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Some reflections on Pride Month as we close it out and face uncertainty with resolve. And of course, with pride.
It’s Friday, June 24th, and Roe v Wade has just been overturned. I normally write for the GetThru blog as an employee of GetThru. Today I’m writing as a queer woman living in the Southeast United States. For better or worse, I do not normally see much of a difference in those two identities—work and self—and that’s part of what this original post was going to be about. And in a way, I think it still is. The original idea behind the post, and the interview you’ll read below, was about the ways in which we work to make GetThru a place where everyone shows up each day as their authentic selves. In these exigent times, that idea feels more important than ever. Today, I have fewer rights when I woke up than when I last went to bed. And who I love means I very well may lose more. So that’s the identity that is emerging today over my identity as the Senior Marketing Manager for GetThru. And still, I want to write about how working for GetThru means that 100% of who I am is seen, respected, celebrated, held with care, and protected by my colleagues. It is something I have come to take for granted honestly, though it was not always the case for me.
GetThru is the first place I have ever worked where I have been fully out as queer and for those keeping track at home, I’m not particularly young anymore. It is the first place where I have been part of a group (the Equity, Representation, and Culture Committee, or ERCC for short) that successfully advocates and builds a culture of anti-racism and anti-bias. We operate independently of our respective departments and adopted the “leader-full” approach that many of us learned in our own personal experience in grassroots organizations. Everyone in the ERCC is a leader, and anyone can join the ERCC (except management).
Very often, we find ourselves in partnership with our People Ops team, and the Leadership team. This happens when we are consulted by these bodies about how potential internal initiatives or policies could impact employees, and we approach this through a lens of intersectionality. We consult on anti-racism training, we create content that informs, inspires, and mobilizes, and we craft policy proposals to fully realize our vision of a workplace that lives up to our progressive mission, vision, and values.
Enter Nathan Olson.
Nathan is our Head of People Ops, and someone I have come to work more closely with as a function of my position as Co-Chair of the ERCC. Please enjoy the below interview I did with Nathan a little while back. While we’re unsure how much more we’ll face as a community and as an organization, I am able to face whatever comes next with an unrelenting sense of resolve, comfort, and especially pride because of him.
I’ve always been passionate about building inclusive teams and organizations as well as coaching and developing others. I’m always wondering, what makes people tick? Why are some orgs more successful than others? Early in my career, before I even became a manager, I taught myself about the different management tools and philosophies out there. I was fortunate to have the support of my manager at the time who also helped me carve out professional development resources for it. Every day I learn something new, but there’s just so much potential to unlock in people and that’s exciting.
And I started my career as a political organizer – you’ve probably been to as many county fairs, senate district conventions, campaign rallies, and phonebanks as I have. From local to national campaigns, doing that kind of work provided such rewarding and humbling experiences. At a later point in my career, I was the ED of a fellowship program where we brought together engineers, human-centered designers, and PMs to tackle complex problems to improve the citizen user experience with our government. Wow, talk about unlocking potential.
So fast forward to finding GetThru: it just really provided this interesting intersection of experiences and interests—people, politics, and technology–for me.
Our goal around the experience of BIPOC employees is particularly energizing for two reasons: firstly, it signals a commitment to understanding and improving those experiences; secondly, it’s just not a common goal that I’ve seen. Now I might have some recency bias because I have been digging into our Engagement Survey data, which is how we measure it. The data does illustrate areas for growth, but a lot of companies, however, will only highlight something like their eNPS score when talking about engagement. While that’s a helpful metric, we are holding ourselves accountable to our values with this specific DEIB goal.
I’m also proud of the fact that we’ve actually defined what diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging mean to us, for us, at GetThru. That might not necessarily be outside of the status quo, but we’ve invested time in articulating what those words mean. It’s refreshing to see us say that we want to be a company where people can bring their authentic selves to work, then to actually measure it and see if we are living up to our DEIB principles, and identify where we can improve.
It pushes us to be better. As a progressive organization, we already have a higher bar and we should be aspiring to that. Having a group like the ERCC also fosters a culture of accountability. Leaders should always be accountable to their people, but this creates that additional layer or emphasis on it. And I think it helps amplify the voices of those heard less often, which absolutely impacts culture and decisions we make.
Some organizations may have concerns about giving that level of autonomy or power to employees, but we’ve demonstrated that it doesn’t do any harm; in fact, it helps reduce harm. I haven’t seen this structure in previous roles. I would say the closest equivalent is an ERG, an employee resource group. Unfortunately, ERGs often lack the resources, support, or autonomy to drive or influence change in the same way. We’ve talked about what ERGs might look like at GetThru, and combined with the intentional structure of the ERCC, that could be one potential way to take our culture to the next level of inclusion and belonging.
Well, we’re actually talking about DEIB now and not just as buzzwords or because it seems like the right thing to do, but rather because there’s more realization of the value of DEIB. When I started, there was more tokenism and data collection for the sake of data collection or reporting. Now we’re looking at that and saying, what does it mean? What does it lead us to do?
The language in our conversations and in education has also been changing. It’s not just about equality, but equity, and justice. It’s not just microaggressions (or really it was “sensitivity training” before), but also micronsults and microinvalidations. We are talking about how to help employees from underrepresented groups not just survive but thrive. We’ve also seen the evolution of HR and People Ops and the creation of DEIB-specific roles or responsibilities, which speaks of further investment and prioritization of this work. The movement is pushing us from centering the company to centering employees to centering our most marginalized employees.
We’re not quite there yet, of course. We need to think about centering those experiences and perspectives. Reflecting on an experience in my early days, I was staffing an event one time, and it was in a very red area. The other people staffing the event with me identified as Brown, queer, and/or women. I think it became kind of a joke at the time, but there’s nothing funny about the trauma that people experience in the workplace.
I want to give credit to some of the larger organizations or movements like Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood, Stop AAPI Hate, and Time’s Up that have been trying to move the needle and hold organizations and entire industries accountable. The pace of change has certainly increased; the arc is bending, but we still need it to bend faster. In the summer of 2020, we saw so many commitments to racial justice and DEIB from so many companies (private and public, tech and non-tech). Unfortunately, we haven’t necessarily seen the follow-through or results of those commitments.
And it’s certainly not easy, but that’s why we have to do the hard work. At GetThru, we know where we might be falling short so all of us in the progressive movement need to stay curious about our blind spots. Progressive organizations should be reflecting on the makeup of their organizations and management, how equitable their leave policies are, how fair their wages are, how inclusive their hiring practices are, and should be continuously aiming to do better. Representation really matters.
Pride will ALWAYS be a big deal. I want to do all the fun stuff while covered in glitter. I wrestled with coming out in my teens and actually didn’t come out to my family until several years after I had come out to friends. Even then, I didn’t fully embrace who I was until a later stage of adult life. It’s been a journey of learning to love myself, and that’s part of why I love celebrating during this month. Pride is so many things to so many people – it’s also about community, acceptance, and the fight for our rights.
I’m proud to be out at GetThru and bring that part of myself to work. I’m grateful to do that through this blog post, which is a great way of highlighting Pride. And as I mentioned earlier, I think we can always do more (also because it’s just fun). Many companies are appropriately criticized for being performative during Pride Month. And I say, let’s give our logo some bright colors, let’s change our Zoom backgrounds, let’s do the Pride-themed trivia to learn about the trans women who started the Stonewall Riots, let’s do all the things intentionally because we really do want to celebrate and uplift the community.
I know. It’s a sobering reminder of all the work that needs to happen and is happening. I’d like to shout out one of our clients, the San Diego LGBT Community Center. It’s really important that we have these community-based organizations that uniquely understand the needs of the populations they serve; they are providing critical services and programs to even more marginalized groups within the queer community: low-income, immigrant, and HIV communities.
While I’m here, I’d also like to mention two other orgs: The Trevor Project and Stonewall Sports. The Trevor Project is providing incredible resources and support to LGBTQIA+ youth. In some ways, I think it has gotten better since I was a kid; and in others, it’s really scary and dangerous to be an out young person, especially in certain parts of this country. Stonewall Sports is another community-based org that brings people together and helps people find themselves through organized sports; it’s actually how I found community so it’s really special to me.
Tisci, duh. (That was a Legendary joke). But really, I do want to give some 10’s to the House of Tisci, the House of Lanvin, and the House of Miyake-Mugler (I can’t pick one, sorry). Also, I literally just finished Season 3 so there’s probably another favorite there but I won’t spoil it. All of these houses are so amazingly talented, and the show is so powerful because it is uplifting these stories of queer and trans people. That is something to celebrate during Pride.
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