Equality in tech still has further to go

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The birth of Pride

During the early morning hours of Saturday 28 June, 1969, customers at the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village, New York, stopped what they were doing as the music died and the lights came glaring back to life. “Police! We’re taking the place!” was all that could be heard in the place of music, chatting and laughter that had filled the Inn only moments before.

Raids were commonplace during this time, but what happened that night was anything but common. As tensions began to mount and the crowd outside Stonewall grew, the mood towards police officers rapidly shifted. The people had had enough. They were no longer prepared to comply while their friends were beaten, assaulted and arrested purely for being gay.

Unlike modern times, there was no pre-set agenda here. A group of people did not get together beforehand to decide they would not cooperate with the police, and that it was time to fight back. There was no planned protest, nor organised march. It was just people – pushed to their very limits – speaking up for and acting on what they knew was right: fighting for their freedoms, and for their own equal standing in society.

On this night, the Stonewall Riots broke out. The crowd chanted “Gay power!” and sang “We Shall Overcome” as violence spread like wildfire around them. The bravery of these people cannot be understated, for it was their courageous actions that helped change and shape the future.

Every June, the world celebrates Gay Pride to commemorate what happened in 1969 and to continue advocacy for the rights of those in the LGBTQ+ community. This is not just a simple matter of awareness, this is a fundamental issue of changing the way people have thought for generation after generation. As LGBTQ+ activist Barbara Gittings once said, “Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

And this community isn’t just where we live – it’s everywhere. It’s our friends, family, colleagues and the industry we work in.

Safety and equality at work

Overall, it’s obvious to see we still have a long road ahead of us despite the progress already made. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) released a report last year on the working lives of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

It found that LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to experience workplace conflict and harassment than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. 40% of LGBTQ+ workers have experienced this kind of conflict, with 16% feeling psychologically unsafe in their places of work.

For those of us in the technology industry specifically, we have to look around ourselves – even beyond ourselves – and have an honest conversation about how we are representing and supporting those in the LGBTQ+ community.

The sentiment may be there, but as with the rest of the working world, the figures show we are still lacking.

Did you know that a third of LGBTQ+ people avoid careers in science, technology and engineering due to worries of discrimination and bullying?

Their worries are not unjustified. 29% of LGBTQ+ tech employees were likely to experience bullying, 24% were likely to experience humiliation, and 40% have witnessed gender or sexuality-related discrimination in the workplace.

Can you imagine feeling unsafe at work just because of your sexuality? Can you imagine being bullied, and suffering in silence due to your sexual orientation? Can you imagine not having a voice because of this? Many of us will probably never know how that feels – and we are the lucky ones – but that is no reason for lack of action.

The fight must continue in tech

Our industry – much like the rest of the world – is still littered with black holes of discrimination and it is down to every single one of us, no matter our sexuality, to fight for the rights and equality of our fellow humans.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – we have all heard this Martin Luther King Jr. quote, but are we applying it to the fight against the oppression of LGBTQ+ people?

These are questions we must ask ourselves not only personally and professionally, but as an industry. It’s clear that in tech we need to be doing more to help our LGBTQ+ feel valued, equal and most of all safe.

Because if even just one of us does not feel safe, our work is not yet done.

To celebrate Pride Month and what it means to members and allies of the LGBTQ+ community, we will be sitting down with a couple of our colleagues who represent these communities and their importance in advocating inclusion and equality.

These interviews will take a look at their own journeys and how the Gay Pride movement has driven change, as well as the fundamental shifts they have seen in the world and the workplace, and what else needs to be done to achieve true acceptance.

Stay tuned throughout the month to read their stories!