On August 15, 2019, technology company Tableau hosted an event called Tableau Presents: Diversity & Inclusion in Technology in Austin, Texas. The event featured a film made by local Austin documentary filmmaker Oddett Garza-Weatherspoon that explores the real-life experiences of local Austinites in tech who have faced adversity in their careers based on their gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Afterward, there was a panel discussion comprised of powerhouse leaders who identify as people of color, LGBTQ+, and women, including our very own CEO, Suzi Sosa. The panel discussed the issues addressed in the film and how the leaders themselves have tackled challenges surrounding diversity and inclusion in their own careers.
Here are 5 key takeaways from the event:
Being an “Only”
The panelists discussed the difficulties that arise with being an “only” in the workplace- the only woman, the only queer person, the only person of color, etc. They shared how being an “only” can be isolating, making it hard to thrive in the workplace, and opened up about unique experiences of being an “only”, the challenges that it causes, and how they overcome those challenges.
There is difficulty being your authentic self as an “Only”
The panelists discussed the importance of being able to bring your whole, authentic self to work, and how being an “only” makes it more difficult to feel comfortable doing so. Being comfortable being yourself and being authentic in the workplace, however, are crucial to success. Suzi said, “The more I embraced my authentic self, the more successful I was.” Meerah Rajavel, Chief Information Officer at Forcepoint concurred, adding “You can’t be a leader without being authentic.”
You can’t always see someone’s “Only”
Many factors that can make people an “only” are visible, such as skin color, but there are some factors that aren’t as obvious. The panelists discussed the reality that sometimes you can’t immediately tell when someone is an “only” in the room, even though that person is likely acutely aware of their differences. Taylor McKaslin, Senior Product Manager at New Knowledge, discussed his struggles with identifying as queer and trying to convey that in the workplace, while also trying to find and connect with other queer people. He shared that he has started employee resource groups (ERGs) in the various companies he’s worked at to help people find other “onlys” to connect with.
Building your personal board of directors as a support system
“Talking about diversity is good business now. It’s easier to talk about these things now. It wasn’t always like that. But we’re far from done,” said Kirk Law, VP of Product Development at Tableau. Truly incorporating diversity and inclusion into the workplace requires you to build your own support system who is also dedicated to doing so. It requires buy-in from all members of the organization, but especially those at the top. As Taylor stated, “You get enough people together, and you all lock arms, and you win.”
Tips for being an ally
The panelists shared their opinions on what makes a good ally. Rebecca Tonginsoon, Founder and CEO at Deedlet, said, “Listen, ask questions, and find out someone’s biggest challenges. Everyone wants a friend.” Taylor emphasized that there are small things we can all do to let others know we’re an ally, such as including your pronouns in your email signature. And Suzi added that taking big steps to be an ally is also important, saying, “Do big things like open your network up to people. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s one of the most valuable things you can do to impact someone’s career.”
At Verb, we’re dedicated to fostering diversity in our workplaces, our communities, and beyond. Learn more about how Verb can help you make diversity and inclusion part of the fabric of your company culture, and schedule a demo today.