliation.
Members of the LGBTQ+ Community experience many obstacles, especially professionally. As workplaces continue to encourage employees to be their authentic selves, the practices and behaviors within organizations are a direct contrast. The tech industry is no different. It has created many platforms which allow members of the LGBTQ+ community to share facts about the culture, which have been beneficial to many. However, it is also an industry that continues to struggle with diversity, and this includes LGBTQ+ Community.
In a study conducted by Stack Overflow, the question which asked software developers for their sexual orientation garnered 36,939 responses. Results are as follows:
The results demonstrate that >1% of those polled identify as transgender. According to conversations over the year with members of the community, navigating a workplace culture with heteronormative constraints can be difficult for employees identifying with the LGBTQ+ Community. Unfortunately, there are individuals who live two distinctive lives. During professional business hours, they follow what is considered relationship and lifestyle ambiguous lives. And once they complete the workday, they go back to being their authentic selves. For many, this is what is needed to survive professionally. However, psychological safety is at risk as everyone should be made to feel safe to be authentic in the workplace. Therefore, it is imperative that leaders within organizations demonstrate workplace practices that allow all employees, no matter the diversity, respect.
We Are Better Together: Creating Inclusive and Equitable Workplaces
As businesses embark upon Pride month, interoffice celebrations that are not properly vetted can continue to alienate members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies. Below are actions that move beyond the month of June by applying equitable updates to workplace processes.
Review job descriptions to remove language that targets one segment of the population. Instead, use language that is gender non-conforming to demonstrate inclusive practices. This is a good first impression.
Consider members of the LGBTQ+ Community when determining the company’s benefits package. This includes healthcare coverage, bereavement, and retirement investments.
Utilize Pronoun Usage
Encourage members of the leadership team to include pronouns in their signature. This encourages others throughout the organization to participate while allowing those who are members of the community to feel comfortable about expressing how they’d like to be addressed.
Tracking metrics and conducting frequent reviews elevates the topic of diversity and inclusion. This accountability measure is a good way to understand areas of opportunity and allows for targeted actions to move the needle.
As the tech industry seeks to create inclusive and equitable workplaces, we must do the work of learning the history of underrepresented groups. Pride Month is a great time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ Community. It also demonstrates the importance of appreciating our employees for the breadth of experiences, cultures and knowledge they bring to the work environment. Are we challenged when we are forced to think outside of the norm? Yes, we are! Yet, this is when our lives are enriched in ways that continue to help each of us grow. As we seek to evolve, let’s also recognize individuals who are living their authentic lives as members of the LGBTQ+ Community and Tech.
- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple
- Angelica Ross, Founder and CEO of TransTech Social Enterprises
- Claudia Brind-Woody, VP at IBM
- Ann Mei Chang, former Chief Innovation Officer at USAID
- Sara Sperling, former Head of Diversity and Inclusion at Facebook
- Ana Arriola, Partner and Product Designer at Microsoft