Every June, Pride is celebrated worldwide to honor LGBTQ+ members. Celebrating LGBTQ+ employees for Pride Month is a momentous and exciting occasion to see how individuals, departments, and organizations can best show their support and continue to champion diversity in today’s workforce. A time for people to listen, learn and be better allies for those who identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community.
As part of our Pride celebration this month, we are celebrating our amazing LGBTQ+ employees, and are honored to share the story of Rebecca Waroway, Chief of Staff at headversity, who was our OG employee back in the summer of 2019. We chatted with Rebecca to not only celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, but asked her help on better educating us and our readers on how employers can be more inclusive. Read on to learn more about Rebecca as she shares her thoughts on Pride Month and allyship at work.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Sure! I live in Calgary, Alberta with my girlfriend of five years, along with our cat and dog. Outside of work, I like most of the typical Albertan outdoorsy activities — hiking, snowboarding, and beer league sports just to name a few. I’m also trying to learn some guitar and wood carving skills.
I started with headversity just as we were preparing to launch our mental health solution to market. Since we started with such a small team, I covered a broad range of tasks. Now that we’re 50+ employees and are experiencing significant growth, I have been able to narrow my focus. As Chief of Staff, I am the principal support to our VP of Growth and CEO. I work cross-functionally with all departments to improve process and planning, support our organization’s strategy, and manage our objectives.
Q: Let’s get right into it. What do you expect from an ally?
From an ally, I’d like them to have my back when I’m not around. It may seem difficult initially, but it doesn’t have to be! It can be uncomfortable, but ideally, allies would call people out on inappropriate comments or jokes. Something as simple as asking “what do you mean?” or “what?” is enough to make people re-think what they’ve said.
Q: What does discrimination in the workforce look like to you?
For me, discrimination is typically subtle in the office setting. There are some examples I can think of in work settings. Such as:
- When a colleague refers to your spouse as your “friend.”
- Treating homosexuality as a conversation starter “Oh, I love gay people” or “My uncle is gay!”
- Comments that support stereotypes like “You don’t look gay.”
- Any sentence that follows the structure “I support the LGBTQ+, BUT…”. Nothing good comes after the ‘but.’
Q: What does inclusion at work mean and look like from your perspective?
- Inclusive language can really help. At headversity, people use gender-neutral terms like “partner” to talk about their significant other. We’ve never asked employees to do this, but it seems to have become the norm. I don’t always feel like coming out to everyone I meet, so the normalization of gender-neutral terms gives me the option not to.
- Avoid assuming the gender of your colleague’s partner. I get asked about my “boyfriend” a lot, which can be awkward to correct.
- Learn my partner’s name and ask me about her. Who doesn’t like talking about their significant other? When people ask questions about my girlfriend, it lets me know they’re comfortable with who I am.
Q: What would you like to see more organizations do to support the LGBTQ+ community?
Provide inclusive benefits that cover things such as adoption assistance and fertility treatments, equal policies for same-sex spouses, and medically necessary health services for transgender people. Policies like this not only benefit the LGBTQ+ community, but often help heterosexual couples facing fertility issues.
Q: What is one common misconception that you’d like others to know?
That members of the LGBTQ+ community no longer face prejudice. There appears to be an idea that being ‘out’ is simple for millennials and Gen Z demographics – it isn’t.
Some may think of this and even reply, “Who cares?.” While this sentiment may be well-intentioned, it is dismissive of the serious issues that LGBTQ+ people experience. Many people still go through life without the support of their family or friends. All members of the LGBTQ+ community have faced discrimination at some point in their lives. We can see it happen at home, at work, and in public places.
Q: What’s something you think people can do, especially during Pride Month, to gain awareness about important issues impacting the global LGBTQ+ community?
I’d like to see more people amplify LGBTQ+ voices and share their stories. Statistics can play an influential role in amplifying voices. In Canada, for example, hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation hatred accounted for 10% of all police-reported hate crimes in 2020. According to a global statistic, 71 countries criminalize LGBTQ+ people. In addition, life imprisonment is enforced in eight of those countries, while the death penalty exists in eleven others.
Sharing facts and stories might provide insights that many people are unaware of. It’s a fantastic approach to evoke further thoughts and continue the topic of Pride and allyship in our personal lives, at work, and anywhere else where others are eager to listen.
At the end of the day, celebrating LGBTQ+ employees for Pride Month, keeping the conversation going, and demonstrating diversity and inclusion are simple and powerful ways to demonstrate support and be true allies.