How can you activate your allyship?
August 14, 2020
August 14, 2020
3 key steps to creating a more inclusive work environment
I was born and raised in Calgary, and I have always considered the city and Alberta to be more welcoming than most people think. However, to this day I continue to live a life of half-truths and discretion. Long after coming out to my friends in university, I still hadn’t taken the step of “fully coming out” on Facebook. I was scared that while applying to jobs, a hiring manager or a recruiter would look me up and be turned off by the fact that I am gay.
When meeting new people, I dread the question: "Do you have a girlfriend?" I can truthfully say I do not, but I often leave out that I have a male partner, even though we’ve just celebrated our second anniversary on June 1. It’s not because I am consciously scared or worried about homophobic people, but there is a personal risk. There is a chance a person may dislike me simply because of who I’m attracted to. And because of that, I won’t be able to build a relationship with this person.
The easy response is: “If that person is homophobic, then don’t engage with them. It is their loss.” This might be true in most situations, but I often work in the field for multiple months with the same crew—it’s not always that easy. My ability to complete my job effectively in the field is dependent on having a professional relationship with the crew. And I feel as though me making them uncomfortable could result in lower data quality—jeopardizing my work and Stantec’s ability to win future work with the client.
Because of this, I’ve always hidden who I am. Only recently, I found the confidence and courage within myself to be more comfortable sharing my identity with my crews and my colleagues. It often starts out with something small: me telling them the saying “this is gay” when things go wrong is offensive, and their choice of wording can be improved. Usually, it is only after several weeks (once I have already built the working relationship) that I feel comfortable to be more open about my personal life.
“Over half of people who identify as LGBTQ2+ are not out to everyone that they work with. That’s a lot of people going to work every day not talking about their spouses, their families, their kids, who they are, or their lives. When they go to work they are, basically, not themselves.” – Colin Druhan, Executive Director of Pride at Work Canada
One of the reasons I love working for Stantec is because of how inclusive the company is. Many offices and geographic areas have Pride@Stantec employee resource groups (ERGs), including Alberta South, which I’m proud to be a new co-chair with Roberta Roscoe this year.
As an organization, I believe we are doing a good job of building a diverse workforce of people who support each other. I also believe most of my colleagues would consider themselves allies. But now, more than ever, we know that being a passive ally isn’t enough.
As a passive ally, you probably believe I have the same rights as you, the same access to employment opportunities, and that queer culture has a place within mainstream culture. You might even attend your local pride parades. But without you giving me an indication of this, I have no way of knowing and I will approach our relationship with my guard up.
Regardless of the first interaction, it doesn’t take a lot to create a more inclusive environment and become more of an active ally. Here are a few simple and easy ways you can help.
I am forever grateful to work at Stantec and to be at a company that already has a Pride ERG. When I walk to a new floor, it warms my heart when I see a rainbow flag on an office door or cubicle. I look forward to meeting more of my colleagues when we can all get together again.