At Envato, we pride ourselves on our inclusive culture and welcoming environment. One of the ways we’re embracing diversity is through [email protected] – a staff-lead group dedicated to advocating for for LGBTIQA+ employees and creating a safe and inclusive workplace.
We chatted to former [email protected] Chair, Dana Scheider, to find out how Envato is aiming to empower the LGBTQIA+ community, and how everyone can contribute to creating a more welcoming and inclusive workplace.
I joined [email protected] because I was new to Melbourne and wanted to get to know the people around me better. I had always been interested in issues of structural oppression, including racism, sexism and others, and was keenly aware of the struggles many groups continue to face trying to gain equality in the workplace. So when I saw that it was a thing, I went to one of the meetings.
From there I got more involved and eventually became chair. Although I am bisexual, I’ve usually dated men and therefore have not felt like a member of the LGBTQIA+ community and consider myself more of an ally. But I’m starting to understand that that’s its own issue too. There’s always more to learn about these issues.
In the time I’ve been with [email protected], we’ve generated a lot of awareness of and enthusiasm for acceptance and inclusion of sexuality and gender diverse coworkers. It’s really great to see how receptive the Envato community is to the needs of others. In addition to that, we’ve laid the groundwork for some changes to our company policies and processes that in the coming year will make Envato a much more welcoming place for those with diverse genders and sexualities.
Real allyship means showing up for the struggle and not just the parade. The LGBTQIA+ struggle is not all rainbow flags and glitter. Sexuality and gender diverse people continue to be targeted for violence by individuals, organisations and even governments in many parts of the world.
Many forms of discrimination are still legal in many places, including in Australia and elsewhere in the developed world. Sexuality and gender diverse youth lack role models in popular media. And our human rights are a subject of ongoing debate the world over. Allies take action on these issues and engage in substantive work – including the work of finding out the best way to help – so that LGBTQIA+ people don’t have to do all of it ourselves.
Envato has done a good job of making its stance on inclusion clear, in particular where it concerns transgender and non-binary individuals, who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and abuse in the workplace and elsewhere. Unfortunately, this stance is still controversial for many people, which makes it that much more important to be vocal about it. But we’re more than just window dressing too. We also host gatherings and meetups where sexuality and gender diverse community members, as well as allies, can meet, connect, and talk about the issues facing our community. Additionally, we aim to provide opportunities for more intensive education on LGBTQIA+ inclusion to Envato employees, especially managers.
One of the most important things you can do is to do your own research on LGBTQIA+ issues and how to be supportive. I don’t mean to be flippant–this is something that hasn’t occurred to a lot of privileged people.
There’s a lot of information out there (check your sources though!) about the issues that face the LGBTQIA+ community. If you find yourself having questions about either the issues themselves or on how to be an effective ally – questions like “what does nonbinary mean?” or “what should I call X group?” – these are all things you can and should research, not just ask the sexuality and gender-diverse people around you. Keep in mind that educating allies is work for us that can be difficult, draining and often discouraging. Of course, it’s important to hear about LGBTQIA+ people’s experiences from them, but it’s important to be aware of what the impact can be and to respond respectfully and be receptive if someone tells you something you don’t want to hear.
Once you’ve got a good foundation of knowledge, the next step is to be willing to have difficult conversations with those around you, to help them understand the things you’ve learnt. Call out LGBTQIA-phobic jokes, comments and attitudes in the people you work or socialise with. Stop people from bullying or harassing sexuality and gender diverse people, including standing between them and their target if necessary.
To me it’s self-evident that everyone should have equal access to a workspace where they feel safe and comfortable being who they are in all respects. This is not only the right thing to do from a moral perspective. Having a more inclusive workplace makes it easier for people to focus on their work rather than on proving themselves, avoiding harassment or advocating for their own needs. It’s important to emphasise that the humanistic reasons for providing an inclusive workplace are the more important ones, but inclusion also makes sense from a business perspective since it enables more people to work more effectively.
Someone once pointed out to me that, when people see others around them being authentically who they are, that they feel empowered to do the same. Our goal is to really make it clear that that’s something Envato values and will support.
One thing that’s plagued people with diverse sexualities and romantic orientations for decades is that society views our relationships as inherently sexualised. This is even more the case for gender diverse people. For instance, there’s a widespread misconception that trans and gender diverse people are living out a sexual fantasy rather than the reality that they are living authentically as the people they are.
All of this means that, for LGBTQIA+ people, bringing up the most innocuous details of their daily lives – things like their daily routines, the fact that they have a spouse or even their names – can be a minefield. Too many people still believe that diverse relationships and identities are somehow lewd or inappropriate for work.
[email protected] aims to make it very clear through both our words and actions that we do not see it that way at Envato, and that we will (kindly) hold those around us accountable for making our community as welcoming as it can be for everyone.
Voice support for sexuality and gender diverse people, but don’t leave it at that. I recommend a two-pronged approach, combining educational and cultural initiatives with changes to the organisation’s policies and processes to support diversity.
Envato has a really positive community with a lot of support for all the different people who move through our world. That said, our organisation’s informal approach to policy means that a lot of expectations have remained implicit and informal. We need to codify certain things in our policy so there is no ambiguity around them.
We must make clear that people can wear whatever they want to work–and that that includes gender non-conforming clothing, hairstyles and accessories. Trans and non-binary people who are transitioning need to know how we’ll support them and how much leave they have available for their transitions. We’re working towards creating a more robust organisational structure for supporting vulnerable people.