By Michael Russo and Emma Anderson Beavers
No matter where you are on any given day — whether it’s the gym, a family holiday gathering, or the workplace — every human wants and deserves a sense of belonging. At the same time, as humans, we all come in all different shapes and sizes. This means finding that sense of belonging, especially in the workplace where equity has been historically absent, can be harder for some folks than others.
Chronosphere recognizes this very real human challenge, which is why our goal from day one has been to create a DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging)-focused workplace where nobody feels less than (or more than!) anyone else. We’ve found a great way to work toward that goal is by bringing people together in a place where they can share experiences and create human connections — when we understand another person’s life point of view, we gain empathy, respect, and, ideally, an equitable work environment.
A LGBTQIA+ ERG is born!
In the spirit of experience-sharing, and in honor of Pride Month, in early June we created a Chronosphere ERG (Employee Resource Group) in support of our LGBTQIA+ employee community. Over the course of the month of June, the (fondly nicknamed) Chrono-Pride ERG held a series of interactive events, shared historical facts, and more. As it turned out, this ERG was also timed with the disturbing Supreme Court ruling that was handed down, limiting long-held LGBTQ protections. On the positive side, it provided a timely forum to gather and discuss the impact of this historical reversal in human rights.
Starting your own Pride ERG? Here are 3 key takeaways
As we mentioned, our Pride ERG kickoff was very active. There was a documentary to watch: Stonewall Forever – A Documentary about the Past, Present and Future of Pride. There was complimentary Pride-themed Chronosphere swag to order. There was a Slack hashtag to follow.
If your company is interested in standing up its own Pride ERG, here are three getting-started ideas all packaged up for you to take and run with it. The more Pride ERGs in this world, the better!
1. Get the conversation started, share experiences, tap into empathy
The most important thing to do, and a great place to start, is to plan a venue where people can both speak and listen from the heart. Every person in the Chrono-Pride ERG has had different experiences that have shaped who they are and how they forge ahead in life. Their experience may be formed by an era. Or a family member who wasn’t open or understanding. Or maybe just a later, or earlier, age when they understand everything about themselves. In our case we shared all of this panel-style, with six people on Zoom (remember we are a 100% remote company, so meetings are virtual). Maybe your style will be a round table where topics are floated and people raise their hands to chime in. Or a company-wide live Slack chat. Whatever the format, the key is to get the conversation started.
It generated a wide range of experiences, which reinforced the diversity within the ERG. Here is some of what was shared:
Question: What was your first Pride?
“At my first Pride I was lucky enough to march in the New York Pride Parade. I had come out to my Mom that year and she reached out to a friend who was marching with her community center that focused on LGBTQIA+ support. It felt like a massive celebration of self and love with more joyous people than I’ve seen since.”
— Emma Anderson Beavers, TA Ops Manager at Chronosphere
“I felt more like an observer. I was unsure of how or where I would fit into the crowd or the celebration because I had not fully come to terms with my own sexuality at this point in my life, and I didn’t know if I really belonged there, but I came to realize by the end of the event that none of this mattered — at the end of the day, it was all about being part of a movement in support for the safety and rights of the LGBTQIA+ community and celebrating the pride and love everyone has for living and being their true and authentic selves.”
— Michael Russo, Executive Business Partner at Chronosphere
Question: In the context of the work environment, what does Pride mean to you?
“Once upon a time work was a place where members of the community were not safe; it’s still a struggle for some members.”
— Parker Trewin, Head of Corp Communications
“In my career growth, I’d always started at new companies instinctually feeling uncertain of how open and honest I could be about myself when sharing personal aspects of my life or interacting with colleagues, and worried how others might react, but being at a company like Chronosphere that offers the kind of support and benefits we offer for LGBTQIA+ individuals, and with such a heavy focus on DEIB, this innately helped me feel more comfortable with being myself at work, knowing that this company has my back.”
— Michael Russo
Question: What does it mean to be an ally?
“A crucial part of being an ally is continuously standing up for friends and family in social situations. Oftentimes, the burden of explanation and education falls on the LGBTQIA+ person. Taking the time to sit down and have hard conversations will emphasize your support of the community and push the needle forward within your own circles.”
— Kiran Girish, Engineer at Chronosphere
2. Go a step beyond rainbow washing
For our first Pride month, we really wanted to drive the energy across our employees. One thing is certain – our company loves emojis. Especially special emojis. And, being a remote-first company, people also love to change up their Zoom backgrounds to freshen things up. And we’re a supportive lot, so we also love to change up Linkedin backgrounds to put support of our ERGs on blast beyond the company walls.
Knowing all of this, we created Zoom and LinkedIn backgrounds that employees could use to show their support, and we also created a whole new array of emojis. It really made for a fun and rainbow-filled, Happy Pride month.
We also created spotlight emails on the lesser-known pivotal figures in LGBTQIA+ history, including the first openly gay official elected for office, the person who organized the march on Washington, and the lesbian drag king who threw the first punch at Stonewall.
We also decided it was important to drum up support for important philanthropic organizations. In our case, we partnered with Percent Pledge to share their portfolio of causes that support the LGBTQIA+ community. During each communication and during each event folks were encouraged to donate.
Supporting our LGBTQIA+ employee community isn’t a once-a-year thing and neither should yours. We’re already looking at future initiatives for Chrono-Pride to happen in the eleven months in between Pride Months.
3. Pride is an everyone thing
Probably the most important takeaway is to do everything in your power to get as many people as possible from your company engaged — even if it’s just one thing: use a Pride emoji, watch a 90-minute documentary, listen in on a panel discussion where folks are sharing experiences. Creating these human connections actually goes far beyond a specific ERG’s focus: We’re all better humans — and employees — when we understand and respect where everyone else is coming from. Don’t just take it from us, there are studies that show, “When you put a variety of individuals together in the same room, you’ll get different perspectives and opinions that can benefit your business. This will allow your business to grow in a number of ways.”
As Parker put it in a Pride LinkedIn post: “Pride is about celebrating yourself and the wonderful uniqueness in each of us. This day, this month, this year. This life.” You can read the whole post here. It’s a pretty great read.
We are already looking forward to and thinking about Pride Month 2024 and the many ways we’ll inspire Chronosphere team members to support, listen, and share. If this post is helpful to you and your efforts in starting a Pride ERG, please give us a share and tag us on LinkedIn. Or better yet, give us a shout back. Feedback will only make us better.