Coming Out Day 2020: Creating Safe, Supportive Workplaces for the LGBTQ+ Community

People around the world recently celebrated International Coming Out Day on Oct. 11. Workday employees and customers discuss the significance of this annual event, and what companies can do to be better allies for the LGBTQ+ community.

October 11 marked a special day for the LGBTQ+ community. Best known as International Coming Out Day, this annual awareness day was founded by Jean O’Leary and Rob Eichberg after the march for queer rights in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11, 1987. 

Today, International Coming Out Day is celebrated in many countries around the world. To help commemorate this day, as well as drive awareness for the LGBTQ+ community, we spoke to Workmates who help lead our PRIDE at Workday Employee Belonging Council (EBC), and gathered valuable input from two Workday customers, Citrix and Netflix, about the significance of this day and what companies can do to be better allies. See excerpts below to learn what they shared.

The Significance of International Coming Out Day 

Steven Smith-Salinas, Workday product manager and global liaison, PRIDE at Workday EBC:

The original intent behind this awareness day is as critical today as it was back when it started—a day that encourages outwardly celebrating and embracing our LGBTQ+ identities. When we share our truth with the world, we have an opportunity to positively influence people around us. We remove our invisibility and help break down the stigmas that surround sexuality, gender, and gender expression of LGBTQ+ people. 

Additionally, coming out has related mental health challenges, especially in the workplace, where many people are fearful or anxious and do not feel safe sharing who they truly are. Many do not have the privilege to come out in their workplace without facing discrimination, lack of social acceptance, or limitations in career development and growth.

“When we share our truth with the world, we have an opportunity to positively influence people around us.”

Steven Smith-Salinas Product Manager, Workday Global Liaison, PRIDE at Workday EBC

This lack of social acceptance within the workplace is very prevalent. According to the 2019 Out & Equal Workplace Equality Fact Sheet, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers reported they are closeted, and one in four reported experiencing employment-related discrimination in the last five years. Over the course of our lives we spend so much of our time in the workplace, so it’s critical that we establish spaces where employees feel safe, invited, and protected to come out (on their own terms) and be their whole selves at work. 

As a leader for our PRIDE at Workday EBC, I feel it’s important that we build global support for our LGBTQ+ community, as well as raise awareness of our community to people who identify as cisgender and heterosexual. Being an ally starts with educating yourself and celebrating the diversity around you. As we continue to celebrate this day by coming out or sharing our coming out stories, it opens doors and gives so many more people permission to do the same.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Employees

Annie Lim, head of talent acquisition and diversity outreach at Citrix for the Asia-Pacific region:

It’s critical for companies to create non-discrimination policies and enhance employee benefts as needed to support the LGBTQ+ community. At Citrix, we are continuously working to create an environment of belonging where we all feel that we fit in, can take risks, and are empowered to contribute to the business and bring our authentic selves to work. Citrix works toward improving our policies, benefits, and business practices so that we can be more inclusive and best support the unique needs of LGBTQ+ employees.

“Mitigate bias in your hiring process by training your team on practices to ensure there are no additional barriers for underrepresented groups.”

Annie Lim Head of Talent Acquisition and Diversity Outreach in APJ, Citrix

It’s also essential to build an inclusive culture, and properly train hiring managers and recruiters. This is a corporate social responsibility for all organizations and should include a public commitment to LGBTQ+ equality through creating a sense of belonging. Mitigate bias in your hiring process by training your team on practices to ensure there are no additional barriers for underrepresented groups. Citrix recently launched a three-part “Cultivating a Culture of Belonging” learning series to share best practices and support each other as we champion LGBTQ+ equality, inclusiveness, and belonging across Citrix.

PRIDE@Netflix Singapore, Netflix:

First and foremost, businesses should create a safe and inclusive workplace environment. Ensuring inclusive practices—from recruitment to talent retention to engagement with consumers, partners, and other third parties—are important for being an effective ally. At Netflix, inclusion is a key value in our culture, and it equips our teams to make the right decisions, learn, and improve to get past our biases and limitations. 

In line with our company culture, the PRIDE@Netflix Employee Resource Group aims to create a support system, as well as educate and facilitate conversations internally. Externally, we strive to position Netflix as an inclusive company, forge relationships, and learn from a larger group of like-minded companies and partners.


Bringing Employees Together 

Kosheno Moore, communications & knowledge management program manager at Workday and Bay Area Chapter co-lead, PRIDE at Workday EBC:

It is extremely important for organizations to create a safe environment for employees of marginalized groups. When the notion of safety is embedded in the organizational culture, whether through an organization’s value statement or leadership endorsement of inclusivity, employees can be vulnerable and share their sometimes deeply personal experiences.

Workday does this brilliantly through its core values, the leadership team’s stance on social justice issues, and a company-wide focus on a culture of inclusivity. These actions affirm the safety of our employees and encourage everyone to bring their authentic self to work, regardless of intersectionality. It also allows Workmates to have sometimes difficult but candid conversations in open forums. 

“It is extremely important for organizations to create a safe environment for employees of marginalized groups.”

Kosheno Moore Program Manager, Workday Co-Lead, Bay Area Chapter, PRIDE at Workday EBC

With an empowering culture and strong executive sponsorship, Employee Belonging Councils (employee resource groups) are no longer grassroots extracurricular groups but a powerful set of assets to drive a company’s inclusion strategy. Not only can EBCs provide support and a sense of belonging to its employees, they can offer important bridging opportunities to connect the chasm between the organization and the external communities of marginalized populations. Partnering with nonprofits that align with the representation of an EBC can be a great way to help fill the recruitment pipeline and cultivate a sense of inclusive culture to improve overall retention of the underrepresented groups while investing in the community. 

At the end of the day, when employees are encouraged to be authentic, curious, and vulnerable, we are able to better connect with one another. If an organization can ingrain these attributes in its cultural DNA, it will build lasting relationships. And when we can invite the community to take part in the company’s equity journey, it can be a game changer for everyone. 

Our VIBE Voices series provides a place for conversations around VIBE: valuing inclusion, belonging, and equity for all. Read more VIBE Voices here.

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