Charles McClellan is Technology Director, CRM for Global Technology Solutions. He is based in Chicago.
Why is Pride Month important to you?
Pride month is a time to come together and celebrate the history of the gay rights movement, and to look forward to the work ahead to ensure equal rights and acceptance. For me, it’s an inspirational time of the year. To celebrate the early pioneers and the tremendous resistance and pressure they faced; yet persisted to move us closer to acceptance and equality, one step at a time.
Why is diversity important in the workplace?
Diversity in thought and perspective brings unique and innovative thinking, challenging the norm and forcing us to look at situations from a different lens. This diversity comes from varied backgrounds, experiences and cultures. However, to maximize the full benefit of diversity, you need Inclusion.
Inclusion is an interesting thing, because it doesn’t come naturally, and yet I think it’s the simplest and most powerful tool we have. We can all think back to a time where we weren’t included, and how that made us feel. One of Unity’s initiative this year will be focused on Allies. To be an active ally is take action to promote the inclusion of the LGBTQ community – display the pride flag at your desk, use the right language, don’t tolerate inappropriate behaviors and comments. You have no idea the positive impact this will have.
How can the workplace best support LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies?
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) like Unity are a great start. However, the true support comes from a shift in culture to accept and celebrate diversity. I’m proud that our leaders, at all levels of the organization, value this shift and openly support our LGBTQ colleagues. Personally, the most powerful thing individuals can do is simple: acknowledge your LGBTQ colleagues and let them know, through your actions, that you are there for them. Show up to the Pride event. Join the ERG as an Ally. Get to know us, we’re fabulous!
Why is it important to self-identify at work as LGBTQ+ or an ally?
I spent the first 10 years of my career in the closet. It was terrible – not feeling accepted, avoiding conservations, lying about who I was. It made going to work almost painful, and this was compounded by the fact that I was in consulting and traveling every week with the same people: sharing cars, staying at the same hotels, eating almost all of our meals together. It was a very challenging time for me. When I finally confided in a colleague, it was like a 2-ton weight had been lifted off my back, and I slowly started coming out to other colleagues. (Coming out as LGBTQ is one of the hardest things to do, by the way, but we’ll save that for another day.)
A few years later I changed jobs and made a conscious decision that I wasn’t willing to live a life that wasn’t mine. The closet door was shut and locked. Not having LGBTQ role models previously, I also wanted to ensure that others who may be struggling as I did have someone they could look up to, confide in, have their back, know that they are included.