For the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA +) community in tech (and elsewhere), this has been a long road to equality, and although the leaders of some of the more powerful in the industry have emerged, factors like workplace safety and acceptance prevent many others from fully expressing themselves.
For Amy Collins, vice president of product marketing at 1E, being a visibly queer person – a bisexual transgender woman – she was often reluctant to come out in the face of homophobic or transgender comments.
“It was a binary choice to go out or have a successful career,” she explains. “In the end, I made the choice to go out, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought. I have found that being genuine has allowed me to be better myself, and people have been very accepting and inclusive, and that has attracted more junior employees to me and expresses their thanks. for me to take a leadership position.
In order to raise awareness in the queer community, Collins says she passionately believes that the diversity of people in the interview panel is of critical importance. “Tech is known to be quite reasonably queer inclusive, but it’s also dominated by straight white guys, and there is fear of discrimination in the LGBT community in the tech arena – it all affects personal performance. “, she says. “That’s why you need a variety of application and recruiting panels. If you have five people who all look alike, that doesn’t promote diversity, and it might put off someone like me wondering if this place is the right choice.
Simple efforts, such as recruiters posting a pro-trans element in their LinkedIn bio, or a statement about being passionate about hiring diverse teams, can make a huge difference. “It’s such a simple thing,” Collins adds, “but it sends the message to this queer candidate that makes them think, ‘Maybe this thing that’s different about me is going to be an asset.’”
Jamie Hart, Cyber Threat Intelligence Analyst at Digital Shadows, a San Francisco-based digital risk protection solutions provider, pointed out that inclusion and equality are always an issue for LGBTQIA + people in tech. , in part due to gender and image stereotypes in the industry.
LGBTQIA + people may avoid field positions because of potential discrimination, due to factors such as LGBTQIA + jokes, discriminatory comments about someone’s appearance, or even comments of violence or abuse. sexual harassment. “Having anti-bullying policies isn’t enough,” says Hart. “LGBTQIA + people are always required to ‘come forward’ in the workplace and may need to continually come forward to their colleagues, customers, suppliers and management.”
Understanding what these employees face on a daily basis can help create a more inclusive workplace. Saying that an inclusive workplace is not the same as making it inclusive. “Something as simple as asking a new employee for their favorite pronouns can go a long way,” she says. “Fostering open-mindedness and understanding, with something like a diversity and inclusion team, are the first steps in addressing the challenges of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. I think the biggest challenge in this area is a lack of understanding, education and openness in the field as a whole.
Visibility and leadership roles are important signs of advancement for queer people in tech as it sets the precedent that the industry is changing. Hart notes how organizations that emphasize diversity and inclusion are more likely to get qualified applicants who are turned down elsewhere.
Recent studies identified discrimination in technology against LGBTQIA + people. While there have been improvements in recent years, Hart recognizes that there is still room for improvement. “Some organizational leaders are starting to see talent and knowledge as more important than gender and image,” she says. “It gives me hope that not only will more LGBTQIA + people be accepted into the field, but also that they will feel more comfortable and safe to come out and be who they are in the workplace.
Kim Vu, Global Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Remitly, sees herself as a heterosexual, cisgender woman, an ally of the queer community who can raise visibility and advocate for her queer peers. “How do we think about the benefits, how do we think about supporting our teammates in the tech industry as a whole – we’re still figuring out that part,” she says. “Just because we see so many displays of performative support – flags and rainbows – doesn’t mean our teammates no longer experience discrimination or micro-attacks.”
Companies think about outreach first when they want different communities in their organization, she explains, without even having done an assessment of themselves. Tech leaders need to ask themselves what they’ve done to prepare their organization to navigate conversations they’ve never had before. For example, how can an organization create space and support someone in the transition process?
“Most managers are not equipped to hold the space for these conversations – there is a lot more training and support that our managers need, and a lot of internal work that needs to happen before we do. don’t do outreach, ”Vu says. “So let’s do our internal work first and find out how we communicate this to the community to create a more welcoming space for everyone.”
For Sarah Burgaud, queer founder of StartOut, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting LGBTQIA + entrepreneurship, recognizing prejudices and barriers is the first step in ensuring queer people can be better represented in the community. technology.
“Performance is really essential and a lot of inspiration can be triggered when you hear unusual voices,” she says. “Queer people are not a homogeneous group – black homosexuals face a lot of discrimination, non-binary people find it difficult to access capital – there is a lack of security in the community in some places, let alone work in the community. a country where homosexuality is not even legal. “
Burgaud points out that, like many other under-represented groups, queer people often suffer from a lack of social capital: they do not have people in their social circle who can help them navigate the landscape, other than that. either in entrepreneurship or in technology. “A lot of gay entrepreneurs aren’t publicly exposed because it would set them back – not being is always a brave act and being a part of that portrayal can come at a cost,” she says. “There is a critical need for truly intentional actions, going beyond doing something for pride, beyond volunteering, but allocating resources and money.”
Like Vu, Buraud says it’s important to make sure the focus is on education and training for managers and leaders so they can be more inclusive and be held accountable for it. “For my own community, being a queer immigrant, I want to build a more equitable society in general,” she adds. “There are a lot of opportunities out there, but it’s just about being intentional about where you’re putting your money, partnering with community organizations to find queer people. It can really make a big difference. ”