This Pride Month, we celebrate the diverse identities and tremendous contributions of LGBTQIA2S++ people around the world and within our CyberArk community. But nurturing an inclusive, supportive workplace isn’t something that ends on June 30 — it must be woven into every experience and interaction all year round. Sharing their perspectives are Ani King, CyberArk enterprise support manager, premium; Brian Nienhouse, CyberArk Privilege Cloud team lead; and Sam Emmitt, CyberArk support engineer, premium.
These three CyberArk diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) champions have played instrumental roles in establishing our CYBR Pride employee resource group (ERG) and are helping to grow this global community of LGBTQIA2S++ and ally members. Our conversation centers on findings from a recent CYBR Pride survey that highlighted members’ specific areas of interest and collective learning opportunities.
Respondents indicated that having a dedicated LGBTQIA2S++ community network at work best supports “a safe space to share experiences” and “promotion of diversity.” As founding members of CYBR Pride, why is this initiative important to you?
“Visible support is critical at work,” says King. “An ERG signals to people that they can have expectations for support, instead of just wondering.” They emphasize the need for established practices that help ensure every individual feels safe and supported in the workplace. “Without official policy, visible support and budget for meaningful change, changes are likely to be cobbled together or led in silos by specific managers or teams — which means they aren’t guaranteed if someone moves to another department, location, or even from day to day,” King continues.
Adds Nienhouse, “When leadership is invested in an ERG like CYBR Pride, it sends a message to the company that we are truly valued and celebrated, increasing the sense of community and belonging — the top driver of employee engagement, according to industry research.”
Many survey respondents identifying as allies said they want to do more to show their support. What advice can you share about ways to show allyship in the office and in the community?
Here, King, Nienhouse and Emmitt offer several helpful suggestions, which are summarized below:
- Do some research. Our panel suggests visiting the Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, the Transgender Law Center and The Okra Project. And for additional reading, consider NPR’s list of books to celebrate Pride Month and this glossary of helpful acronyms.
- Use people’s pronouns. Using inclusive language consistently is a small thing that adds up to a big thing in support of our shared humanity.
- Share your own pronouns during meeting introductions and in your email signature to help normalize a culture of inclusive communication and respect for all.
- Make a visible statement. Place a decal or magnet on your laptop, office door or car to indicate your allyship.
- Help educate others. Educating others on why LGBTQIA2S++ people matter can be a lot to shoulder. When allies make it a point to help share that load by verbally and visibly supporting them and educating others, it helps.
- Be receptive to feedback. Consider and value the lived experiences of your LGBTQIA2S++ colleagues — accept feedback and ask for ways you can improve and show up as an ally.
- Support LGBTQIA2S++ businesses during Pride Month and throughout the year. If there is a local LGBTQ community center or support center nearby, please support it. Funding is always an issue for these organizations, and they may be the only lifeline available to people in your area.
- Don’t worry about messing up. Becoming a strong advocate for the community takes time. If you get a pronoun wrong, don’t sweat it, just correct yourself. Or, if someone corrects you, thank them and plan to do better next time.
Transgender awareness was a particular area of interest for our survey respondents. What are some ways colleagues can deepen their understanding and show their support?
“Make sure the person transitioning is being called by their preferred name,” says Emmitt. “Managers can help by communicating exactly when a team member’s new names or pronouns should be used to help eliminate confusion and mistakes.” Also look for opportunities to check in and be there for your co-worker, they continue. “There may be new activities they’ve been afraid to do alone, like shopping for new clothes. See if having someone there with them could help reduce that anxiety.”
Another way to demonstrate allyship is to initiate conversations about how you’ve unlearned negative thoughts or behaviors, notes Nienhouse. “Conversations that come from a place of genuine care tend to be most effective.” They offer this example: “Hey, I saw you were a little nervous around Sam after you learned he is trans. I had a hard time knowing what to do with that information too, but all that’s important is that you and Sam respect each other. You don’t have to know or understand everything about that part of his identity.”
Here, Nienhouse shares from personal experience. “I transitioned on the job at CyberArk and felt nothing but support and encouragement from my manager and team. Everyone responded positively and immediately switched up my pronouns. I was always treated with dignity and respect, and my experience as a transitioning employee made me feel seen and appreciated.”
Small day-to-day interactions also provide opportunities to reinforce support for LGBTQIA2S++ colleagues — and they go a long way, notes King.
“From my first interview to present, my boss has been consistent about using my pronouns in every conversation. Knowing that I’m supported without question makes a difference in how I feel about work in general,” says King.
Research shows that a company’s ability to compete for talent is directly linked to its DEI focus. For members of the LGBTQIA2S++ community seeking new job opportunities of any kind, what questions should they be asking of potential employers?
Our panel offers the following suggested questions to ask:
- Are you aware of any visibly out people in the company? And how does the company support them in their gender and identity presentation?
- How does your company plan to support transitioning individuals in the future, should that be a need?
- How do you visibly show support for your employees at a company level?
- Do you have an ERG in place, and if not, is one in progress?
- How do you visibly show support for people outside of the company, so that prospective employees are aware that it may be a safe place for them to work?
- Are employee benefits inclusive of LGBTQIA2S++ employees’ needs, and do they cover things such as gender confirmation procedures?
“Progress is often marked by big, visible events throughout history and celebrated during prominent events such as Pride Month. But it’s important to remember that behind every monumental moment, there are things we can all do by the minute, hour and day to drive meaningful change,” says King.
“And if you’re wondering if it’s too late to get involved, please know that it’s never too late,” encourages Emmitt.