June 16, 2022

Juneteenth’s History & How You Can Celebrate


Episode Highlights

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Robyn Carney and Leah Dugan talk about the history of Juneteenth, how it came to be and how it turned into a federal holiday. Leah will talk about how it’s been celebrated in the past and some ways that companies can either observe or help their employees observe.

Episode Transcript

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Welcome back to Talent Insights with Hirewell. Today we’re coming at you to talk about pride. I’m Robyn Carney. I’m the DEI lead here at Hirewell and this Camille. Camille, if you’d like to introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m an on-demand recruiter here at Hirewell. We’re super excited to talk a little bit about pride. Of course, as always, I’m going to start off with a little bit of history and then we’re going to talk about some tips and tricks on how companies can start to make sure that they are supporting any members of the LGBTQ community who work at their company.

Great. So let’s hop right into it, all right. So there’s a lot of history that leads up to this moment, but I’m going to kind of jump to the mid 1900s to 1945 to 1960ish. It’s a period called the lavender scare. It’s called that because it’s at the same time as the red scare, which is a little bit more commonly known.

The fear of communists and a lot of communists are getting arrested. The same thing’s happening in the queer community. There’s a lot of laws that are being carried out. Some of these laws were a little bit older. Sodomy laws that go back to the creation of the colonial period to the three article rule, which says that you must be wearing three articles of your own genders clothing at all times. So like if you are a trans person in the 1940s trying to identify your own gender, but you were assigned male at birth and you are not wearing any male clothes, you could be arrested for that.

So this is also a time where a lot of scientists are exploring different ideas of gender and sexuality. For example, the Kinsey scale is the most popular example from this time. Which is the idea that nobody is a hundred percent straight or a hundred percent gay.

They fall somewhere in the middle. This idea is being introduced literally at the same time that the American psychiatric association lists homosexuality as a sociopathic personality disturbance. And it’s just not a great time to be any form of LGBTQIA in the country, or trying to even come into the country. Homosexual immigrants were barred from coming into the country.

And like I said, you could just be arrested for being gay. Which brings us to the late 1960s. After decades of interactions between the community and the police, where the community is very marginalized, has to live on the outskirts of society in order to fully express themselves. They would frequently go to clubs that were kind of a little bit off the beaten path or had understandings with cops.

And of the examples is the Stonewall Inn and Greenwich village in New York city. The Stonewall Inn is a mafia owned club. So the mafia is paying off the cops to look the other way on the existence of the club. And they are using the club as a front for their own mafia type business, you know? You’ve seen the movies. We all have.

So we won’t get too much into what the mafia does, but the cops actually regularly raid the Stonewall Inn but they usually have informants who are being paid for by the mafia and the cops are in the mafia’s pocket, et cetera. So usually the mafia knows when the raids are going to happen so they can set everything up

so that only a couple people get arrested. It usually happens very early in the night. It usually doesn’t like fall into some sort of big thing, but people do get arrested- attendees and bartenders. So on June 28, just after one in the morning, one of these raids come in. One of the ways they identified people they wanted to arrest is if they didn’t have IDs or if they were not wearing enough clothes of their own gender, the three article rule.

So those were like the two main ways that people would get arrested and also the staff, because they were working at a mafia owned place. But this night something happens, right? there’s a lot of different accounts. There’s a lot of different stories. There’s a lot of different articles. There’s different people who have become very like forefronts of the movement based on their presence at this night. But the truth of the matter is it’s really hard to know exactly what happened.

All we know is that this kick-started a movement. Up until this point, this is 1969, for the last five years before this, there had been little protests, little movements trying to remind the government that there are people who are LGBTQ and that the people in the queer community deserve recognition and right. But now it’s unavoidable. The next day, the entire street- so it’s Christopher street in Greenwich village. It’s taken over for a second day protest to follow on the footsteps of the first night. And this spurs a lot of discussion, a lot of ripples in the community.

To commemorate this event, the year later they do the Christopher street liberation day and attendees joined up at Christopher street to walk to Central Park, the mass which took up the 15 city blocks at a time. So if you can imagine 15 city blocks worth of people walking and covered the 51 blocks between the two areas in New York city. So this is where the saying comes, the first pride was the riot, the Stonewall Inn uprising, rebellion, whatever you want to call it. It was like it’s known as a riot.

In the seventies, these marches are primarily grassroots organizations throughout the country from a gay liberation movement. Then in the eighties and nineties, this was scaled back by a cultural shift towards gay pride, which is where the term pride comes from.

So this is where a lot of the conversation takes place in, a lot of the debate takes place within the queer community, but we’re not talking about that today. So when does it get recognized, right? So Bill Clinton declared June to be gay and lesbian pride month in 1999 and 2000.

It’d be recognized again during Obama’s terms. So that would be 2008 on. And by now, pride month has entered the lexicon. It is celebrated the world over, it is celebrated in major cities in different ways. There’s marches, there’s parades, there’s events. And gone to a pride street fair before, which was interesting.

I was like, okay I’ll go on this carnival ride for pride. But there’s still a conversation that’s taking place where the LGBTQ community might not necessarily feel at home in your office. So this is what Camille and I are going to talk about right now. So some solutions, some ideas, some suggestions, some things that you should keep in mind.

First of all, they’ll notice that I switch between a lot of different terms as I was telling the story. Part of that was me trying to use the terms that were accurate at the time, but also using a modern sensibility and understanding of terms, right? So somebody who might identify as trans now might not have used the same verbiage in the past. But we want to make sure that when you’re talking about pride movements, talking about pride at your company, talking about the LGBTQIA community, that you are doing your best to understand the verbiage as it currently stands and not using any offensive or outdated terms.

So I would suggest starting by education, right? And this is education for people who are not in the queer community. People who are in the queer community do not need education on the verbiage of the queer community. So this is like putting out information to like understand the different terms, right?

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s what this video is for is just to educate yourself. And Robyn did a great job sharing the history. So it was really great and just really understanding and being aware of things that you say in the workplace as well as in your personal life, too. And if you aren’t sure what to say, go on the internet and educate yourself and just be careful of what you’re saying.

And just be kind. Yeah, being kind is the most important thing. Always assume good intent when you’re trying to create an inclusive environment. And also make sure that where you’re going on the internet to find answers is a place that is recognized by the community themselves. So for example, human rights campaign would be a great place. So let’s talk about kind of how communities do this. So we’re talking about this in June for obvious reasons. It’s pride month, but it’s important that you do pride year round.

We’ve talked a little bit about rainbow capitalism, right. And that’s going to be something that we talk about elsewhere as well. Yeah. So one thing that’s really interesting to me is on June 1st on LinkedIn, right when you sign on first thing in the morning, June 1st, most all the companies I have seen on my feed or other feeds, have that rainbow logo and you can see a right away. So I started doing about like a year or two ago is just going to the company’s website trying to find their DEI efforts, seeing what type of community events they have, anything that they can share for any committees or anything like that.

And it’s really interesting. I would love to pull their percentage of how many I haven’t found. But there’s a lot I haven’t found. And I think that’s one thing that bothers a lot of people about pride month, is you see all these companies putting out like the rainbow on their logo, the border, anything like that, but there’s nowhere to be found any efforts or practices that they have.

So if you’re a company watching this, I encourage you, if you are putting that on your logo, you gotta have the efforts and the practices behind it to back it up. Yeah, you don’t want to just be sitting here and doing lip service, right? You don’t want to say like, oh yeah, we support the LGBTQ community, but only one month out of the year.

And this is true for any of the months. Right? So if you are celebrating AAPI heritage month, which was last month or mental health awareness month, which was May also- you don’t want to be like, yeah, this is important to us and then the absolutely quiet on it year round. These are things that you need to remember when you are creating systems and structures within your company.

I see a lot of companies that when they are trying to improve diversity, they just focus on the interview process and that can neglect current employees. So a lot of people will say like, okay, so if we want to make our interview process more inclusive, but what have you done for the people who have already been at the company?

There’s some people who might not feel safe enough to come out or they might just be the kind of person that don’t want to mix their private life with their work life, which is totally understandable. But at the same time, you need to create an environment where anybody who’s a member of any community feels safe in your workplace. Because your interview process can be inclusive as you want it to be but if there is no structures in place for your LGBT community within your company, you’re not going to be able to retain talent that you want to hire or have already hired.

Yeah. I’ve seen that on a lot of companies and especially being a recruiter, everyone’s talking about improving the hiring process, but we want to improve the employee process too and that engagement and retention and all that. Stuff. So I think this is a perfect topic that will fit into that as well is not just focus on the interview process for this. You want to make sure that you’re making those employee resource groups.

You want to make sure that HR professionals are trained on things. And there’s just a lot of other things you need to do to take care of those current employees and just make sure that they have a safe place to work. And instead of just focusing on the interview process itself. Yes, exactly.

It can be overwhelming to try and create ERGs but they’re necessary sometimes or just like putting out the space that like, Hey, we’ve support you. If you need any resources, let us know. Creating a safe avenue for those conversations. We have some questions and some comments that we would like you to ask yourself and some suggestions on things.

I think we kind of already touched on the first one, so let’s go ahead and go to the second one. Uh, do you collaborate- so you as a company, not you Camille but you as a company would ask this of yourself and figure out, how well are you doing with this? Is this something you’ve thought about? So these are questions that you might not have thought about if you are not in a position of power. And this is also important to remember the intersectionality, right?

So when I talked about Stonewall, I talked a lot about the queer community, but it’s important to remember that a large percentage of the queer community at Stonewall Inn that night, was in fact people of color. And the most notable names that came out of that night are people of color.

It’s important to take a step back and remember everything that you should be thinking about in terms of supporting your community in the best way that you can. So for example, do you collaborate with LGBTQ plus advocacy organizations, especially those led by black, indigenous and BIPOC communities, both inside and outside of pride month? So have you ever thought of this? Is this something that’s on your radar? If you’re like, okay, what, what is this, what are some organizations I could work with? Is there anybody at your company who might be interested in running with that?

We’re working with that? So we’ll just let you sink in on that one and go to the next question. What are you doing to ensure that the LGBTQ plus employees do not experience career limitations, harrasment or professional devaluation? Now, we kind of already touched on this. But we’re making it a lot more specific because we’re saying like, you need to make sure that your employees feel safe and treasured at the company.

Well, what does that mean? That’s just a bunch of like hippy-dippy, happy-go-lucky words. We’re specifically talking about how is your HR trained to handle micro aggressions? How is your company set up to evaluate any harassment reports?

Any potential pain points in your company that might not allow for any LGBTQ community members to be fully out at the company? Is there something at your company or someone or something that makes them feel like they can’t be out? And also, are you providing paths to leadership?

Yeah. And something interesting that we were talking about preparing for this conversation is about parental leave in specific terms of adoption. So do companies offer paid parental leave for adoption? That’s something to consider at your company as in terms of benefits. Yeah. And then another thing is, have you looked at your hiring processes to identify barriers that the LGBTQ plus folks may have to jump over before they can apply for a position at your company?

So this is kind of more about that interview process that we were talking about too. So just things like the DEI efforts, like at Hirewell we worked with Holistic and Robyn now is our DEI wiz. So we have her, which is really awesome. But think about working with a company for your DEI efforts and really put those practices forward for your current employees, as well as your interview process, your hiring process, things like that.

I’m sure if you’ve applied to a job within like the last two years or couple of years, you’ve seen they ask for your pronouns, which is really great. Really great for the recruiter and the hiring manager to be aware of what you prefer to be called, things like that. So I think that’s really great as well.

Yes. And also it’s important that you are perpetually analyzing holdups in your data pipeline for any roles that you’re filling. So this is what Hirewell and Holistic can help you with- not to pump our company or anything. But when you are hiring, it can be very overwhelming to like look at all the different numbers for all the different things that you’re trying to monitor and make sure that you are improving and doing a good job of hiring for or like not eliminating. Something a little overwhelming, which is why we step in.

We help you with figuring out what’s going on in your process, how to set up a process that will be rigid and helpful in terms of like making sure that your candidates get all the way through the pipeline. We’ve covered elsewhere in our unconscious bias video between myself and Leah., If you want to find that as well.

You want to be analyzing your pipeline to figure out if you’re losing people at certain places. Doing this for the LGBTQIA community is definitely a struggle. But also you can see that if you have a place to indicate pronouns but anybody who indicates they/them pronouns immediately loses out the process, that’s a problem with your internal team, not with your candidates, right? So that’s something that you could immediately identify and rectify, right. And then we started with talking about employees but we’re going right back to it. We’ve talked a little bit about the interview process and we have a lot of videos that we’ll talk about the interview process more in depth.

But do you have policies and processes in place to support queer and trans employees once they are employed? So this goes right back to ERGs, but also just making sure that your language in your handbook is inclusive and it intentionally covers situations such as microaggressions. Like what happens if somebody is experiencing microaggressions? Who do they talk to?

Resources, do they have a path to mentorship? Do they have a path to talking to somebody who can help them escalate or deescalate, depending on the situation? The many different things we just went over talking about adoption, equal parental leave for both parents, analyzing your data pipeline, making sure you have ERGs or at the very least some sort of a platform where people can discuss without judgment what issues they are facing.

So the important thing here is don’t put it all on the employees. We’ve talked in the past about avoiding tokenism, but in this situation, you need to make sure you’re doing the work at a leadership and corporate level and not at a employee level. You want to make sure that you’re making the changes from a top-down perspective.

So that way, employees who have already been doing the work their whole lives just by existing can get met halfway. Definitely. And once you do the work, put it on your website and showcase that, and candidates will be really excited to see that and think it’s a really inclusive place to work. So do the work, put it on your website and do that all year round-

not just for June, for pride month. Yeah. Yeah. And don’t just skip the work and put it on your website because people figure that out quickly. You got to do the work year round. I’m sorry. You just have to, you have to.

I was just going to say it was very easy just to tell if companies are actually supporting the community or not just from going to look at their websites. So it’s very easy if you’re just going to throw on that rainbow logo for June and then take it off at the end. People can see right through it.

People do in fact, see right through that. And also companies that sell rainbow logo items during this month, just to get a share of the market, very obvious. We clock it. We notice. That’s it from us. Do the work year round is what we have to say about this.

Always be working. Follow us if you’d like to hear more about this- or I’m not quite sure where the link is to follow, depending on what platform you’re on. It’s somewhere. I’m Robyn and this is Camille and thanking you so much for listening. Thank you.

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