inclusivity at work

The month of June was officially dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, as part of growing international momentum to foster acceptance and equality. As pink celebrations continue to gain momentum amongst more companies, we are seeing a shift in the level of openness and acceptance towards people of various backgrounds from the LGBTQ+ community.

Companies are now taking a stand for equality and are making it known by raising their rainbow flags, changing their LinkedIn logos and organising events and virtual parties to celebrate employees in the LGBTQ+ community.

It is encouraging to see companies, especially in typically traditional sectors such as tech, take steps towards fighting against discrimination. However, these efforts should not cease just because June is over. 

True acceptance goes beyond raising rainbow flags for the sake of it and celebrating diverse backgrounds during certain time periods. True acceptance requires a change in mindset, action, policies and work environment all year round.

As a company that passionately believes in inclusivity, we at Thoughtworks want to continue cultivating true acceptance amongst its employees to create a safe space for all technologists to work and thrive in. It is only when employees are able to bring their full, authentic selves to work that they are at their best in the workplace.

Edward Hutchins, our Lead Consultant paints the picture of a safe space as a workplace where he does not have to worry about or hide his identity.

Also read: Pride Month and intersectionality: Why I hope that we will no longer need a special event to celebrate it

He shares that the mental state of worrying about juggling multiple identities can be stressful, causing anxiety, disengagement and ultimately preventing employees from bringing their best, most innovative and productive selves at work. 

The first step is setting the right foundation for an inclusive culture. One way is by rethinking the hierarchy structure. We value a flat hierarchy culture and prioritise people over processes, enabling them to operate with a greater degree of managerial independence and autonomy to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities.

More importantly, we look to provide a supportive infrastructure with room for growth and learning that allows employees to accomplish the task at hand while encouraging them to experiment new initiatives and take risks without fear. For us and many other tech organisations, cultivating this spirit of learning and development is key to encouraging innovation and empowering people in their own growth journeys. 

We apply this idea of sharing without fear to what we call the ‘feedback culture’, which is evident in various initiatives. For instance, we introduce the feeling of a safe environment to all new hires by providing the training to them in the first week to share their thoughts fearlessly.

For those who are more used to traditional workplace culture, sharing openly and being transparent may feel foreign to them in the earlier stages. Our training aims to help them unlearn certain behaviours and better understand and adjust to working in a safe and supportive environment.

On a monthly basis, we also hold town hall meetings to encourage transparency across all business functions and levels to collect feedback and varying opinions from others. These open channels of communication make it easy for employees on the ground to share feedback with management teams. 

Also Read: This gay founder is creating a safe media platform for LGBTQ community in SEA

At the management level, embracing true acceptance can look like re-envisioning policies, programmes and initiatives to drive actionable change.

As the head of talent, I feel especially responsible for recognising and catering to the unique needs of employees from various backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender, race and age.

Thanks to our feedback culture, workers are empowered to share the type of change they want to see and suggestions on what can be done to make that change.

At our recent panel discussion for Pride in Tech, we discussed the importance of having community programmes and global initiatives to provide a safe space for queer people to connect and feel seen, heard and understood, anti-discrimination policies and code of conduct to protect all employees and leadership training focused on empowering marginalised groups. 

While establishing policies and developing initiatives may take longer periods of time, it is the small steps we take everyday that will lead to effective change and transformation. Today, we practice the inclusion of pronouns in email signatures, share the stories of LGBTQ+ affirming personalities on our blog and drive LGBTQ+ engagement programmes all year round. 

Ultimately, true acceptance is more than just a checkbox to be ticked during annual Pride celebrations. Our commitment to building a more inclusive future must be underlined by action at every level, internally and externally, because it is the right thing to do. The heart of the matter is that inclusion is everybody’s job and companies must not only talk about these issues but walk the talk.

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Image credit: rfranca

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