More Than a Parade: How to Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Inclusion All Year Long

Six companies share how they support and honor their LGBTQIA+ colleagues during Pride month and throughout the year.
Written by Brigid Hogan
June 1, 2022Updated: June 1, 2022

Riot. Parade. Party. Revolution. Pride has a kaleidoscope of identities that reflect the diverse LGBTQIA+ community it honors and celebrates. This June, we expect over a million attendees to return to celebrate the return of Chicago’s Pride Parade and festivals for the first time since 2019.

Here in Chicago, Pride is part of a vibrant history of LGBTQIA+ activism and resistance. In the early 20th century, an LGBTQIA+ community flourished alongside artists and political radicals in the area we now know as the Magnificent Mile. Decades later, about 200 activists gathered in the heart of this same neighborhood to begin the 1970 Gay Liberation March, considered Chicago’s first Pride. In 2021, the Human Rights Commission Municipal Equality Index rated Chicago 100, a perfect score, for the policies, services and laws that protect and support LGBTQIA+ Chicagoans.

Pride is a reminder that this progress has been and continues to be the work of activists building a more inclusive and equitable Chicago for their communities across the city, whether at home, at work or at play.

Built In Chicago spoke with six area companies about how their inclusion work honors the legacy of Pride while continuing to promote greater equity at work and within their communities.

 

Elliot Cobb
Product Owner, Customer Master Data

 

John Deere builds intelligent connected machines for industries including agriculture, construction, and forestry. Their Chicago office is home to a growing tech team.

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June?

Our Pride theme this year is “Pride Worldwide.” Our goal is to call attention to how we celebrate pride across the globe, focus on topics that intersect regions and spotlight the accomplishments we've made in our various locations, including advocacy for single-use restrooms in all our new locations.

Deere is sponsoring three conversations centered on LGBTQIA+ issues during Pride, which will cover topics including entrepreneurship and DEI, intersectionality highlighting Black and trans experiences and Iowa Safe Schools, an organization focused on LGBTQIA+ youth. Additionally, we will feature a Proud Parents Panel of parents and grandparents of LGBTQIA+ children who talk about their parenting journey. Finally, Deere is sponsoring Drag Queen Bingo, a virtual event facilitated by a local drag queen, who will share the history of drag and her own personal story.

 

What is Iowa Safe Schools?

John Deere supports Iowa Safe Schools as part of their ongoing LGBTQIA+ initiatives. Iowa Safe Schools reports serving over 4,500 youth annually, making them the largest LGBTQIA+-youth serving organization in the Midwest. Their work includes directly serving youth through efforts including Pride Camp, their GSA Network, the Governor’s Conference on LGBTQ Youth and the Queer Campus coalition as well as through education, advocacy, and outreach.

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Deere is working towards being more visible in the LGBTQIA+ community. We did a spread in the Des Moines city magazine around LGBTQIA+ and allyship and are participating in Des Moines Pride for the first time this year.

We are also in our fourth year sponsoring Out & Equal, an organization that advocates for equality and inclusion in the workplace, and we regularly attend conferences and meetups with organizations like Lesbians Who Tech.

Deere continues to work on our internal education about issues in our communities. We have a DEI training program for hiring managers called Men as Diversity Partners, and we also bring in outside training in topics such as unconscious bias. Our Employee Resource Groups (ERG) have been strong partners in helping to build allyship among our leaders by sharing their experiences and challenges both at work and in the community. Our Rainbow ERG has built a toolkit that helps other companies adopt our practices focused on conversation and connection around LGBTQIA+ issues.

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team?

Team members at John Deere are encouraged and invited to be their full authentic selves. John Deere is committed to a culture of belonging and supporting colleagues in bringing their full selves to work, whether that is an LGBTQIA+ identity or another aspect of visible or invisible diversity, including mental or physical health. The Rainbow ERG is one of the largest ERGs at Deere and has 1,700 global members, including allies.

Our advocacy for inclusive practices is evident throughout our practices at Deere. Our business code of conduct includes LGBTQIA+ inclusive language to highlight the values ingrained in the way we work every day. We also incorporated pronoun disclosure into our brand guidelines and encourage our employees to include their pronouns in their email signature lines. Employees have the right to self-identify at Deere, whether that is gender, sexual orientation or another aspect of their identity.

Deere also strives to have transparency around benefits for our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, and we work with a dedicated United Healthcare team that is well versed on benefits that support our transgender colleagues. We also are continuing to benchmark LGBTQIA+ inclusive benefits as Deere continues to grow.

 

 

Lucas Deloach
Director, Employment Counsel

 

Upwork is a Chicago-based work marketplace that connects companies with freelancers.

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June?

I always look forward to Pride Month at Upwork. Up&Out, led by our wonderful Upwork Belonging Communities (UBC) leads Mollee Marcus and Alex Morris, has planned a series of virtual events throughout June, and I'm excited about a few in particular. A "Queer Careers" panel will highlight LGBTQIA+ success in the workplace and provide a forum to discuss what it means to bring your whole self to work. There's also going to be a session to celebrate and build understanding of asexual spectrum identities. And we’ll have a trivia game to amplify the history of Pride, complete with a drag performance. Up&Out members will also get together at a number of in-person pride events around the US!

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Upwork has created a talent badge that empowers LGBTQIA+-owned businesses on our platform to leverage their external certifications and attract clients who value supplier diversity. This badge is an act of support for our freelancer community, which gets to our mission of creating economic opportunities so people have better lives.

Internally, the Up&Out UBC certainly does not go dormant before or after Pride Month. We are an active, engaged community of LGBTQIA+ folks and allies all year long!

Belonging is a feeling, inclusion is a practice and diversity is an outcome.”

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team? 

As a gay man, I am so grateful to be part of a legal team that creates space and safety for authenticity at work. It’s the result of working with some really incredible team members who lead by example in expressing their own truth and vulnerabilities but also of the broader culture at Upwork. As Dr. Erin Thomas, our head of diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIBS), will tell you, belonging is a feeling, inclusion is a practice and diversity is an outcome. Erin and her team foster opportunities to practice inclusion and feel belonging through programs like Upstanders that focus on inclusion skill-building and habit formation.

 

 

Dominick Duda
Sr. Research Analyst

 

G2 is a popular software marketplace, helping 60 million people every year make smarter software decisions based on authentic peer reviews.  

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June? 

G2’s LGBTQIA+ and Allies ERG celebrates Pride Month through a combination of weekly events, curated media, and educational resources. This year, our first Pride event will be a book club in collaboration with our Latinx and Allies ERG, discussing Hola Papi by LGBTQIA+ advice columnist, John Paul Brammer. The event will be an opportunity to dive deeper into intersectional voices within the LGBTQIA+ community. 

We are also planning a fireside chat with a notable drag artist in India to share their experience of being authentically queer in a culture that is not as readily accepting compared in other countries. About one-third of G2’s employees are located outside of the U.S., and we aim to be as inclusive as possible to avoid a purely American-centric view of LGBTQIA+ representation.

Our biggest Pride event of the year is our annual Drag Show, where G2 employees submit pre-recorded drag performances and compete for prizes. Hosted by Chicago drag artist Connor Konz, the event also includes paid performances of other local drag artists. Last year marked the inaugural G2 drag show, and the event has been repeatedly brought up by G2ers for its positive impact.

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

G2 Gives, G2’s philanthropic arm, partners with two organizations year-round that support the LGBTQIA+ community: Brave Space Alliance—a Black-led, trans-led LGBTQIA+ Center in Chicago—and OutRight Action International—an organization that uses research, advocacy, and movement resourcing to ensure human rights for LGBTQIA+ people everywhere. 

G2 matches employee contributions up to $50 per year for any organization they support. Recently, our LGBTQIA+ and Allies ERG hosted a holiday clothing drive to support The Night Ministry, a Chicago homeless shelter and services provider that works with a large LGBTQIA+ population. Beyond philanthropy, we organize fireside chats with LGBTQIA+ individuals, both internal and external, to share their stories. 

We want to continue to foster diversity and inclusivity by reaching this community and others. Our teams participate in recruiting events geared towards hiring people from underrepresented backgrounds. Most recently, G2 became a Qorporate member of Out In Tech to improve our company’s LGBTQIA+ employee representation and to identify mentoring and speaking opportunities that can benefit LGBTQIA+ techies who are seeking professional development.

We aim to be as inclusive as possible to avoid a purely American-centric view of LGBTQIA+ representation.”

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team?

One of our larger initiatives in recent years has been the Pronoun Project, to encourage more employees to display their pronouns in email signatures, in Slack, and on Zoom. Led by the G2 Brand team, we offered branded materials for employees to share their pronouns. 

Our main engagement approach to both support and empower our LGBTQIA+ employees is through year-round events and available media resources that help bring these members together to share stories and build a support network. We have also recognized important days of reflection such as Transgender Awareness Week, Bisexual Visibility Day and National Coming Out Day, with designated spaces for employees to share their experiences to their comfort level. 

Our LGBTQIA+ and Allies ERG is guided by the mission to support, celebrate, and advocate for G2’s LGBTQIA+ employees, and to help allies deepen their understanding of our community’s culture and challenges. This group seeks to empower all G2ers, regardless of orientation or gender identity, to be their authentic selves. Authenticity is one of G2’s core values that we live and celebrate together. 

 

 

Lauren Yoder
People Business Partner

 

Uplight Software provides technology solutions to energy companies around the world.

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June? 

Uplighters are very excited to be participating in the Denver Pride Parade this year, led by our incredible ERG PRISM (Pride, Raising Awareness, Involvement, Support, & Mentorship). We’re excited to invite Uplighters and their loved ones to march as #OneTeam and shine light on our LGBTQIA+ members and allies!

We’re hosting in person office gatherings with decorations, rainbow cupcakes, and snacks at our offices in Boulder, CO and Boston, MA. We’ll offer virtual Pride trivia for our remote team members to promote education, connection, and good fun! 

We’re also creating spaces where LGBTQIA+ members, allies, and the broader Uplight community can connect in other meaningful ways. One way is by hosting dedicated sessions with a focus on the intersection of marginalized gender experiences, imposter syndrome, psychological safety, and socializing actions we are committing to doing to improve our company culture. We are also creating a resource list where employees can find organizations to network with, volunteer at, and donate to organizations whose mission is to positively impact LGBTQIA+ persons, more specifically, supporting transgender youth.

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

At Uplight, we’re committed to fostering a diverse workforce of happier and healthier employees where inclusion, respect, and belonging are foundational to our mission in creating a sustainable future. Throughout the year we partner with our People team in developing a pragmatic DEI strategy, and host events to promote awareness and education for our leaders, managers, and all team members. We have various ERGs that offer a unique, employee-driven way to add incredible value to our company culture and employee engagement. 

PRISM promotes an inclusive community for lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer employees, and allies. We partner with fellow ERG team members on Organized Marginalized Genders (OMG), which offers support and community to employees who identify as a marginalized gender. We work closely with our PRISM executive sponsor, Chief Operating Officer Angela Tucci, who champions our mission by serving as an advocate, provides strategic advice to align our goals, and boosts outreach to build support for the activities we put together.

We’re committed to fostering a diverse workforce of happier and healthier employees.”

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team?

This year we are excited to connect our PRISM group with our Executive Leadership Team in a facilitated conversation to talk about lived experiences of the LGBTQIA+ team members at Uplight. The conversation created space to talk about important topics such as manager and colleague support of our experiences, ask questions and share how our leaders can be allies with our ERG mission and goals. Engaging with our executive leaders is an important way to build community and trust and advocate for changes in our systems and processes so that together we can enhance inclusion, equality, and belonging at Uplight. 

Additionally, our ERGs continue to create safe spaces for folks where they can find community and work together to maintain a focus on the LGBTQIA+ and gender-based work experience at Uplight. To promote psychological safety in our discussions, we kindly ask that cis men act as listeners as we ask tough questions while keeping our community’s best interest in mind. Uplight understands that diversity, inclusivity, equity and belongingness towards LGBTQIA+ folks require continuous learning from all of us.

 

 

Cade McCormick
Account Manager

 

Paro connects finance and accounting specialists with companies through a proprietary AI-powered platform.

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June? 

In June, Paro hosts an all-hands meeting dedicated to educating our employees on what Pride stands for and how “Pride” came to be. LGBTQIA+ history, workplace pride, anti-discrimination and how to be an ally are a few of the topics discussed. Paro also hosts an after-work team meetup for any and all employees to celebrate Pride with trivia, food and beverages and games. It brings the team together on such an important topic. Throughout the month, Paro's People Team actively engages the company with online resources, relevant workplace articles and personal testimonies are shared. We even have a dedicated “Pride” Slack channel for people to share comments, questions, experiences and challenges!

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Paro has celebrated Pride for many years. One of the first employees at Paro identifies as gay, and there’s always been a spotlight on the value of a diverse workplace during the month of June. But Paro empowers and recognizes all employees year-round, including and beyond the LGBTQAI+ community. Paro injects a strong sense of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in its hiring and promotion rounds and consistently encourages all employees to participate in and contribute to DEI initiatives year-round.

 

Why share pronouns?

“Our employees are encouraged to include pronouns in email signatures, which recognizes the identity of each person and demonstrates an outward respect for all genders,” Cade McCormick, an account manager at Paro, said. Built In’s own research shows that sharing pronouns is an easy and effective way to promote an inclusive community in the workplace. Proactively sharing pronouns, especially by cisgender employees, helps build an affirming and inclusive community for their transgender and nonbinary colleagues.

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team?

Paro empowers its employees in a number of ways. There’s a genuine and consistent focus on lifting LGBTQIA+ voices up in all conversations, not just those around Pride. Paro takes “pride” in having a diverse team and emphasizing their contributions to both our internal initiatives and directly to our clients. Employees that identify with the community are also given the opportunity to speak at our annual Pride all-hands meeting. It’s always engaging and informative!

 

 

Christopher Mahoney
Training & Development Manager

 

Fusion Risk Management provides cloud-based software for business risk management, IT disaster recovery and crisis management.

 

How is your company celebrating or recognizing Pride throughout the month of June? 

We have a month-long celebration planned for the month of June. Our engagement is around three pillars: growth, connection and community.

Our growth pillar is focused on providing education on LGBTQIA+ issues for our team. We will have opportunities to learn about the history of Pride and the Stonewall riot, the rainbow and other community flags and their meanings, local Pride events, the importance of pronoun disclosure and a session on terminology, stereotypes and inclusion for allies.

The goal of our connection pillar is building camaraderie across our team. We will have a quiz event, share movie and tv recommendations, host virtual fireside chats and in-person events in our main city hubs. Employees are also encouraged to attend Pride events in their city.

The community pillar encourages team members to go outside of our Fusion team to participate in their area, and Fusion is doing local outreach in our main city hubs.

 

Beyond the month of June, what are some examples of ways your company supports or advocates for the LGBTQIA+ community?

Fusion promotes continuous education and engages in LGBTQIA+ outreach throughout the year with monthly ERG meetings, highlighting LGBTQIA+ holidays and important dates to the community, in a dedicated Slack channel and in-person and virtual events with our LGBTQIA+ community and allies to share their stories.

We encourage our employees to bring their whole self to work and aim to support each individual on their specific journey.”

 

How does your company support and empower the LGBTQIA+ members of your team? 

We encourage our employees to bring their whole self to work and aim to support each individual on their specific journey. We support our LGBTQIA+ employees by having open minds, open conversations and providing a safe space for their journeys and needs throughout their career at Fusion. As part of supporting employees on their journeys, we encourage everyone to join at least one ERG at Fusion and highlight ERGs as part of the onboarding experience.

 

 

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