By Jeffrey Hendrickson, Phoenix Campus Director and executive sponsor of the University’s Allies of Pride Employee Resource Group.
The vibrant parades to celebrate America’s LGBTQ community during National Pride Month are being replaced this year with virtual events due to the global coronavirus pandemic. Rather than quiet our voices, however, the move to a virtual space has created an opportunity to have deeper conversations about diversity and inclusivity that could have a lasting impact on employees, employers and the wider community.
This introspective turn is especially timely, as this year’s Pride events are now happening with the backdrop of mass demonstrations across the nation calling out racism, discrimination and inequitable policies, actions and beliefs. It’s important to remember during this time of civil unrest that while we have come to know Pride for its colorful and festive events, its history also has roots in a community uprising—the Stonewall Riots.
Perhaps it is fitting that we take this moment as an opportunity to pause and reflect on how Pride, diversity and inclusion speaks to all of us.
“Unity through Diversity and Inclusion: It begins with all of us” was the topic of this year’s University of Phoenix virtual Pride summit, held in conjunction with the Arizona Diversity Council on June 11. It was an opportunity for the University and the business community to come together for one of these deeper conversations on the intersection between workplace policies and trends for the LGBTQ community and the larger themes of diversity, inclusion and equity that we are currently grappling with as a nation.
Today we are hearing from our community that there is a continued need for a deeper understanding, especially with issues around transgender or non-binary gender expression. We are hearing that there are hurdles that remain, issues that we haven’t been as supportive of as we should have been.
As leaders in business and organizations large and small, we can drive the education initiatives within our workplace. I encourage my counterparts to participate in this year’s virtual Pride events so we can spot injustice when it occurs and work proactively to encourage an inclusive culture that allows our employees to bring their whole selves to the table for the benefit of all of us.
It is clear that embracing diversity and inclusion empowers our organizations. We are stronger when we allow our employees from diverse communities to have the space to express who they are, to bring their whole selves to their jobs. The days of hiding your personal life for fear of facing bigotry and discrimination should be behind us, but they aren’t. There is still work to do.
At University of Phoenix, I am the executive sponsor for the Allies of Pride Employee Resource Group. These types of employee groups are helpful in allowing the space your employees need for discussion and dialogue around these important issues, so you can gain a deeper understanding of the LGBTQ community and provide the kind of company culture that attracts top talent.
"Rather than having an outward expression this year, we are able to pause, listen and learn. It is a different moment, not a lesser one. It is a chance to amplify the message behind the festivities and an opportunity to deepen what Pride is all about.”
— Jeffrey Hendrickson, Phoenix Campus Director and sponsor of Allies of Pride
When we embrace diversity and inclusion as leaders, we not only bring awareness, understanding and education about the LGBTQ community into our workplace, our employees then take these values back into their community. This has the effect of raising the tide for everybody simultaneously.
Having the dialogue about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the B2B space should happen all year long. But during this year’s more introspective Pride, these discussions can perhaps become even more effective than more outward celebrations of Pride in the past. Pride 2020 can potentially have a larger impact on the community as more businesses are holding virtual discussions, making it easy to take part in the dialogue in a meaningful way.
Perhaps when the pandemic has ended and the Pride festivals and parades resume, it will be with a greater appreciation and a deeper understanding of one another. Within our communities, businesses and organizations, next year’s Pride events will be filled with those around us who took advantage of this this time to participate in some of this year’s virtual summits and seminars. Hopefully we will all come out of this global pandemic and period of civil unrest having found a deeper appreciation of the diversity in our workplace and the value that diversity brings.
Pride may look a little different in 2020, but it certainly hasn’t been cancelled. Perhaps it has even been strengthened. Whether it is with a parade or panel discussion, Pride will always stand for solidarity, unity and the greater understanding of the LGBTQ community.
Rather than having an outward expression this year, we are able to pause, listen and learn. It is a different moment, not a lesser one. It is a chance to amplify the message behind the festivities and an opportunity to deepe