Building Equal and Inclusive Work Environments for Underrepresented Communities
In the past few weeks, equality and inclusivity have been the trending topics on social media, with companies across the globe promoting diversity in their teams and expressing their support for underrepresented communities. Indeed, in light of the worldwide Black Lives Matter movement, plus June being Pride Month, social media platforms are saturated with graphics picturing people of colour as well as LGBT+ flags and symbols.
However, a lot of people have been questioning whether these statements are genuine and accurately reflect the work environment in these companies. Is it truly diverse? Does everyone in the team feel equal, included, and accepted? Is everyone given the same opportunities to seek promotion? Is there a wage gap? Do companies constantly support and celebrate their staff that are part of underrepresented communities, or are these social media posts just a way to stay relevant?
It is important for employers to answer these questions, identify problems within the workplace, and actively work towards solving them on a large scale. It is also the responsibility of employers and employees alike to ensure a safe, fair, and inclusive environment for everyone.
But where do we start? A lot of the points explored in this piece will be seen by many as obvious, but there are still areas where improvements could be made.
First and foremost, we have to educate ourselves on the day-to-day struggles of underrepresented communities. We need to learn to recognise problematic behaviour that makes these communities feel excluded in the workplace and beyond, so we can prevent that, creating an environment that is equal and inclusive to everyone.
We have chatted with one of Synthace’s software developers, Matt, who is also a member of the LGBT+ community, to learn what struggles and injustices the community faces, his personal experience of seeking a career in tech as an LGBT+ member, and how he feels about the work culture at Synthace.
The Problem of Exclusivity in the Modern Workplace
Certain behaviour often creates situations that make people from underrepresented communities feel excluded. Sometimes this behaviour can be in the form of direct and obvious discrimination that is easier to notice and call out. However, sometimes it may manifest as subtle microaggressions, such as “harmless” comments or jokes based on stereotypes and prejudice, assumptions of what someone should be like, or staying silent and compliant when someone else is being offensive just to avoid “controversial topics” and conflicts.
We asked Matt what comments are particularly common in the modern workplace and how they can make things difficult for LGBT+ people:
The main thing day-to-day is these default assumptions that people make. They would ask about having a girlfriend, which can be difficult. It seems like a small thing, but it makes it that much harder to backpedal and say: “Well, actually, I'm gay”. I think this is the reason why some people keep quiet in these situations, try not to rock the boat and just go ahead with those assumptions. It just seems like a really simple thing, but it can make a difference.”Matt Synthace Software Developer
Besides a default assumption that everyone around us is a heterosexual, we might also make additional assumptions about our colleagues after finding out they are part of the LGBT+ community. Matt elaborates: "I found there is a certain image of what LGBT+ people look like or how they behave or what they do. Assumptions and comments like “you are gay, therefore…” or “I would not have guessed” show that there is still this quite common underlying belief that gay people behave in a particular way, which is partly complicated by the way the gay community views itself as well. But regardless of their sexuality, people behave in completely different ways, and you get the complete range of humanity.”
Although such small, everyday comments and assumptions are not meant to be offensive, they can make LGBT+ team members feel like they do not have the full freedom to be themselves, unapologetically, and should stay careful when talking about their personal lives. Matt explains:
"People do cope with open hostility, which I luckily never had to deal with. But being part of the LGBT+ community is still an “accepted but let's not talk about it” sort of thing. I still get the impression that even if not particularly hidden, people don’t talk about that and about their home life, which can be hard.”
Unfortunately, these attitudes extend beyond the workplace:
“There are still people that don’t quite feel as comfortable as they could. I had a boyfriend who was in the hospital, in a shared ward. I would go to see him, and when it came to kissing, he worried about how other people would look on us and if they would feel funny about this. Obviously, you don’t have to worry about that if you’re in a straight relationship. There’s nothing said about kissing.”
Does Being a Member of the LGBT+ Affect Seeking a Career in Tech?
According to Matt, the tech industry is fairly inclusive and diverse, although some groups still lack representation:
“There’s probably less prejudice in tech industry than some other places. People are much savvier about these things. The male gay community is represented in tech, but one group that is under-represented is transsexuals. I know there are movements out there, such as community outreach, to help transsexuals and other underrepresented groups through training, providing resources, improving representation, which is generally positive. In addition, the under-representation of females in many areas, which remains a large problem, compounds discrimination based on sexuality.”
Matt explains that the support of influential people can mean a lot to underrepresented communities:
“I definitely think it’s very important when people are open about their sexuality. It does mean a lot to people when big tech pioneers come out as gay – I think that's very positive!”
What Is Synthace Doing to Support Its LGBT+ Team Members?
At Synthace, we are working hard to ensure a welcoming, equal, and inclusive environment for all team members, celebrating our differences and recognising that our diversity gives us strength.
Here is what Matt has to say about the work culture at Synthace:
“I've always found Synthace really welcoming. You are free to be yourself and there is never any need to hide things. People have been openly talking about their partners and we know we can’t make assumptions about others but rather get to know them for what they are. The range of our social events is also inclusive, from yoga sessions and games nights to karaoke and after work drinks, so everyone can find something suitable for them.
I also always have the confidence that if I ever have particular requirements related to sexuality, the HR team will be very supportive, open, and approachable. Our Talent team is really pro-inclusivity, pro-outreach, and aim to work with underrepresented communities. I think that actively doing that is a real positive side of the company.”
Any lastly from our CEO Tim:
Diversity is enriching. Please let’s not live monochrome lives. Breaking down systemic barriers to knowing and welcoming each other raises everybody’s well-being. It is simply a must in the workplace and beyond. At Synthace, we are committed to continuing to build and nurture our diverse and inclusive environment, ensuring our team members, customers, and partners feel welcomed and equal. We will continue to empower each other by celebrating and encouraging our differences.”Tim CEO
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