June is full of Pride events and festivals celebrating the LGBTQ+ community, culminating in the famous Pride Parades held at the end of June in cities around the world.
Before we jump in and talk more about Pride, I wanted to share a little bit about myself. My name is Oliver Borovic, and I’m the Regional Account Manager for NetMotion’s business in Canada. Prior to joining NetMotion in 2019, I worked at Indeed.ca and Oracle, and have over seven years of sales experience, specializing in account management, sales strategy and customer success.
NetMotion’s Canadian sales team works incredibly hard to nurture customer relationships and forge partnerships with new and existing sales channels. On a personal level, I take pride in understanding the voice of my customers and continuously strive to add value and collaborate on new products and incentives, as well as engaging and educating channel reps on what makes NetMotion valuable in the Canadian market to drive sales.
For me, all of this work would be irrelevant if NetMotion didn’t have a culture that promoted diversity and inclusion (D&I).
The importance of Diversity & Inclusion
Having been heavily involved with D&I initiatives throughout my career, I believe that proactively supporting these efforts are an incredibly important part of creating a diverse and inclusive work culture. But they also come with their own set of challenges.
On the one hand, organizations benefit by having more diversity and representation, but it can be hard to attract diverse talent. In tech especially, there is a huge desire to attract a more diverse talent pool, but the question is, how do you communicate that to potential candidates, and where do you start? How do we ensure the collective conversation is inclusive so that everyone feels comfortable to apply for tech roles with the confidence that their diversity will be celebrated, and they will be entering a culture that practices true inclusion? It’s important to remember that diversity is just the first part of the conversation; diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance.
I can’t speak for the whole community, but one thing that I believe is universal for LGBTQ+ people in the workforce, is the ability to be authentic without fear of judgment. That means being able to bring your whole and authentic self to work. For me, being LGBTQ+ is just one small piece of who I am, and therefore doesn’t represent every aspect of my whole self. I believe this sentiment can be applied broadly as we all have something about us that makes us unique. I know that sometimes in the workplace people of diverse backgrounds tend to hold back certain elements of themselves, especially if they feel it might limit their career progression or if they will be seen as different.
Authenticity is key
Authenticity is very important, because if you don’t bring your whole self to the table, you risk missing out on teachable moments and your ability to fully connect with others. Sometimes, as an LGBTQ+ person, this can be a little bit uncomfortable at first, and you have to take a leap of faith, but the reality is we constantly need to ‘come out’ whether it’s in social settings, at work, or when meeting new people. This can be awkward, but it also presents an opportunity to break down a barrier and have that authentic connection. What can help, is if we can show new candidates that a supportive community already exists, with welcoming Allies.
I believe that at our core, everyone has something about them that makes them different, and once we embrace our differences, we can start to collaborate and learn, which only betters everyone around us.
“I’ve always been a believer in bringing my whole self to the table. As people, we are all so diverse, with such a vast range of experiences, backgrounds and learned behaviors. Once we take the leap and let down our walls, that is when true collaboration takes place.”Oliver Borovic, Regional Account Manager, NetMotion
Another point that I think is important to acknowledge is intersectionality. This is so intertwined with diversity. For instance, somebody may be LGBTQ+ and a visible minority. Or they may be a single parent, or have a disability (visible, or invisible). These people belong within multiple different, diverse groups and communities. It ties into the freedom to bring your whole self to work, speak your truth, and represent yourself. And that’s important because it leads to having open dialogue.
We also can’t forget the business component to all of this. It has been proven that organizations with a more diverse workforce that truly embrace diversity and inclusion have better business and financial results. There’s an old saying that ‘people like to buy from people they like’ – so ask yourself, does your employee’s base represent your customer base? If I was a potential client, would I see myself in my sales team? If I don’t see myself, will I feel understood? From a sales perspective it does help to relate to more than just one type of customer or one base.
A beautiful day in the neighborhood
I live in Toronto, which is already a very diverse city. Living here, I feel fortunate that being LGBTQ+ never put me at a disadvantage from a career perspective. Looking back, the only time that I remember feeling disadvantaged was before I took that leap to start bringing my whole self to work. It’s not because I ever pretended to be someone that I’m not. Rather, it’s that I didn’t share much about myself because I wasn’t sure how people would receive it. I was trying to protect myself, but really, I was afraid of being rejected by my peers. Once I decided to be more open about my life and share more of it in a professional and respectful way, it allowed me to connect with people on a more genuine level.
For example, if a customer or a colleague talked about their family and kids in passing, I felt more comfortable mentioning my partner and our dog, or something about where we live. Nobody needs to know intimate details about our lives, but showing some vulnerability gives the people around us permission to share more of themselves. I found this to be a real turning point that allowed me to be ‘me’ at work far more easily.
Having said that, it’s also important to acknowledge that I live in a country that’s very open, in a city that’s very open, and where there are a lot of tech companies. This is also a very diverse industry where diversity is encouraged and embraced.
For others, the experience may be completely different. Depending on the industries they work in or the countries they live in, LGBTQ+ people certainly face discrimination and marginalization. This can absolutely impact their lives and the growth of their careers.
I’m the first to admit that I’m at a huge advantage because of the fact that I’m a white male. My lived experience is going to be very different than somebody who a visible minority and also an LGBTQ+ person, or from someone living in a different country or a different socio-economic position.
The LGBTQ+ community has made incredible strides over the past few decades to be recognized, accepted and welcomed more broadly. But we should also acknowledge that there are still 69 countries in the world that have laws that criminalize being gay. If you’re in one of those countries, being aware of the landscape and the resources available may at least provide an opportunity to be informed.
For these reasons, it’s really hard to give concrete advice about how to navigate being LGBTQ+ in the workplace. It absolutely takes a lot of courage for anyone to stand out and be visible as a member of the LGBTQ+ community among peers, but it can be incredibly beneficial. Having open conversations with people is really important. It’s also important to work with HR, because it’s HR’s job to understand employees’ rights and to implement them if this is a concern.
Ultimately, what’s interesting about the LGBTQ+ community is that being LGBTQ+ isn’t necessarily visible. It’s not an easily identifiable race. It’s not a gender. It’s not an age. At the end of the day, it’s such a small (but important) piece of who we are. When you start really peeling away at it, being LGBTQ+ and part of a diverse group applies to such a broad spectrum of issues and intersectionality that when you try to understand the issues the community faces, you really start understanding diversity and inclusion on a whole new level.
Pride events this year are still taking place around the world, even though a lot are virtual again in 2021 due to Covid-19, so I would definitely encourage anyone to participate in some way. Personally, I’ve had the pleasure of joining in the Toronto Pride parade five times in the past, and helped as an organizer at the event three times. It’s a time of year when people celebrate love. What I really like about Pride parades is that they celebrate love for anyone. The focus is on LGBTQ+ people, sure, but it also has a larger goal of supporting the truth that love is love. It’s for allies. It’s for interracial couples. It’s for families and good friends. At the end of the day Pride is a time to celebrate diversity and be non-judgmental. It’s also really good fun!
For countries that perhaps aren’t as open, Pride’s inclusivity gives LGBTQ+ people a voice in their communities. It gives them exposure and a platform, allowing everyone else to see and experience things that they maybe haven’t seen before. These events have a constructive, long-lasting ripple effect, reminding people that inclusion is a positive thing that helps get rid of preconceptions.
Any day that we can break down barriers and destigmatize marginalized groups is a good day.
There are so many resources available to find out more about in-person and virtual Pride events happening in cities around the world, such as New York, Toronto and Seattle. Another great resource for organizations is Out and Equal, which strives to help businesses build an environment of equality and belonging for every employee.