To celebrate and spread awareness for the end of Pride Month in June, our latest episode of The Best Run Podcast focused on building a more inclusive work environment for the LGBTQI+ community.
I was joined by Evan Mantis, Executive General Manager of Consumer, Finance and Service Industries for SAP ANZ; Lizzie Creed, People Manager for NTT DATA Business Solutions; and Kylie Preisig-Toro, Head of Enablement for Supplier Services at SAP ANZ.
Evan noted that SAP offers staff a variety of programs around diversity and inclusion, such as the Businesswoman’s Network, Autism at Work, and Pride@SAP. “Often what we found through our research is that our employees that identify as LGBTQI+ often come out at work before they do at home. It’s absolutely critical that the workspace allows our employees to be their authentic selves.
“One thing that’s very clear over the last few years in the Great Place to Work survey that SAP has been a part of, is that employees that identify as LGBTQI+ have a higher than average engagement score than other SAP employees, which has been fantastic. It’s really helped us improve our position each year in Great Place to Work; up to third [best] in 2020.”
Celebrating and Educating in the Workplace
According to Lizzie, NTT DATA has numerous diversity inclusion pillars, which includes LGBTQI+. “During pride month last year, we ran an event kick off, we did trivia, we had a keynote speaker. We also did an education campaign linked to our values, so that was pushed out through all of pride month. We sent gifts to our people throughout the month to remind them that this is what we’re focused on. At the end of the month, we came together and celebrated ‘what makes me me’ – an event that shares and celebrates what makes us all unique.
“We have dedicated diversity and inclusion roles in the business to focus on this strategically and drive that strategy. For this year, we’ve come together globally to do a global kick off, we introduced our exec sponsorship, which goes all the way up to the board in Japan as well as our lobal global leadership. We’ve done some basic learning, tried to take away some of the fear of what actually LGBTQI+ is, reinforced the need to listen, reflect, and understand our gaps in focus.
“We’ve launched a grassroots community with dual purpose – we’ve looked at supporting people individually in a private forum as well as having a purpose that directs education and awareness to a broad group of people, so people can learn along with us. We’re at a time with NTT DATA globally to move beyond just Pride Month and focus on this strategically for our future.”
Kylie said this year marks the 20th anniversary of Pride@SAP, which has provided employees with information, resources, and regular events. “We had things like World AIDS Day, we had drag bingo last year, which was hosted by a local Sydney drag queen. We also had campfire chats, which is where employees can ask questions that they’ve always wanted to know the answers to, but perhaps haven’t had the right setting or the right opportunity to ask.
“We’ve had lots of D&I training, which has been amazing to get people in a room together (pre covid), sit down and have discussions about what’s happening. And even more subtle things, like the signature pronoun banners. That’s amazing – just to be able to put that on your signature so people are aware of your pronouns before they go into conversations with you.”
“Pride@SAP extends to most of our regions and market units,” Evan added. “Unfortunately, and this shows that there’s still a lot more work to do, there are still so many countries including countries where SAP has market units, where people don’t enjoy the freedoms that we do in ANZ.. Plenty for us to do and focus on.
“We had our Wear it Purple event last year which, due to COVID, was a virtual event. But the great thing about it, and probably the only good thing about not being in person, was that we ended up inviting a lot of our employees from those countries where they’re not allowed to celebrate in the same way that we do here. Although it was a virtual event, we were able to extend it beyond our borders, which I think helped the feeling of inclusion and enabled us to spread the message more effectively.”
The Pressures and Nuances of Coming Out
Kylie explained that whether someone chooses to come out publicly or privately at work, the decision can weigh on them. “If you choose not to come out, there’s the added pressure to act straight, which is even more exhausting. Trying to be something that you’re not around other people is hard work.
“Then we need to think about how we would interact with our customers. When customers ask me how my husband is, do I answer them, do I just go along with it, or do I correct them? What’s the correct move to make in that situation? It really depends on what your further relationship is going to be with that person.
“What’s really great about getting in a company where this is out in the open is that SAP accepts and understands the LGBTIQ+ community. It means that you don’t have to choose not to [come out].”
Building a More Accepting Work Environment
Lizzie said the key is focusing on policy and really understanding what language the organisation uses. “For example, removing gendered language, perhaps including transitioning under a sick policy, and just being aware that your policies can give different messages to different people, and making them more inclusive. Also, look at your benefits – the LBGTQI+ community might benefit more from the option of having some coaching support rather than a gym membership, and allowing that choice and option and freedom can be something to think about.
“I think one of the most important things, especially when you’re starting out on this journey as an organisation to be more inclusive is to actually understand your people and what is being felt across your business, and perhaps use some datapoints to uncover the problem before identifying how you’re going to make a solution, and actually involve people in that solution.”
To hear more about how businesses can improve its diversity and inclusion by providing a supportive network for the LGBTQI+ community, listen to the complete episode of The Best Run Podcast.