“Hi. My name is Ross, and my pronouns are he/him/his.”
Now, why did I specify that? Everyone who knows me knows I identify as male and have likely not been misgendered recently (if ever). I offer up my pronouns upon introduction in solidarity and recognition of those who don’t identify as their perceived gender. Breaking news: Gender is a spectrum and the binary of male or female is outdated, incorrect and incredibly exclusive. Did that sentence overwhelm and confuse you? Well, buckle up because this is just the tip of the gender identity/sexuality spectrum iceberg. Welcome to my TED Talk.
When I first founded ALLiance (which is MediaMath’s LGBTQIA+ employee resource group) I intended for it to be a resource for those within the LGBTQIA+ community and their allies within the company which, over time, we hope and expect to be everyone. We kicked off in a big way with the 2018 Pride Party, which was incredibly fun and very well attended, but was just the beginning of what I saw ALLiance being able to offer to this company. Last week, our second major event took place, which was a panel I held in the kitchen. I welcomed back two former MediaMath employees, Tom Aulet and Nicole Scalamandre, as well as the Senior Software Engineer at Bravely, Cade Friedenbach. These three people spoke candidly, openly and personably to a small audience of MediaMath employees about their experiences being out in the workplace.
Topics discussed included the idea of gender-neutral bathrooms in an office, more inclusive language used both internally and with our clients and how to handle a co-worker coming out or transitioning. In short, it was about creating a workplace that is welcoming and inclusive of our community.
Questions from the audience included “What does the I and A stand for at the end of LGBTQIA+?” (intersex and allies or asexual) and “Why do people refer to themselves as they, them or their?” (to remove the gendered aspect of pronouns with which they do not identify). The panel obviously answered some pressing questions and allowed those present to hear directly from people within this community about how this aspect of their lives comes into play at work, but also started a conversation within the company—one that hopefully continues and grows from this event. These seemingly simple questions required an event to create a space for people to feel safe asking them. And answering them is part of creating an environment where we all learn from each other.
There are some actionable takeaways from the conversation that companies like ours can start implementing immediately to create an open, inclusive workplace. One is adding your pronouns in your email signatures. This is a small change that we can all make to remove any misgendering or confusion around people’s names and/or gender identities. Another is working on our communications, both internally and with clients, by removing the “he/she” from all our communications as a simple, yet effective, way to ensure no one feels excluded from any forms, emails, etc.
In 2019, I will work with our leadership team and our MediaMath family to continue this conversation within the company and beyond. We will welcome department heads and SLT leaders into the conversation to better spread the philosophy of inclusion and a welcoming way of thinking and operating. Beyond ALLiance in the workplace, we want to work with our talent teams to attract more LGBTQIA+ community members and their skills. We also plan to explore how we can leverage our trade associations to execute thought leadership around how the industry as a whole can do better in both the workplace and in the marketplace. MediaMath is at the beginning of a journey to inclusiveness, and the first step is being open to growth. Dare I call to mind one of our new values? Let’s Obsess Over Learning & Growth together, shall we?