Every year, the LGBTQ+ community comes together, rallying people from all walks of life, to join in and celebrate each other’s unique differences with warm embrace. Pride began as a way to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, and has evolved into a joyful parade that millions all over the world look forward to attending every June.
Pride creates the space for individuals to unapologetically be their true selves. People can love who they want, look how they want, and carry themselves in ways that feel most natural without fear of judgment.
Unfortunately today, the privilege to enjoy this level of freedom doesn’t exist for all people, no matter how evolved we think we are. And workplaces still have a long way to go in order to create this kind of inclusive employee experience.
For 15Five, supporting the values and ideals of Pride is a no-brainer. For the same reasons we honor Women’s History month and Black History month, Pride has propelled a movement centered around equality and inclusion of everyone.
This celebration of Pride is not limited to one type of person or group. The beauty of this month is to shed light on our differences, and wear them with a badge of honor, because no one should compromise who they are or how they appear for the comfort of others.
The topic of diversity and inclusion has not fallen on deaf ears at our company. We understand how important it is to have representation from all communities at our table. The runway for growth is what keeps our People Operations and leadership teams working tirelessly to reach the right objectives.
Priority number one is ensuring the safety of our employees, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. By creating a safe space for people to be who they are, we can set the precedent of inclusion.
While many countries in the world have come a long way since 1969, there is still progress to be made. The Humans Rights Campaign, or HRC, conducted research on LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace and found that today, almost half of the community is still closeted. This issue is indicative of the larger global workforce not feeling safe enough in their work environments to be their authentic selves.
Pride is more than just a celebratory union of the LGBTQ+ community. This organization advocates and provides a deep sense of psychological safety for everyone to be themselves, no matter their race, age, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Psychological safety allows people to take emotional risks that can lead to moments of expansion and personal development. Without the ability to ask questions, give feedback, share stories, or debate opinions, how else can we gain knowledge from new perspectives and mature?
By exercising emotional risk taking and creating safe environments, employees, managers, and leaders can begin establishing a deeper sense of belonging in the workplace. This can be the difference between celebrating one another’s differences, or hiding them.
“At 15Five we are intentional about building a culture that celebrates the unique stories and experiences that make us individuals. By creating processes and rituals (like Question Friday) that encourage us to share our stories, empathy and understanding are the natural by-products.
Once achieved, it’s hard not to fall in love, celebrate each other, and thrive together. Not only will you do this as a team of professionals sharing a common purpose, but as a community of humans who are seen and recognized for their innate value regardless of title or performance.” – Shane Metcalf, Chief Culture Officer at 15Five.
We advocate for employees to bring their full—and best—selves to work. When a company hires a person, they aren’t just hiring a set of skills, they are hiring a human being. This comes with strengths, weaknesses, personal challenges and past traumas, and more importantly–an identity. A person’s identity can fall into many different categories, and a diverse culture should represent this.
Keeping intimate parts of yourself buried at work can be debilitating. Your life encompasses all the moments you experience, and a large portion of that time is spent in a professional setting.
If we treat our lives at work as a separate entity, we will find ourselves going through the motions and leading a double-life. This can take a huge toll on a person’s quality of life and overall happiness.
For many minorities, and especially the LGBTQ+ community, this is something they know all too well. Many companies don’t take the time to understand the value in diversity and inclusion, and will only attempt to meet the bare minimum requirements.
Some organizations will create programs simply to comply with equal rights laws, and some will follow the lead of others to maintain a certain image. There are even companies that will listen and deliver on the feedback of their employees, but without full support and buy-in from their leadership team. These reactionary, inauthentic approaches won’t generate successful outcomes.
While it can be easy for some to turn a blind eye to these issues and remain stuck in a state of privilege, employees of the world are demanding more from their companies.
15Five is thrilled to release our new Pride logo, which will be used during the whole month of June, and every June to come. While this “trend” has been in vogue for quite some time, this is not something we take lightly. Brands that use the symbol of pride without understanding its full sentiment have empty intentions.
Our leaders and employees alike have propelled this initiative forward, not with a business purpose in mind, but because we feel compelled to showcase our support as a company and as a community.
The 15Five Pride logo is our way of saying “thank you” to those before us who have created camaraderie and safety for every unique identity, especially during a time when there was no true security. We stand in solidarity with everyone who chooses empathy over judgment, love over hate, and pride over shame.
Our employees are the heart, soul, and lifeblood of our company. They are so much more than their job description, and we seek every opportunity to ensure they feel seen, heard, valued, and appreciated.
Several of our employees volunteered to share their personal perspective on what Pride means to them, and how 15Five celebrates their unique identity.
“The day same sex marriage laws were passed in Australia, I was working for a company that published articles that essentially pathologized people that came out LGBTQIA+. I wasn’t allowed to celebrate for fear of upsetting others who didn’t agree with my ‘lifestyle.’
Pride is a celebration of how far we have come as a world-wide community, and a commitment to how much more work we need to do. Pride is a beautiful space where I feel free to be my whole self.
At 15Five, we actively choose to build this amazing culture, to be purposeful when it comes to psychological safety. I am not made to feel ashamed or to feel that I have to hide parts of who I am in order to fit in and be seen, or counted as valuable. I can be my best-self, my Queerest self, and I am celebrated for it.”
“The culture at 15Five is unique in that there is a general curiosity and intention about getting to know each team member, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender, race, or beliefs. At past organizations, I have felt a need to do things to fit in, where at 15Five, I no longer have to work to do that because on our team, everyone belongs. This allows me more time to make the work I’m doing important, and creates a sense of safety and celebration of who I am. I can bring my full self into each situation, decision, and action, and my growth towards becoming my best self is top of mind.”
“Initially going into tech sales, I was afraid of facing prejudice and discrimination for being both gay and a racial minority. Two things that don’t historically equal success. I wake up grateful that I get to go into work and be myself, my whole self, without fear of judgement. I wear my pride on my sleeves every single day, and I have never felt happier.”
“It is so refreshing to work at a company that takes diversity seriously and doesn’t treat it as a box to check. So many people feel under represented, myself included as a black woman. This can be especially draining in the workplace, and at other companies I’ve felt isolated and out of place. It feels amazing to not have to sacrifice who I truly am for the comfort of others.”
“I really appreciate that 15Five is a place where I can be my authentic self at work. I’ve worked at places before where I couldn’t be open about my sexuality without fear of being judged. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re putting on a mask in the morning and taking it off when you leave work. I’ve never felt that I’ve had to hide the fact that I’m bisexual at 15Five.
When 15Five was still a small 50 person company, I remember telling Shane that I was queer in a 1-on-1 meeting. I was nervous given he’s a cofounder, but I was greeted with nothing but acceptance and love from him. I still appreciate this so much, and I don’t take that moment for granted, because people are persecuted and judged by their sexual preferences every single day – especially in an office environment.
To me, Pride is a celebration of authenticity. I’m so grateful to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I’ve never met such beautiful, creative, accepting, talented people. It’s cool to be different, kids. Be who you are, love others, and love yourself. It’s that simple. Happy Pride from 15Five!”
“I walked in my first Pride Parade when I was three years old. Personally, I have many people in my life that identify as queer in some way or another. Their stories are complex, heartbreaking, and inspiring. As someone that fits into the societal norm, it’s my duty to be an ally and advocate for those who are marginalized.
As a company, 15Five is on a mission to help people become their best selves at work, and I see the Pride movement being interwoven with our support of every ‘best-self’ out there.”
There are numerous ways a company can be purposeful in their inclusion. But the first step is to practice empathy. Some are naturally more attuned to this, but for many of us, this takes practice and accountability.
Often times, judgment and empathy are closely related, but one takes the time and care to understand a person’s story and recognize their hardships, where the other stop short. These hardships are not to be viewed as a weakness. In fact, there is abundant strength in those who have experienced something painful, and used that very pain to evolve and grow.
Empathy in action is how perspectives are shifted. Maintaining a fixed mindset can hinder progress tremendously, and for those unwilling to experience the “uncomfortable” conversations, you may miss out on transcendent moments of growth.
Heidi Collins is VP of People Opps at 15Five, continuous performance management software that includes weekly check-ins, objectives (OKR) tracking, peer recognition, 1-on-1s, and 360°reviews. Heidi is drawn to human-centric workplaces, and brings 20 years of experience spanning over two countries.
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