Our ANZ team joined our partner Joy94.9 to march in the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, the culmination of two weeks of celebration that kicked off with Fair Day. Outforce leader and Salesforce employee James Shoulder shares Mardi Gras highlights and why it’s important to be an ally for diversity and equality every day of the year.
Being your authentic self? Not always as easy as it sounds
It doesn’t seem that long ago that the thought of leading a group like Outforce and marching in the Mardi Gras parade seemed impossible to me. Today I’m an out, vocal, proud and a visible member of the LGBQTI+ community. But things were very different for me as a boy and a young man.
I went to an all-boys Christian school. I was a cadet, prefect and rugby and basketball player. I was well known and had lots of friends. In many ways, I fit the stereotype of the classic masculine hetero guy. I know now that stereotypes of that kind are rarely accurate or useful.
I knew I was gay but struggled with my sexuality for a long time, really bottling it up. I didn’t come out until I was 21. I have an older brother who also identifies as gay and came out a few years before I did, but in a way, that made me feel even more pressure to deny my sexuality. Luckily, I have a loving and supportive family. But looking back, I really wish I’d had someone like me – the way I am now – who I could have seen as an example, someone I could have gone to for advice.
Being your authentic, true self sounds simple. But for many people, it’s a struggle, like it was for me. The more we can embrace and normalise diversity, the more people will be able to live authentically and safely. Given the high proportion of LGBTQI+ youths who suffer from suicidal thoughts and mental illness, it’s never been more critical to show that you’re an ally and that they are supported in their communities, both personal and professional.
Salesforce pride and standing together for what matters
I’m proud to be part of a business which at its heart is about equality. When Salesforce takes such a visible and vivid role in the Mardi Gras Festival, standing with its Ohana, its customers and its partners, it says loud and proud “this is what matters to us.”
I really felt the force of that stance at Fair Day this year. You get to have completely barrier-free conversations with customers and partners and other community members. It’s not about sales or gathering data. It’s about standing together and being united about what matters: supporting equality and diversity.
Plus we got to get all dressed up in fabulous “roaring ‘20s” outfits. The theme was a fun nod to a time in history when sexuality that transgressed cultural norms and individuality and diversity was celebrated.
One of my favourite events across the festival is the rehearsals for the parade. Picture fifty Salesforce Ohana all strutting their stuff and learning the same moves together. Talk about a display of unity! The effort the team puts in is incredible.
And then there is the iconic Mardi Gras parade itself which, from an equality standpoint, is the most important night of the year. The atmosphere was completely electric. The city was buzzing. Walking down Oxford Street with all those millions of people watching and cheering was an incredibly proud moment. Being comfortable and accepted in your own skin? That’s a basic human right. And this year felt extra special because Salesforce had a customer viewing party for the first time – the Salesforce pride was strong and our community reach felt bigger than ever.
Our stunning Salesforce float, the result of so many hours of hard work, is for dancing on, but it also acts as a (very glittery) platform for social change and one from which we can joyfully champion equality for all. When we participate in Mardi Gras under the Salesforce banner, we aren’t just walking our talk on equality. We are dancing, singing, shaking, shimmying, twirling and grooving it.
A big shout out to JOY 94.9, Australia’s out, loud and proud radio station for joining us again this year. They are one of the many partners our local team members support with their volunteer time off and we love celebrating Mardi Gras with them.
Be an ally every day
We get bigger and better and more fabulous for Mardi Gras every year so you can expect something really spectacular in 2021. But in the meantime, it’s so important that the message of support is amplified across the course of the whole year, not just on that one weekend.
Be an ally every day. Not just on one day of the year. Even seemingly small gestures, like wearing a rainbow lanyard to work or putting a rainbow pride sticker on your laptop can be important ways to create a culture of acceptance and celebration.
A lot of organisations don’t have the staff numbers to warrant something on the level of our Outforce team. But most industries will have an associated group you can reach out to and get involved in. Rally your teammates. Seek out an executive sponsor who can help get your message heard. Find ways to walk – or dance – your talk about equality. A lot of people are still struggling. There’s so much we can do to help them. If you’re not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interested in leading change in your organisation? Or discussing how businesses can use their platforms to create a positive impact? At Salesforce World Tour last week, a panel of superstar leaders including Billie Jean King and Ronni Kahn discussed the new business of business – doing good. Watch this session on Salesforce Live.