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This Pride month, at workplaces around the world, you would be forgiven for thinking nothing has changed — working at home, we find ourselves at the same desks looking out of the same windows. Pride celebrations still look and feel different from the ‘before times’, as the physical manifestations of our LGBTQ+ community are slowly rebuilt in digital fabric.
A year on from the creation of Plus, Tessian’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group, we look back to our original mission and founding principles, what we’ve learned in these strange times, and what we can look forward to in 2021.
How Plus was formed
In all of 2020’s uncertainty, there was one certainty in the transition to remote-working — digital would have to replace physical… at least for the time being.
Zoom calls replaced meeting rooms, Slack replaced coffee chats, and Tessian began to use a tool called Peakon to measure employee engagement. It was only natural, then, that Plus was started by a single Peakon message, asking: “Is Tessian doing anything for LGBTQ Pride Month?”
The answer turned out to be No — but that the opportunity presented itself with the full support of the company and executive team. Without any existing plans, a few LGBTQ+ Tessians self-organized and promoted our newly-formed group — Plus.
For us, Pride has always been about celebration and amplification of LGBTQ+ voices — both inside and outside of Tessian, and to create a “safe space” for all Tessian LGBTQ+ employees to network, socialize, and share experiences behind closed doors.
But our largest reservation when starting Plus was always about critical mass.
How Plus grew at Tessian
Without any visibility on LGBTQ+ employees at Tessian, we didn’t know if the group would have enough members to be successful, or if by creating a community exclusive to LGBTQ+ voices alone, we would be excluding allies of the community in a way that restricted our ability to act on our mission.
Forming a small committee, we promoted the arrival of Plus during company all-hands, new employee onboardings, and relied on existing and larger employee resource groups to gather members. We were quickly impressed at the uptake, with more than 10% of the company joining Plus within the first month of launch — a significant minority and higher than the expected average. Seniority and function were both well-represented at Plus, pulling from all parts of Tessian and for the first time, providing an organized and welcoming committee of LGBTQ+ voices.
Plus was formed around a core mission to:
- Ensure an inclusive and respectful environment for all employees
- Raise awareness of, and represent the views and issues of, LGBTQ+ employees
- Provide a support network for LGBTQ+ employees
- Create opportunities to socialize with other LGBTQ+ employees
- Offer confidential support when needed
- Provide guidance to Tessian as an employer on policy and how to enhance its diversity strategy
In practice, the digital certainties of our last year in remote work has led Plus to resculpt any and all ideas around community-building. Online socials over Zoom, knowledge sharing via Slack — and more recently — socially distanced gatherings at local parks, have all worked well.
As Tessian began it’s formal journey on Diversity & Inclusion with the development of an internal D&I Report — again developed remotely — Plus had a seat at the table to shape the discussion around LGBTQ+ representation at the company. And sharing our message outside of Tessian, Plus was even fortunate enough to be interviewed for Infosecurity Magazine’s cover pride story alongside ERGs from Zivver and Rapid7.
That is to say, that even during a year when LGBTQ+ communities around the world have struggled to run gatherings, fundraising, or support networks, — when the importance of Pride as an LGBTQ+ institution has been validated — our approach to working directly with LGBTQ+ Tessians on the community-building activities that matter most to us has proven successful.
What’s next for Plus?
One of Tessian’s company values continues to be Human First. And with Plus, we’re proud to have created a private, Human First initiative for Tessians to celebrate their sexual orientation and gender identity. Plus germinated alongside Tessian’s transition to choice-first remote working, but won’t stop growing as we move forward to a hybrid workplace. Continuing to grow with new members, we’re excited to meet up in-person, campaign for positive change outside of Tessian, and work with external speakers to open up LGBTQ+ stories to the whole company.
Do you lead an LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group at your company? Get in touch and we would love to hear from you on how you’ve elevated LGBTQ+ voices during the past year, and what successes you’ve seen building healthy LGBTQ+ communities.