You can’t be inclusive without empowering marginalized voices and encouraging diversity of thought—but to even get that far, businesses must first create environments where marginalized people feel safe in voicing their experiences and concerns.
“Community is really important in any form—queer, black, brown—and it’s important to have a network of supportive, loving and friendly people who look out for you, especially at work,” says Rebecca Brooker, a Senior Editorial Designer at MediaMonks. That’s why she and a group of other LGBTQ-identifying Monks in the Buenos Aires office created a Slack channel that offers a safe space to chat, share advice and just be themselves. Because the channel is private, LGBTQ+ Monks in the office are free to have a frank and open dialogue without fear of repercussion, homophobia or transphobia.
Outside of MediaMonks, Brooker is also Co-Founder of the Queer Design Club, a community of designers and creatives whose “mission is to promote and celebrate all the amazing work that happens at the intersection of queer identity and design worldwide.” But it’s also shed important insight on the LGBTQ+ experience in the creative field through its 2019 Queer Design Count survey, which offers insight on LGBTQ+ designers’ experience in the creative field.
Community is really important in any form, and it’s important to have a network of supportive, loving and friendly people who look out for you.
Only 60% of gender-diverse participants felt their jobs were relatively stable, for example, compared to 70% of men and 60% of women. Overall, 9% of participants sought another job because their current one wasn’t queer-friendly. The numbers demonstrate the importance of inclusivity and of groups like the MMBA LGBTQ+ Group that strive to foster that sense of belonging.
Creating a Space for Connection
“The story of the group parallels with the story of MediaMonks Buenos Aires,” says Brooker, tracing its trajectory from a private social circle to a group that would push forward initiatives toward a more inclusive work environment. Before the group came to exist about two years ago, there were just a small handful of people in the office who were out.
While the office had a Ladies Group in which women could discuss their own experiences in the workplace, there was no dedicated space for LGBTQ+ employees. “One day there was a conversation among all the women in the office where we were talking about issues, and I mentioned how it’d be great to have a safe space just for LGBTQ+,” says Brooker. Making a private Slack channel was a simple way start building that environment. “I just made it and sent it to HR, who could let people know about it if they wanted to join.”
“A lot of people in our group lack that community outside of the workplace,” says Macarena Roca, Project Manager at MediaMonks and member of the channel. And that’s an important point, especially during the pandemic when people have become more reliant on their colleagues when it comes to day-to-day social connection.
If you can’t be your whole self at work, you can’t bring your whole self to work.
“A gut reaction from some is: why is a group like this acceptable for the workplace—why do you have to bring your sexuality into the workplace?” Brooker says. “But if you can’t be your whole self at work, you can’t bring your whole self to work.
A Growth in Membership and Influence
Initially a space to socialize more openly with a like-minded group, early conversations on the channel were fairly casual. “We just wanted to be in contact with one another–it started with silly things like RuPaul memes,” says Fernando Viñas, Events & Office Support Coordinator at MediaMonks and member of the channel. But as the group grew, so did its importance, hosting discussion on broad issues as members sought advice from others.
“You can find advice on anything LGBTQ+ in the group, whether it’s about someone exploring questions about their gender, polyamory and more,” says Viñas. “People can say, ‘Hey, I’m having thoughts on this.’ It’s like a therapy group in that way.” But it also became a space to examine microaggressions and other LGBTQ-specific difficulties experienced in the workplace, which inspired discussion on how to change and mitigate homophobic and transphobic behavior, whether intentional or not.
For example: the team once noticed that a new transgender hire was assigned an email address that reflected the legal name that they no longer go by, also known as a deadname by the LGBTQ+ community. When Brooker saw this, she intervened. “I flagged it to HR, who fixed it right away without making it an issue,” says Brooker. The group has since pushed for small yet impactful changes in the recruitment and hiring process that validate new hires’ identities as soon as they’re onboarded. Internal emails that announce new Monks, for example, include preferred pronouns, helping normalize nonbinary gender identities.
ERGs Deserve Support—But Shouldn’t Act Alone
While the MMBA LGBTQ+ Group has the full support of HR, they also have the autonomy to organize their own local initiatives and advocacy. Mentioning the group’s PROUD Talks—discussions and presentations focused on building awareness of LGBTQ+ concerns across the Buenos Aires team—Viñas says, “Something that’s important is that these initiatives didn’t come from HR or the company itself. We made them, and HR gave us the freedom and voice to do what we wanted.”
I’d like people to feel motivated to join or make their own groups in their offices or their own workplaces.
Brooker offers a word of caution for those looking to amplify impact and inclusivity: “There’s a fine line between a business showing support and asking marginalized people to do all the work.” The challenge of striking this balance became especially apparent across industries at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement this year, as some felt that corporate initiatives essentially dumped the burden on employees of color.
Still, raising your voice and organizing a safe space is a powerful move. “I’d like people to feel motivated to join or make their own groups in their offices or their own workplaces,” says Brooker, who’s watched the channel she opened grow from a private support group to a force that drives more inclusive practices on the local level.
Through this trajectory, the MMBA LGBTQ+ Group in BA serves as a good model on how employee resource groups can make an impact, both in everyday interactions in the workplace and on a policy level. “In the end, everything is about being respectful to other people,” says Viñas. “It’s about being eager to learn how to treat each other respectfully.”
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