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Empowering Your Employees to Be Their Full Selves: How you can support your diverse workforce by creating ERGs – By Melinda Conant

As part of our celebration of PRIDE month, OpenSesame is bringing you voices from our LGBTQIA+ colleagues to champion diversity and share resources that support the greater LGBTQIA+ community.

As a Queer professional, I’ve most often led a double life. My weekdays were spent as a straight (seeming) person fitting into the hetero norms of my workplace, while my spare time was spent with my tribe at drag shows, queer networking events, film festivals, and dinner parties with my mostly queer friends. I clocked in at work straight and clocked out gay. I knew a lot of queers in every company I’ve been in, but honestly, it just felt safer to hide in the shadows of bi-erasure and go about my business. What I didn’t realize however, was that showing up at work without my full self was a missed opportunity on so many levels. 

Back in 2018 when I started at OpenSesame, our Queer community was merely a private Slack channel. You would get added to it if you were bold enough to be Out at work or someone else was bold enough to have an awkward conversation about your identity (not recommended). An entire year passed before I was invited to the channel after I had mentioned to a coworker that I was Queer and going to a Queer event a friend was hosting that weekend. I came back to my desk, and to my surprise, was greeted by an invitation to the private Slack channel: Queers of OpenSesame. Being Queer in private at work seemed so normal to me that this oversight somehow made sense.

After that, I realized that we could do better and needed more. More support, more visibility, and more opportunities to be elevated and celebrated. And we got just that! At the beginning of 2021, OpenSesame recognized us as an official ERG (along with 5 other diversity groups) and what a world of difference it made. We now have time, space, and resources to come together and support one another; we lead conversations with the greater company about issues that matter to us and most importantly, have a public space to be fully Out at work.

As a Recruiter, being visible and diverse matters! I am the initial contact for someone who is trying to find out if our company is a safe space to come to work everyday and spend a great deal of their time. Being a Lead of the Queers of OpenSesame ERG means that I get to share my experience and give people a space to be open with me from the very start. I cannot tell you how much more I learn about our potential employees and the parts of their lives that matter most to them: who they love, how they identify, how they spend their free time, what issues they want to learn about, and what they need in a workplace to feel valued. Not having an ERG and not being Out at work meant that I didn’t get these key pieces of information. It also meant that I missed the opportunity to let them know that OpenSesame was a safe place to land. These things matter to job applicants, and bringing them into a job where they are safe, celebrated, and valued – is what truly matters to me.

Having an official ERG within your business is about more than creating a work group to run culture events. It’s an opportunity to tell your teams that you truly value who they are uniquely, and give them the space to show up authentically. Everyone does their best in an environment where they can bring every part of themselves to their work, every day.

Support Pride Month with our LGBTQIA+ focused courses

For more ideas on how to assess, accelerate, and amplify your diversity, equity, and inclusion programs and initiatives, visit our array of LGBTQIA+ focused courses that help you on your company’s inclusive journey. From foundation principles, to specifics about gender identity and sexual orientation, OpenSesame has resources that help you support your LGBTQIA+ employees and the greater LGBTQIA+ community.

About the Author: Melinda Conant is a Senior Recruiter for OpenSesame and one of the Queers of OpenSesame ERG Leads. Melinda’s role as a recruiter and member of the queer community allows her to build trust with diverse candidates and grow a team that includes broad representation from our underrepresented communities.