Chris is a localization engineer for McAfee in Cork, Ireland, who is passionate about inclusivity for gender and sexual minorities in the workplace. As part of a small group of citizens invited by the Irish Government to form the first Irish Constitutional Convention, he helped the effort for the referendum on equal rights in Ireland that ultimately led to Ireland becoming the first country in the world to protect equality in their constitution by popular vote. He is currently completing his Master’s degree in Personal and Management Coaching, examining the experiences of gender and sexual minorities in helping relationships.
The #hometovote hashtag is said to be one of the most influential campaigns that helped Ireland embrace equality in the 2015 referendum (and if you haven’t read this article – you should). It’s significant to me for two reasons.
Firstly, it symbolizes the huge societal shift in Ireland – the multitudes returning home from abroad to vote for equality. The referendum became a topic in churches, and many elderly even skipped Mass to go vote yes for their LGBTQ children and grandchildren! Secondly, by appealing to the friends and family of those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ+) community, it reinforced a simple fact that ultimately, we all just want the best for one another.
There’s some important lessons in stories like this as we look at acceptance in the workplace. Namely, we all have the power to help shift and challenge perceptions to create an inclusive, open and accepting environment for everyone. The LGBTQ community come to work every day, just like you. They need not be strangers so get to know them and embrace the opportunity to cultivate empathy and understanding for minorities that you work side by side with each morning.
I try to practice this inclusivity at McAfee and help shed light on what it’s like to identify as a minority population. I came out nearly 15 years ago, and while I’ve seen huge progress, there’s of course more we can do to create an accepting environment where everyone can bring their true, authentic self to work.
I talk about this topic as part of the work I do for McAfee’s LGBTQ+ Allies program. Often, people don’t know where to start and how to show their support. Practicing a little cultural humility can go a long way towards bridging a knowledge gap. Simple things like just asking questions can help dispel the myth that people in the LGBTQ+ community don’t want to share their personal lives with folks from outside the community. We have mortgages and cats and squabbles over household chores just like everyone else.
I also encourage others to create some reflection in the workplace. Even if you don’t identify as a minority, there are small but important things you can do to create a culture of inclusivity. Even if it’s just asking about a LGBTQ colleague’s partner, husband or wife. The LGBTQ community are innovative and resilient: they’ve had to be in the face of societal marginalization and so have developed many and varied ways to sustain their relationships. We should all play our part in creating a culture where it’s ok to discuss our personal lives and our community, no matter what shape or form it takes.
At McAfee, I genuinely have never felt I had to be anyone else. I’m a gay man and I’m proud of it. And more than that, the Cork management team are supportive and encouraging of my efforts to set up initiatives like inclusivity training to tackle unconscious bias or run educational events.
Knowledge is certainly power, and all underrepresented minorities are incredible sources of experience and cultural information. I’m proud to work for a company that not only recognizes the potential of a diverse workforce, but works hard to make sure everyone feels welcome. Together truly is power.