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Empowering Your LGBTQ+ Employees All Year Round

Empowering Your LGBTQ+ Employees All Year Round

In conversation with some colleagues across Salesforce about why and how companies should do their part for the queer community.

Although we’ve come a long way as a society in terms of equality, Pride is still very much a protest, and there is still a lot of work left to do when it comes to visibility, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace.

There’s an onus on companies like Salesforce to make sure they are doing their part for the LGBTQ+ community all year round, not just during June. As an LGBTQ+ employee, I decided to catch up with some colleagues across the company to talk to them about why it’s important companies do their part for the queer community, and how exactly they can do that.

Marc Elfeghi, Account Executive

Why visibility is so important is a question I have been asked a thousand times by friends and colleagues, yet always not sure how to express my answer correctly. Perhaps, because of all the children growing up ashamed, afraid and vulnerable to bullies and predators.

Or perhaps, it’s because of all the people that consider anything queer to be not “normal”. But definitely, it’s because of all the trans community members who are suffering to have any kind of opportunity, respect, or acceptance in life. The list is long for why visibility is so important. The goal here is to respect each other and celebrate our differences, but we are not there yet. So we need to continue being visible, we need to continue asking our leaders to take a stance, our employers to show support, and our friends to show love. We are all deserving of respect and love. By continuing to be visible, we make sure tomorrow will be brighter and more accepting.

Ian Walker Senior Director, Talent Experience

I was raised in a small village in the South of England where ‘difference’ was regarded with suspicion. We were vaguely aware of uncles who were not spoken of, and who were excluded from family weddings and funerals. Over time, it became clear that the reason for their exclusion was their sexuality.

As a white, middle-class, middle-aged heterosexual couple, married with two sons, living in a quiet and leafy conservative suburb, it is important for my wife and I to expose our boys to greater diversity than that with which we were brought up.

In the summer of 2019, our family headed into London, clad in turquoise Salesforce t-shirts, emblazoned with rainbow clouds. Our destination was the Pride march in the centre of town. We duly took up our post at the ‘finishing banner’ on Whitehall. It was a fabulous party atmosphere, with a wonderful panoply of dancing, singing, and friendly exchanges. Our boys loved the experience. We all loved the vibrancy, the engagement, and the happiness of the whole event.

All forms of discrimination are abhorrent. The only lasting solution to eradicate discrimination is education. Education takes many forms, and Pride is a wonderfully energising and refreshing medium. After a 2 year hiatus, it’s great to be able to participate again.

Joe Treacy, Account Executive

Visibility is important because there are still days when I am afraid to be who I am. That little bit ‘too camp’ or ‘too flamboyant’ might lead someone to roll their eyes, snigger in the corner, or even worse, become violent. I know this might seem extreme, but when you’ve grown up experiencing this prejudice, you do begin to change yourself just to fit in – which can be exhausting. I can say though, that at Salesforce I really am able to be myself every day.

Empowering its employees to bring their most authentic selves to work is something Salesforce does incredibly well to ensure equality in the workplace. I think it is on companies like Salesforce, who are global market leaders in tech, to leverage their political muscle by lobbying governments in the areas they operate in so that equality is the norm for not just Salesforce employees, but for everyone

Robert Reid, Solution Architect – Marketing Cloud

As a cisgender gay male, I’ve seen how many areas have changed for the better for the LGBTQ+ community, but there is still a long way to go. The diversity, equality, and inclusion efforts from organisations can sometimes overlook the transgender experience, focusing only on sexual orientation and neglecting gender identity and expression.

I am proud to work for Salesforce who already include trans representation in diversity and equality training, have an inclusive recruitment policy, and who try to instil an inclusive culture by allowing employees the option to use their preferred name and provide their pronouns. These, plus providing comprehensive LGBTQ+ healthcare support, only adds to the steps that Salesforce is prepared to take to advocate the importance of visibility and accountability. These are measures that I think all companies should ensure to provide, to truly create an inclusive environment for all employees.

Helmie Säll Fuglerud, Associate, Success Graduate

Seven years ago Ireland voted ‘Yes’ to Marriage Equality and although this was a big win, there is still so much more to be done in this country and at a global level. A global tech giant like Salesforce showing their support towards the LGBTQ+ community has so much more influence than one might think.

It shows that they as a company not only accept everyone for who they are and who they love, but help set a standard for what should be expected from companies in terms of equality initiatives and activism.

In taking an active part in the movement for equality for all, they are being visible for the employees and communities they represent, while also encouraging others to do the same. By being visible in the pride parade, Salesforce can show that they accept, welcome, and are a part of the change the world needs.

Mark Conlan, Senior Experience Architect

As the saying goes, ‘we as queer people get to choose our family’. We get to choose who we spend time with, who supports us, and who nourishes us. We rarely have those choices in our jobs, but working for Salesforce I know I have support and community from allies and champions of LGBTQ+ people throughout the company.

Others aren’t so lucky. I have friends who even today feel unable to be their true selves at work because of pressure (actual or perceived) to hide this fundamental part of who they are. This is why being supportive and visible in this support is so important. When governments around the world are trying to remove the basic human rights of LGBTQ+ people, denying our existence, and pushing people back in the closet, companies like Salesforce show their support by standing up for employees and communities and setting a standard of inclusion.

James Walker, Alliances – Partner Account Administrator

Working at Salesforce, I feel proud to be a member of Outforce UK (our LGBTQ+ employee network) and I am empowered to be my true self at work. In my role, I have seen that more companies are realising that having an inclusive DEI strategy should be a top priority, especially when it comes to attracting new talent.

A Gallup poll from February 2022 states that 20.8% of Gen-Z adults in the US now identify as LGBT, a statistic which has doubled since 2017. A recent Deloitte study states that 77% of Gen-Z respondents say working with companies that share their values is important.

The promotion of a safe and inclusive workplace, and being visible in doing so, is key for any business that wishes to attract younger top talent. When it comes to putting this into practice, there are several steps that a company can take. The first (and biggest) should be education – whether it be inclusive new hire training or a resource covering LGBTQ+ terminology, this can be huge for LGBTQ+ employees.

In terms of what the individual can do, for the past year, I have had my pronouns in my email signature and since then have been thanked by multiple customers for making them feel safe to be their true selves while on calls with me -helping me build a working relationship with them. Small actions, a large impact.

Laura Benson Senior Manager, Account Development

Imagine coming to work every day with an invisible backpack full of bricks weighing you down. You hope no one notices there’s something “odd” about you. You avoid getting too personal and you’re paranoid about slipping up. Most of all, you’re exhausted by it all.

Having started my career in Dubai, where it was punishable by imprisonment to be gay, I looked forward to the relief of getting home from work and putting that heavy backpack down. At home, I could stop channelling into hiding. I wasn’t functioning at my highest potential and the organisation was missing out on fully tapping into my unique talents.

It is no surprise to me that research has shown that companies who have a highly inclusive culture have 2.3 times more cash flow per employee. Fostering an inclusive work environment to encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work allows them to thrive to their highest potential. The first time I came out, I was encouraged by the fact that my function’s VP was LGBTQ+ with a successful career. LGBTQ+ visibility, especially at senior leadership level, ensures marginalised employees feel like they belong and that their individual characteristics and identities are not a hindrance to their success.

Oliver Anders Eriksson, Business Development Representative

Pride means a lot of things to me. It’s a time where I can celebrate the fact that I can love another man without feeling ashamed or punished for it. I can show the world that it doesn’t make me less of a man. But what it all boils down to is the ability to love yourself and let yourself love whomever you want to love.

We all spend a lot of hours at our workplace and so we need to work in an environment where we feel comfortable with who we are, without feeling the need to hide it from our colleagues. This is why employers like Salesforce need to do their part in the fight against discrimination.

We can do wonders by just switching an ordinary question from “Do you have a girlfriend?” to “Do you have a partner?”. Or if someone is being very quiet when these sorts of things are being discussed, ask how they are doing and let them know that they are welcomed to discuss their feelings openly if they wish. This alone can improve the wellbeing of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Inclusion is everything. I stand up for who I am and who I love and I’m so grateful for being able to do that both in my personal life and at my workplace.

Salesforce’s commitment to equality, check out our website, and for open job vacancies, have a look at our Careers Site.

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