July 22, 2021

Pride in Recruiting

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Last month, in honor of Pride, Hirewell’s DEI Education and Training Subcommittee put together a virtual panel for the third installment of our DEI Speaker Series: Pride in Recruiting.


During the panel, moderator Leah Dugan talks to a few talented experts, educators, and advocates as they discuss potential challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces during their job search and how those of us in the talent space might be able to help. 

Episode Transcript

Hello everyone. Welcome to Hirewell’s third installment of our diversity equity and inclusion series. Thank you for joining. My name is Leah Dugan. I am a recruiter here at Hirewell and also a member of our DEI training and education subcommittee. I also happen to identify as a queer woman of color.

 

 Today we are really thrilled to bring you all a discussion with a few experts, advocates, and educators around some of the unique challenges that would be facing or potentially facing the members of the LGBTQ plus community when it comes to job searching and interviewing and how some of us in the talent space can help with that.

 

So just a quick little introduction of all of our panelists today.

 

We have Jaime Dias Delgado- these, they, them pronouns. They are a clinical social worker, educator and SEED facilitator. SEED stands for seeking educational equity and diversity. We have Chuck Bernsohn, gender equity trainer, accessibility consultant, and operations manager. We have Jason Ortiz- he him pronouns.

 

Jason is an LGBTQ leader in the business education space and ed tech leader at section four. And we have Yaz-, she, her Ze, Zim. As a talent acquisition specialist at Kin and Carta. So thank you all for joining us. I’d love to start with, just to kind of an overall question for the group.

 

 So I’d love to just kind of start with some of the challenges that you all have experienced either personally or professionally, as just being a queer person in either in job market yourself or stories you’ve heard from others or things you’ve experienced professionally as well.

 

And I’d love to start, I’ll throw it to Yeah. Oh, sure. Thanks for having me. I think what the shift in society and more emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, one of the struggles in the job market that I see a lot is that sometimes our queerness is treated as a commodity. A lot of companies are searching for candidates

 

with intersectionality to check a box and it doesn’t really hold space for the different types of queerness and the variety of our personality. And so it gets tiresome  in that respect. And in recruiting for me personally, I have my pronouns on LinkedIn.

 

I get a lot of like Zim hill as a response, as my name instead of, instead of my name being Yaz which is funny. I think a lot of people are trying to do their best, but I think that there’s a lot of emotional labor attached to being queer in the job market because I mean, every conversation you’re being mis-gendered and they’re using the wrong pronouns and that becomes, it becomes tiresome. So that’s how it’s all it’s been for me, at least. For sure, for sure. I completely understand.  I also, I have she, her at the end of my LinkedIn and usually they’ll sometimes it’ll get smooched together, like a she/her, that’s like- that’s my whole first name which is always just kind of, you know, it is what it is.

 

Anyone else have anything to add to that?

 

I agree with Yaz about my identity is being seen as a commodity. I’ll get a lot of recruiters hitting me up with very generic, excuse me, pitches and it concerns me because I don’t really feel very seen. And I will go to job interviews or I have in past when I’ve been searching and I will ask what resources

 

are available to support all of my identities, gender, sexuality, neuro type, culture, race, and I’ll usually get very generic responses, which will tell me right away this is not a place for me to be.  I once asked what supports I would have as a transgender employee who was in process of them switching my legal paperwork and who had come from several positions where there was intense discrimination.

 

And the response was “We’re very affirming. Our CEO has a float in the pride parade every year.” So I will say as a person who has suffered intense discrimination, that that is not a response that would make me feel safe. And I did not accept that job. So I need specificity. I need to know exactly what knowledge an agency has, what knowledge the hiring department, HR department has.

 

 I need to see that they know where there might be holes or gaps that they have to fill and that’s okay. But I need to see that they know it and they recognize it and I need to see why specifically they want me. And it has to be more than checking a box. Yeah. That’s a really good, those are all really good points for sure.

 

Chuck, you were saying something. Yeah, just I think building off of that, right. The infrastructure piece being so essential. I can’t tell you the number of times, myself or our colleagues and friends have walked into jobs spaces that advertise being LGBTQ affirming or some variation there

 

and there wasn’t a bathroom for me to use as a non binary person,  right? These pieces that, if you aren’t working with a specialist in the field and you don’t have queer people in upper management of your company, you’re missing these pretty major pieces that myself and every trans person I know has run into in some variation or another.

 

And then also the cultural pieces, right? Being asked about partners rather than husbands or wives. I think there’s for folks under the queer umbrella, a lot of cultural shifts needing to happen within the community of your workplace so that people can really see themselves reflected in the questions they’re being asked, For sure. For sure. Jason, did you have anything to add? Sure. My story’s a little bit and it’s a little less on the hiring process or coming to an organization. I worked for a number of years in banking, so very traditional white collar, very buttoned up career. And it was in the middle of that career that it was because of a very supportive manager, a very visible ally program and an active employee resource group that I felt safe to come out at work.

 

So those are things that I think signal like a safe workplace, safer workplace. And of course they’re not perfect. All of these initiatives are all on a journey as well, to be more inclusive. But that for me was really what helped me become more of who I was at work and feel more comfortable that being gay was going to be accepted at my workplace and celebrated.

 

 I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about that Jason, and sort of, because I’ve talked a little bit in the past about things that a company can do or that something that maybe the more that queer folks can look for in a company to sort of cue that, that might be a safe and welcoming place for them to work. And mind you, the lens that I come from is I’ve kind of worked for more established, larger companies, right? So companies that have a few hundred, if not a thousand employees at that. So it just  begs of a different type of organization. They’re just going to have more resources. They’re just thinking about growing their-

 

the companies I’ve been at, they’re thinking about growing their employee base in a different way.  So things that I would look out for, one of the things that is- think there’s like 1,500, HRCs. So human rights campaign, they have something called the corporate equality index. It judges the LGBTQ inclusiveness of a company.

 

This is for the most part US-based companies. I know they’re trying to go more international with it. I consider that if you’re looking to work for like a larger company, that’s kind of like table stakes. So it’s like, if you’re LGBTQ inclusive, look for companies that are scoring well on that corporate equality index.

 

So that’s one thing. The second thing, and I was talking about like an ally program.  As an applicant to a company, you might be able to find this on their social media or on their website, under the careers page, but like an ally is specifically an LGBTQ ally program. So this would be helping identify and signal people who are typically not LGBTQ, people at that workplace embrace their gay colleagues.

 

And you would do this usually with something that’s like maybe like a rainbow flag in the employee directory. If you’re in office, there might be some sort of like sticker that you can put on your desk that says, I’m an ally, but this would show that those people are supportive of your LGBTQ colleagues and speak on behalf of you when you’re not in the room. Of course, an employee resource group for companies that have the sort of resources. Can you just- sorry to interrupt. Can you explain what that is? I think a lot of folks probably don’t, aren’t familiar with what that might be. Yeah. So, I mean, these go by many different names, employee resource group, business resource group, affinity group, a club even. I think of this as like a group of people who, are supportive of LGBTQ people and they do events, networking, mentoring, have activities all in support of their LGBTQ colleagues. Sometimes there’s like a book club that’ll happen where they’ll read about queer literature or they’ll attend pride fests together, or they’ll do something that’s just like more social where it’s LGBTQ people and their allies hanging out.

 

But a lot of companies are starting to have- I mean, this is kind of one of those things that’s probably in the last 10, 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of companies really host employee resource groups like this. And that’s a sign as a candidate that, that employer is looking to make investments in hosting gay communities at work.

 

Thank you for that. Anyone else? If anything that stuck out for them? Being in recruiting, you know, you’re on the forefront of bringing in and really building the company up. And one of the things that I was really adamant about, and I was really happy to see it Kin and Carta is that we ask on our applications, what are your pronouns?

 

And how do you pronounce your name? Because those are two things that are super important. That’s the initial call that you’re having with people and you want to make sure that you’re interacting with them in the most positive note. I think that having that be part of the initial contact really gives an idea to who we are and what we care about.

 

You know, we’re looking for people and we want people to be comfortable. We want to acknowledge them the way that they’re most comfortable in the way that they see themselves and really be affirming in that sense. And so I think that everyone should do that, especially the name pronunciation. Your name is super important.

 

So just being able to hop on a call with someone and not only did they pronounce your name correctly, but they are addressing you the correct way, makes all the difference. I think that that’s something to look out for as well when on the job search. For sure.

 

And I actually have a very unfortunate anecdote to go along with that. A friend and acquaintance of mine, they use they/them pronouns and the recruiter that they were working with for this role,  the candidate was very clear about what their pronouns were to the recruiter and the recruiter ended up mis-gendering them to their referrals. And each referral called this person back and was like, I don’t know if you want to work for these people, like  they were mis-gendering you when they were talking about you. And it really did give this candidate pause.

 

They ended up taking the role and I think they’re quite happy there, but it was definitely something that gave them a lot of pause in even taking the job. So it’s something that is certainly should be taken seriously. I mean,  it’s really just about like respect, right? Really is what it’s about.

 

And it’s a really important, a really important piece I think. 

 

Okay. I’d love to, you know, we talked a little bit about  things that queer folks can look to as far as whether or not a job, where to apply, whether or not a job might be a safe and welcoming place. I do want to, Jaime I do want to ask you what are some things that folks can do that- companies can do from an HR perspective to make sure that their org is inclusive of LGBTQ folks?

 

Well, it’s been mentioned before, forms. Filling out forms is the first demo- any demographic form, should really have always an open-ended option, a self-description option. If for any reason there is a need, a requirement to use census demographics from the US census,

 

you should note that, that we are using these because we have to. A lot of times not-for-profits might have to do that. Agencies I work in often have to do that, but if you make a note of why you have to do it and then also allow for the option not to answer or to self-describe, that goes a long way.

 

Because I will bring this up as a concern and people say, well, we have to do that. The government defines it. And I’m like, no, you don’t, you can split the difference. You can explain this. You can, create a dialogue as opposed to just putting this form with these boxes and saying, this is just the way we do it-

 

which doesn’t feel good. Additionally, a lot of times your HR platforms will use government data to describe employees. So recently in an agency I worked with, they did a large DEI survey and everyone was allowed to self identify all their demographics and HR asked how come this doesn’t match with what we have in our portal?

 

And we said because we’re allowed to self-identify, it’s going to be more accurate actually. And there was a lot of confusion and debate about that. We were explaining that a lot of us don’t have, I, for instance, I have federal documents that have an F marker and state documents that have an M marker.

 

And then I have an X marker wherever they’ll allow me to have it, which actually interferes with my ability to safely travel in a lot of instances. So it’s a serious thing. It’s not a small thing, these little letters on our documents. But it was really hard not only to point out that that was a fallacy in HR documentation, but also it created- it was really microaggressions that I had experienced in trying to point out that the self-disclosure data was more accurate.

 

So being aware of that, just the awareness alone is really important. And that a lot of times you’ll have systems that cost millions of dollars to implement and your answer is “We can’t afford to change it. This is the way it is” find a work around. We’re smart. People- were creative people, were professional people.

 

We can find a way to do this. Additionally with benefits, medical benefits, the first question I’ll always ask is are these trans affirming because not only am I trans, I am trans child, and usually they’ll just stop at “Yes, we cover surgeries.” Or our benefits cover this and I’m like, yeah, that’s great.

 

It’s excellent because a lot of people do not have that benefit or that privilege. I will not discount how important that is. However, it becomes a problem when you’re having to deal with the insurance company and they’re going to deny it over and over and over again, or reject it over and over and over again, make you fight over and over and over again, or question those gender markers.

 

So the concept of what it actually is to be affirming really needs to be understood by the HR departments. The HR heads, the HR employees really need to be exceptionally well-versed and culturally competent, not just with LGBTQ issues but with all issues of identity and culture because they intersect. This was brought up earlier that how these intersect and you can’t just pick them apart.

 

 And it can be a really joyous, amazing, beautiful thing to have an HR department that is culturally competent and, makes people feel that they can trust their HR department as opposed to their HR department really only protecting the organization as an entity and not the organization including the staff and the clientele.

 

So those are kind of some of  my big flags that I look for- green flags. Do they have all that going on? Yeah, those are great. Thank you.  I’d love to kind of pivot just slightly. We’ve talked a little bit about things that organizations can do

 

and I think that kind of segways maybe a little bit into, especially going back to Jason talking about things that queer folks can look for, and then talking a little bit about what organizations can actually do. 

 

Chuck, I wanted to sort of throw this one to you talking a little bit, because I know that you were interested in talking about sort of the, doing the work before the work, as an organization before advertising “Yes, we’re an inclusive space, we’re a safe space come join us.” the importance of that.

 

Absolutely. I think even when we talk about DEI work in general, right. People think of diversity as the first step. And I would argue it’s should be the last step actually because if you’re not analyzing the systems of oppression that you’re replicating within your company, you’re inviting people into a great deal of harm and potential violence.

 

 Like I mentioned, those infrastructure pieces, right? I think, yeah, I said it perfectly, right? The clearest commodity piece, that’s tokenization there’s appeal and having fair people in your organization. It’s a fantastic way to recognize your values.

 

However, if you’re not doing the really, really specific work needed to shift both infrastructure and policy and also culture within your company, you’re really not creating a space in which queerness is celebrated and held. And this is across  the field of inclusivity and equity and of course, accounting for intersectionality, right?

 

We can’t look at queer people in a bubble separate from all of the multitudes of identities, they hold. I think also once you are recognizing within a company that there is a lot of equity and inclusion work you need to do, there’s a huge misstep that I see happen over and over and over again with the companies I work with to rely on the people within your company who fold those identities to do the education work.

 

And I’m going to say this very blatantly- pay people to do this work for you. Find an external support source or have a paid position within your company or a part of a paid position in your company that’s tasked with doing these really, really hard job of shifting culture, building infrastructure, changing policies.

 

 Otherwise you are asking your employee to hold a great deal of emotional labor and to do a job that they were that in fact hired to do. Yeah and I think that often  falls on marginalized folks, right? Most of us have been in that situation before where the work ends up falling on our shoulders, even though it’s not our culture that needs to shift, it’s not us that needs the educating.

 

And that can be tiresome. That can be burdensome. I want to definitely call that out as  something that I’ve seen a lot in a lot of different places and from a lot of folks who work in organizations that they really do want to have some meaningful impact within the organization.

 

But it’s just- expecting that one person to do all of that work, it’s just, it’s impossible. It’s too much for one person, even if you are paying them. So it’s too much for one person usually. Anyone else have anything to add to that? Actually, I didn’t seek out to become a DEI professional.  I actually like to refer to myself as a culture and identity professional.

 

But once people really understand DEI, they know what that means.  I’m an educator, I’m a clinical social worker, I’m a bang up clinician. It doesn’t matter though, wherever I go, my job becomes 90% DEI work and I don’t get paid for it. In agencies, I do get paid for it because now I have side career and side businesses doing it because I became really good at it.

 

It wasn’t because I decided, let me go do this work. It was because I had to fight so hard for some basic rights for myself or my children and every institution we went to that it was a survival need.  That is a very real, real issue that Chuck was talking about with regards to counting on people to educate everyone around them, to make everyone around them competent, just in meeting basic everyday needs.

 

A big, big problem. Yeah, absolutely. Yaz, I want to talk to you about this real quickly.  So we do a lot of, especially in kind of the DEI space there’s a lot of, you know, there’s a struggle of identifying folks that fall under an underrepresented group,

 

right?  That challenge gets even stickier when we’re talking about the queer community. As someone who’s, kind of in the talent space, should we be asking this demographic information? And if it’s  appropriate, how do we go about doing that in a way that’s respectful?

 

Yeah, that’s a great question and I’ve thought about this a lot. No, I don’t think that we should be asking demographic questions because I think that that forces someone to out themselves and then it falls into the cycle of using them as a commodity. Like, I’m going to talk to you more because now I know that you’re queer and I need to shift the demographics of where I work in and I need to have this DEI hire.

 

So I don’t think that we should be asking those questions. However, it has helped me being out and that was my choice. Me having my pronouns on LinkedIn and when people see that other queer people feel comfortable enough to talk to me and in those initial conversations, I always ask, “Hey, what are your pronouns?”

 

And it does give it away if they have Neo pronouns like I do. So if you have, Ze/Xem or e/em, so the, they, them without the th- then chances are you’re under the queer umbrella, but I’m asking not to check a box and not to collect that data, but to address you correctly. And like you said before, it’s about respect.

 

I want you to feel respected and you don’t need to be out for me to have a conversation with you. So I don’t think that we should ask demographic questions. I don’t think so. I agree. I mean, 90% of my job, 95% my job at this point is in recruitment and there’s no way to do it well. There’s just no way to do it well. I don’t know how else to say that more clearly. There’s keeping demographic information about folks too. That gets into privacy and safety issues potentially as to who has access to that data.  It’s completely someone’s prerogative if they choose to be out in whatever space they’re in, that’s up to them and that’s a private decision and personal decision for them and kind of forcing someone to make that split decision of if they’re going to be out in this space or with you as a human being or whatever, however you want to put that, is a pretty big ask and it’s not, I don’t think it’s a very appropriate one personally.   It’s hard, especially because  I, we don’t know how this conversation is going to go.  You may not be a fit for this role or this may not be what you’re looking for and now I’ve collected this information and had this vulnerable moment with you

 

and it, I guess it sort of sucks if it doesn’t get to go anywhere. So I also don’t want to have that sort of, – I don’t want to create that environment and I find it hard because I love where I work and I know that I know it to be a safe place for being openly queer. And so I do want more queer coworkers and I want to bring in those people because I know that this is a place that’s safe which is why I am open to being out myself.

 

But also, everyone has their own journey. So I can’t really, I can’t make that decision for you. And as to what you said, it’s a split second decision. You may be on a screening call for twenty, thirty five minutes- like you don’t know me enough to even want to be out with me, especially in a professional space.

 

 Yeah, for sure.  I do have kind of like a follow-up question. So I totally understand Yaz, the point of view during the recruitment phase and someone applying to work at your company, but let’s say someone’s already decided, “All right, I’m going to work for your company.” They’re onboard.

 

And, they want to make sure that the company supports who they are. And how then do you feel about self identifying in that case? So they’re already working for us and now they want to self identify as queer? Yes. So we have an affinity groups and we also have a different strategies. So I would add them to that infinity group.

 

And if they felt comfortable with me or if they want to speak to one of our EXVPs. So they’re more on the HR side then than I am with talent acquisition. We also have representatives within our organization that are people of leadership that are outwardly queer. So I would direct them and I would push them in that direction, just so they can get the best answers and know that there are different initiatives and a space for them to be outwardly queer

 

and happy and safe. Yeah, no, totally. So I guess the point that I’m trying to get at here is being an applicant is one thing and self identifying there is a very different case I think, than being at the organization self-identifying there. If I have decided to already spend time with an organization and grow my career there, I would want the opportunity to self identify as queer because in the organizations that I’ve been at, resources go towards supporting underrepresented communities  based on data.

 

And there is no data if I can’t count or I can’t show, if I can’t show numbers or that the population is growing or the community is underserved. So I think that there is room for a place and the assumption here is that data is protected. It is private. It is not shared widely and maybe only seen on aggregate, but I think that there is definitely room for an organization to collect LGBTQ self ID data.

 

Yeah, I agree. Yeah. I actually agree with Jason. Data wise, quantitatively, it’s really good to have the numbers, but on a qualitative level,  I’ve had experiences with an amazing supervisor right, currently who would ask me a lot of personal questions, but it would always start with, “I want to ask you a question so I can understand things more.

 

 Please feel free to say no. And please tell me if it makes you uncomfortable.” And that’s how we were able to understand each other because we did not come from the same identity. We were both queer, that had vastly different experiences and we’re of different generations. And the time we spent together creating a rapport where he felt safe asking me questions and I felt safe, disclosing was amazing.

 

And it allowed for a safer work environment to the point where he understood that I had trouble finding clothes that fit in the business casual dress code, which dress codes are a whole nother issue that should be looked at. And eventually just said, “I’m fine if you just wear jeans” because they fit my body type better.

 

That’s a positive, culturally competent viewpoint that everyone needs, not just queer people. But that came out of those private conversations, but they were managed and handled very delicately and I always felt the power to be able to tell my supervisor that’s not appropriate

 

and I don’t like that. And he would take the feedback and I never felt that the power was abused. Now, I think that that takes a lot of care and a lot of action and a lot of trust. So I don’t think anyone should just go off assuming that they can create that kind of dynamic, but they do exist and where they do exist, they create really beautiful, lovely, supportive work environments.

 

I love that. Can you repeat that phrase that your supervisor would say before asking you a question? I loved that. Yes. He would always pause. He would leave space around the entire conversation. He would say, “I would like to ask you a question. It’s personal. You do not need to answer the question.”

 

He would also tell me why he was asking sometimes. Specifically, I’m trying to learn about X, Y, and Z, and he would also share self-disclose his experiences that were personal and related to the question. So, with regards to power and privilege, it leveled them playing field.

 

I love that. The idea was that he made the effort to level the playing field. He was older than me. He has more letters, more experience. He was unambiguously, mano racially white, gay, cis-gender man.

 

Had lots and lots of privilege in certain ways and he took the time to understand what that meant and take care with that in a really genuine manner. And I adore him for it and I consider him a mentor and that’s a moment where asking those questions turned into a really positive experience.

 

That’s wonderful. Yeah. Thank you. That does actually pivot quite nicely into kind of, well a couple of different things. I do want to talk about traditional standards of professional presentation in a moment, but before we get into that, I do want to just talk a little bit specifically with you Jason, around this idea of bringing your whole self to work.

 

It’s something that I’ve personally struggled with a lot. I’m not very good at centering myself.  I do have to professionally because at home I swear like a sailor. I, of course don’t do that in the office. But then that translates into other things as well. Like I’m always kind of trying to find the line of how I’m out at work, obviously doing this- but I’m always trying to find the line of what do I talk about? What do I not talk about? Like, where’s my personal comfort level with how fully myself I am at work with my coworkers. And I just kinda wanted to toss that to you as something to chat about. Bringing your whole self to work

 

it’s such a throw away phrase nowadays. I feel like so many organizations like, “Yeah, authenticity bring your whole self to work” and the kind of workplace. I mean, If I may, that is the most perfect kind of situation that you would want at work. I feel like boundaries are established. You have security in presenting who you are.

 

People are curious to work with you more and the assumption there is your boss is supportive of you and wants to see you succeed. There’s kind of three things that I think of with bringing your whole self to work. The first point is when you’re choosing a workplace, you kind of already need to go in and think what part of me am I not?-

 

What are the non-negotiables? What am I not willing to self edit? Right. And based on that, that’s kind of how you start to narrow what are the kinds of employers that I’m going to work for? Certain cues that I see tech companies probably are more forward-thinking more social services companies.

 

I think where people are working one on one, they want to support communities are probably more LGBTQ inclusive minded. I mean, this is not an all or nothing, right? More traditional older companies are probably more white collar and stiff. I think you first target kind of like, what am I not willing to self edit?

 

What’s non-negotiable of me?  The second thing is once you start to decide, all right, I want to target these certain companies, take cues from your interviews, from the website. What can you see about this company already? When I was doing the job search a couple of years back, there were two companies I was looking at.

 

One of them is a very, very, very famous music streaming company.  I went on site for interviews there. I saw people walking around in shorts and like short sleeve shirts. They asked me when I came in the door, they were like, “Oh, do you want water? Go help yourself in the pantry.”

 

And they had like reusable aluminum cups or steel cups that they were using. On their streaming platform they had queer playlist’s. And at the same time I was interviewing with like an older tech company and  when I was there, very stiff work environment.

 

Everyone’s wearing very white collar, very formal traditional. The water that I was given there was in  it was like this plastic cup and they’d put a straw in it and left, you know, how you can kind of leave the paper straw, so sort of like no one touched it. So you’re like, it’s sterile, it’s clean.

 

And I was like, well, this is going to be a very different workplace, right. So I knew there that I’m like, okay, I’m taking the cues, this is going to be a little bit more stiff.  So take the cues that you can tell about that workplace, and I’m sure you all kind of know that. Ask your friends and then the third thing, and probably the most important piece out of all of this is I think before you kind of really are more yourself at work, I would kind of tiptoe in and

 

I would probably not share everything about myself first, right. You need to establish that rapport and those relationships at work first, before I think you can decide to present who you are more authentically.  There’s a podcast I was listening to by Adam Grant. It’s called authenticity is a double edge sword.

 

And  I would recommend that to anyone that wants to delve a little bit deeper into authenticity because he kind of goes in and explores us a little bit more. But I mean, it’s not until you’ve established those relationships and you’re like, this person is here to support me. Can I really, you know, explore being me here?

 

So those are kinda my tips. Yeah. I appreciate that.  I agree with those.  I think it’s always- first and foremost you have to do what’s best for you and figuring out where is a safe place for you to be fully yourself or more of yourself?  I think is really important.

 

 The teenager in me wants to just be like, “This is me. Deal with it or don’t” but I realized that I’m an adult and I had to put on my big girl pants. There’s totally like a place for that, right? The current workplace that I’m at right now, there’s someone who I work with and for her, the way like her self expression of queerness is so important to her.

 

And it’s a non-negotiable and I didn’t find that out at the beginning. It took a while into our relationship. You know, she wears ear extensions. Her hair is like, she’s always wearing rainbows and stuff on our shirts and she’s got like a rainbow on her glasses that she wears.

 

And I could see at like the more traditional companies that I’ve been been at, that’s going to not fly. Whereas here she totally flourishes, and we embrace that. Well, that pivots perfectly into kind of talking a little bit about traditional standards of gender presentation and professional dress and things like that.

 

And whether or not those are inclusive. So I’d love to toss that to you Chuck. Yeah, absolutely. I think sort of the flip side of what Jason is talking about, right. From a company perspective, I think it takes-  if we’re doing equity work well, we’re stepping into a great deal of humility and a willingness to unlearn a lot.

 

A lot of what we’ve been taught about what professionalism means, looking specifically at dress code, right. And policies around dress. We know factually right, historically, and to this day in many sectors that people with power in companies and with decision-making power are predominantly white and male cisgender, straight able-bodied, neuro-typical, right?

 

All of these pieces that is across the board has been, certainly has been the standard historically and continues to be the standard in many companies and sectors. When you have a moment of catching somebody right  in a, perhaps a choice in dress or extending beyond that into other forms of professionalism, there needs to be a willingness to say, “Oh, this standard that we

 

created and has been held as the standard of what professionalism is, was dictated essentially by a monoculture” right. It was dictated by white men. And we need to be really willing to say our concepts of what is presentable in an office. What is acceptable at an office really needs to be challenged.

 

And this extends beyond dress code, right? I think concepts of time, work behaviors, ways that we handle workflow, all of these things need to be really questioned and grappled with and to expand upon. And you’re going to deeply benefit from that work, right. It’s not just to be nice, right. I think when we talk about DEI work, people think “Oh, you do it because you care about people or you’re invested in kindness” right?

 

It’s good business. You’re going to get much better work out of the people in your office if they are able to bring a little bit more safety to the workplace, if they are able to bring a little bit more of themselves to the workplace.  I think clothing in particular, oh, I’m sure we all have stories in this group.

 

But yeah, I think really questioning when you are going to perhaps challenge somebody or push back against somebody for what they’re wearing in their office, that’s a really good moment to pause and reflect on what’s informing that decision to push back? What’s informing the policy in place?

 

And what can feasibly be moved and expanded?  At the same time, especially if you’re a public facing company, that needs to come with some advocacy work, right. You can’t just throw your employees to the wolves. I think if you’re going to step into that really hard work of shifting culture, you also have to be willing then to step into discomfort to advocate for your employees.

 

Yeah, yeah. A hundred percent. I agree with all of that.  I’d love to talk with you a little bit about, so we’ve talked about whether or not folks are comfortable being out at work. Is there a way, you know, let’s say someone isn’t necessarily comfortable being out at work or maybe it’s not even safe or appropriate for them to be out of work.

 

Is there a way that one can identify with their queer identity without outing themselves in the workplace and are there benefits to being out as a queer person at work? Yeah, sure. So, I think that it is a little bit difficult to identify with your queer identity without outing yourself in the workplace.

 

Just for example, I mean, and I spoke about it earlier. If you have neo pronouns, you want to be called by them. It becomes difficult. I mean, that’s a way of outing yourself without knowing. However, I like to look at it as allyship.    For example,  if you don’t want to be out and you don’t want to present your pronouns, what are organizations that your company can support and getting those on a docket to be able to leverage that.  I feel like companies are always looking for some sort of initiative and so leveraging those situations to support different queer organizations, different B corps,  volunteer situations.

 

I always like to show my support by, and even before I was out, I would show my support by, these are the organizations that I like to volunteer at and it sort of plays into your allyship rather than your own queer identity. However, I do think that there are a lot of benefits.  I’ve seen a lot of benefits,

 

I’ll say being out as a queer person. Being able to connect with other queer people and having conversations to see how their experiences and understanding their intersectionality and- everyone has a different experience. And the queer community has such a spectrum. So understanding, you know, different people’s roles and how they have to code switch, their different struggles. I think that being able to come together and have a conversation about that and brainstorm and say, okay, well, what are some things that we can do so we don’t have to struggle as much? And who do we go to when- who are our allies? Let’s have them do this work.

 

 I think that that has helped a lot and it’s definitely created an atmosphere for me that has given me a lot of growth and a lot of opportunity to grow. It also has changed the perspective of other people like, just for example, I was talking to some coworkers and they decided to start adding their pronouns on LinkedIn.

 

 Regardless if they are hetero or whatever the case is, that shows their allyship and that shows that they’re listening and it makes it makes everyone else more comfortable, in my opinion. I agree. 100%. Absolutely. That resonates a lot, actually. Yes. I love that. Like the gem in there that you were like, going in and playing into the allyship first and almost using that as like, Hmm

 

let me test out this workplace and see how inclusive people are going to be. I like that because it’s not completely showing who you are, that you are a member of the community. I really liked that a lot.

 

Well, we are almost- we’re getting to the point where we’re almost at the hour. I’ve got one more question for Jaime, but I do want, if anyone, any of the participants have questions feel free to throw them in the Q&A section.  I am definitely at a place where I’m feeling, you know, it’s been a long couple of years for everyone and I’m feeling a little burnt out and I feel like a lot of this- I’m very, very glad that a lot of this diversity and inclusion work is at the forefront of people’s minds and that things are getting talked about and that I see fewer and fewer organizations and fewer and fewer people just doing one of these about everything and engaging and asking questions and getting curious. That does sometimes lend itself to a little bit of exhaustion for marginalized folks

 

because so much of the discussion is around trauma. So much of the discussion is around oppression. So much of the discussion is around the difficulties of being a marginalized person or someone in an underrepresented group. And so I do want to express an interest to talk about sort of the importance of celebrating joy within this space and within this conversation.

 

And I just kind of wanted to throw that, throw that to you so that we can end on a end on a joyful note.

 

Yeah, I’ve lately been really leaning in to the need to celebrate joy with all of my identities and it’s probably because we’re coming to a sort of, I don’t know, you can’t say it’s the end. I just think it’s like a dip and an ongoing road of just intense, intense advocacy and fear.  And I don’t wanna be scared anymore, and I don’t want to be feeling like I have to fight for that survival anymore. I do. It’s not going to go away, but there’s some days that I just want to walk into work and pick up a piece of news that’s phenomenal about some phenomenal queerness that’s happening and share it and feel safe.

 

There’s times where I want to hear my colleagues actually know the history of our field and know of the amazing, phenomenal queer people that have contributed to the field that I work in. I want to know that my colleagues are aware of the city that we work in, or cities- I work nationwide or sometimes worldwide.

 

And when I work with people, I want them to know who their queer icons are. I want to know, you know, tell me who your queer, who’s your community ancestors? Like I have my ancestors with me all the time and it’s just not my blood ones. It’s my community ones. And I feel like we should be talking about this

 

all the time. This should absolutely be part of a hiring process with regards to just showing again, that you’re culturally competent, that you understand that these identities are amazing. We are an amazing community of people, not just because we are resilient, not just because we can fight back, not just because we can survive, but because we create amazing art and amazing community and amazing parties, despite the resistance, in spite of that, beautiful, amazing things are happening.

 

Beautiful children and families, which often go completely ignored and erased. So I want to see pictures of that. I want to see pictures of my community ancestors. I want people to not be like, oh really? I didn’t even know that there were queer people that worked in tech or there were queer people that were doctors, or there were trans people who were pirates.

 

Because of all this exists. I want people to be like, oh yeah, I know who you’re talking about. This is great.  Bring in the joy like this, all of these conversations should have joy in them not just pain and trauma. I am not defined by the pain and trauma of my identities, my ancestors, my community ancestors.

 

And that’s what I really want to see more of in my job space, in my recruiting. If a recruiter came to me, with a massive queer joy and offered me a good package- I’m not looking now, but I’d consider.

 

I love it. Yeah.  I get great joy from my queer community and from my queer relationships and my queer self, I get a lot of joy from it. And I feel like that too often, as you were saying, gets kind of left out of the conversation because so much of it right now is hinged on mitigating harm, which is important.

 

It’s important to talk about that. That’s important work too but yeah, I definitely agree. 

 

Well we are all out of time. I just wanted to thank each one of you, each one of our panelists for joining. It was really wonderful chatting with you all. Thank you so much for spending this time with me and with everyone who joined us.

 

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