For as long there’s been a tech industry, there has been concern about its stark lack of diversity. Think of it as the elephant in our offices—or now, given that most of the tech industry is working from home due to COVID-19, the elephant in our web conferences.
Recent global protests stemming from the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police offers have caused tech leaders to take a public stance on whether they will act to diversify their workforces. For example, Lyft was one of the first tech companies to announce its decision to make Juneteenth an official company holiday, and Salesforce has committed to taking steps to support policy changes pertaining to policing, hate crimes, and criminal justice among other internal action items surrounding diversity.
Since 1970, members of the LGBTQI+ community have gathered in June to celebrate their history of overcoming systemic obstacles and defying discriminatory policies. This celebration has come to be known simply as “Pride Month.” Given that much of the world is in some state of quarantine, Pride 2020 was bound to be unique. Local Pride organizers planned on hosting virtual events in lieu of the traditional outdoor festivals and parades. Many tech companies are opting for hosting their own virtual events as well.
At TrustRadius, we wanted to understand how the tech industry is celebrating Pride this year. Below we provide insights into what our research uncovered, highlight what major tech companies are doing to support LGBTQI+ employees, and examine why Pride is more important than ever amidst a time of major social change.
Our Findings on Pride in Tech
We polled a total of 1,423 visitors to our site about whether their organizations were celebrating Pride, and if so how. We also asked respondents working at organizations without any planned Pride activities if they would like to see more support of Pride.
In our poll, which launched mid-May and ended at the start of June, only 15% of the TrustRadius community said their companies had already planned activities in celebration of Pride. Businesses have the hard job of deciding which holidays get officially recognized—and in many industries, Pride hasn’t traditionally made the cut. While tech does have a reputation for being a more progressive industry, this number indicates that its culture still has room to grow to be more inclusive of one of the most important LGBTQI+ celebrations around the world.
Some of the activities respondents shared that their companies were hosting included having a company cookout (despite COVID-19), Snatch Game, karaoke, and safe Q&A sessions where employees can ask questions about LGBTQI+ topics. A few respondents also mentioned that their company will still be participating in Pride parades in some capacity, which is heartening news. While some Pride events have gone virtual or at least been postponed, many others have been canceled completely. Instead of physical celebrations during a time where many employees are working from home, some companies are stepping up to still make LGBTQI+ workers feel heard, seen, and valued.
This is significant in a time where same-sex relationships and transgender identities are illegal in over 70 countries around the world. As tech companies further globalize, it becomes more important than ever for companies to signal that they are in support of minorities with histories of oppression.
The 33% of respondents stating they are unsure whether their companies are celebrating Pride is salient, and somewhat troubling. Recognizing Pride, and communicating about it to employees clearly, signals a desire to take the historicity of the holiday seriously. Cisgender or heterosexual allies can urge their employers to take a stance one way or the other. Internally and externally, it is helpful for LGBTQI+ community members to know what they are unequivocally supported.
Unfortunately, we did receive some responses that indicated contempt for LGBQTQI+ individuals. One especially disappointing response indicated that companies should start with “burning the gay flag”. While these types of responses were in the minority, it still suggests that there is more work needed in the tech industry to address prejudiced biases and create safer spaces for LGBTQI+ employees.
For respondents who did want their companies to begin celebrating Pride Month annually, enthusiasm was high. Employees don’t just want to see fun, light-hearted events like virtual parties and drag shows. They also want their companies to adopt awareness campaigns and educational programs around LGBTQI+ topics. Many stated that a simple public acknowledgment of Pride Month would be a good place to start.
Pride Is Not an Option
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars employers from discriminating against employees for a variety of identities, protects LGBTQI+ workers as well. However, within the same month, key executive regulations prohibiting discrimination in healthcare against patients who are transgender were eliminated. As LGBTQI+ employees are confirmed legal protections in one area, they have also witnessed protections in another stripped overnight.
Trans workers in particular are in a precarious position right now. While the tech industry may have better benefits packages compared to other industries, those benefits cannot guarantee access to affirming healthcare. Additionally, many companies operate in regions with at-will employment laws that leave employees vulnerable to discrimination.
Given the recent rise of anti-police-brutality protests around the world in support of the Black Lives Matters movement, the tech industry has been forced to acknowledge our collective failures at embracing diversity. Despite research indicating that diverse teams are more successful, people of color make up less than 30% of the industry (with only 7.4% being Black and 8% Latinx of any race).
Research into the number of LGBTQI+ employees in the tech industry is hard to come by. The topic is only recently being covered and addressed. According to internal research by Facebook, the percentage of LGBTQI+ individuals in the U.S. workforce is 7%, which is an equitable representation given the overall U.S LGBTQI+ is estimated to be about 5%. However, many members of the LGBTQI+ community outside of big-name brands like Facebook may make up an even smaller percentage of tech organizations, sometimes being the only out member of any given identity represented.
However, the tech industry has been associated with being more progressive than other industries. In the ‘80s, the tech industry led the way for providing benefits to employees in same-sex marriages before same-sex marriage was legal in many countries. As with any industry, the tech industry is still far from perfect. According to a report published by the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll in 2017, LGBTQI+ employees were the most likely to face discrimination; 20% reported bullying or harassment and 24% reported public humiliation compared to 13% for non-LGBTQI+ employees. 64% of LGBTQI+ individuals also reported that this bullying and harassment motivated them to leave the tech industry altogether.
Tech employees (both current and prospective) who are members of minority groups should not have to wait for large uprisings to occur for their employers to value their unique abilities and talents. As individuals take more public stances in support of diversity and inclusion, diversity, inclusion, and anti-racism initiatives must be taken seriously in the long term by tech companies. As the world moves forward with ending institutionalized discrimination, these become crucial considerations for prospective employees, customers, and investors.
How Tech Is Celebrating Pride
At the beginning of this month, Fast Company published the first-ever list of LGBTQ women and nonbinary innovators in business and tech which is titled the “Queer 50.” Lists like these are important not only for the individuals highlighted, but because they inspire LGBTQI+ graduates entering the workforce. The Queer 50 list also puts the spotlight on women and non-binary individuals who are often pushed to the side.
At Apple and Nike, limited-edition merchandise is being used not only to promote equality, but to raise funds for LGBTQI+ organizations globally, representing more than 1,500 member organizations in more than 150 countries and regions. There has been much criticism about the practice of “rainbow-washing,” or making Pride-themed products without any direct action. With the financial contributions raised by their product lines, Apple and Nike manage to provide consumers with products that allow them to show their pride and actually support social change.
Glassdoor is celebrating Pride internally with a few virtual events like Virtual Pride Bingo, Golden Girls Trivia & Social Hour, and a watch party for The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson, a documentary about an important member of the Stonewall Riots. Glassdoor’s events bring a much-needed virtual space for relaxation and laughter. They also cultivate more serious spaces where non-LGBTQI+ employees can learn about the history of Pride and its ongoing importance.
myGwork, an online business community of LGBTQI+ professionals, graduates, and employers is hosting a week-long online conference in celebration of Pride month called WorkPride. Between June 22nd and 26th they will host virtual programs focused on inclusiveness, LGBTQI+ Employee Resource Groups & networks, important skill sets, career guidance for LGBTQI+ students and recent grads, and well-being and support. The conference is free for all attendees. It’s accessible to anyone who can benefit from the resources, in a time where many individuals are impacted by COVID-19 both financially and physically, and need access to affordable assistance.
During June, our Culture Committee at TrustRadius has planned a few activities in honor of Pride Month. Given that Slack is now our main method of communication, we introduced a plethora of new Pride-themed emojis and flags for employees to use throughout this month and beyond. We also introduced new Pride Zoom backgrounds and created a collaborative Spotify playlist for coworkers to add their favorite songs by LGBTQI+ artists. Throughout June, TrustRadius employees are also donating to Frontline Foods chapters around the country providing free meals to healthcare workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. This organization was nominated and chosen by our LGTBQI+ coworkers as our fundraising beneficiary during Pride month.
Resources for LGBTQI+ in Tech
We have compiled a list of online resources for LGBTQI+ workers in tech that may help with issues unique to their experiences, including COVID-19-specific information.
We hope these resources will help our LGBTQI+ peers in the tech industry better navigate their career trajectories. Whether you are breaking into the industry, working towards a promotion, or simply seeking peer-to-peer support, we support you.
Supporting LGBTQI+ in Our Community
We would like to thank all the participants in our poll for helping us shed light on a topic that is not talked about enough in the tech world. We appreciate the honesty and candor as it helps us build better frameworks of support for LGBTQI+ employees.
Over the past several years at TrustRadius, we have researched and addressed issues that affect our industry—from the experience of buying and using technology to the experience of working in tech as a woman, to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on tech workers. This post marks our public commitment to building a supportive environment for LGBTQI+ individuals in our company and across the broader community. We believe that for the tech industry to fulfill its promise of innovation, we must honor the humanity in all of us by recognizing and respecting our differences.
“When we operate from a place of power within, we feel comfortable challenging assumptions and long-held beliefs, pushing against the status quo, and asking if there aren’t other ways to achieve the highest common good.”—Brené Brown, Daring to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.
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