On Tuesday, June 22, Credera hosted our seventh installment of our Credera Listens panel event. This event and celebration was sponsored by Open Pride Credera, Credera’s employee resource group for LGBT+ employees and allies.
Through a panel and open forum discussion led by Jen Koide, managing partner in our Chicago office, we explored topics of identity, authenticity, advocacy, and allyship, among others. Each of the four internal panelists shared their experiences and perspectives.
Our esteemed panelists included:
Simon Greenhalgh: Chief Financial Officer – Credera UK
Annie Brennan: Manager – Credera U.S.
Jake Meister: Consultant – Credera U.S.
Ellie Miller: Senior Consultant – Credera U.S.
The Power of Acknowledging Differences
The panel opened with a discussion on experiences and relationships that shaped the panelists early in life. One panelist noted they continuously struggled with fitting into the mold society placed on them, but found relief once they learned to focus on being themselves. Another panelist shared that their childhood was more inclusive of the LGBT+ community and experiences than most, so they committed to always making space for people to talk about both LGBT+ and adjacent issues to help others learn and grow in practicing inclusivity as they were able to.
Another panelist found that the values from their upbringing were foundational for learning to respect differences in others—specifically: treating everyone as you wish to be treated. They found learning to love everybody at an early age made it easier for them along the way. They now use this lesson in raising their children, helping them understand that you should not just be reactionary in allyship. Instead, proactive allyship is one of the powerful ways to show others they are not only accepted, but loved for who they are.
One key theme revisited consistently during the panel discussion was that identity is a journey and it changes over time. One panelist questioned their identity early on, which led them to feel like their same sex attraction wasn’t who they truly were. It wasn’t until they had friends who were encouraging and positive toward their same-sex relationship that they felt like their sexual identity could be a big part of who they were and not just a footnote. They have since found freedom in realizing that identity evolves based on various life experiences. Taking the time to reflect, learn, and apply our revelations about identity can both comfort us and inspire us to encourage others as they progress on their own unique identity journeys.
In discussing how we can approach making sure individuals of all views feel included, one panelist shared the guiding principles they adhere to.
No matter the subject or situation, they try to foster a listening environment. They shared that it is important to get to know people at a deeper level as humans and in this process, not label others and not cut them off if they are vulnerably sharing. Making a deeper connection can start with taking time to understand where people are coming from. Starting from a place of seeking to learn with an open mind can remove the feeling of adversity and set the table for real understanding.
In addition, the panelists highlighted that you should not discount others’ opinions and try to be open to changing your own. They encouraged listeners by sharing that the only way we’ll change the world is by intentionally learning and then applying those lessons. Then we can create a world where everyone belongs.
One nugget of wisdom came from a panelist witnessing the impact of people genuinely smiling at others. On a trip to South Africa, they noticed that locals smiled authentically instead of out of courtesy. In pursuing genuineness in interactions, smiling can help you project trust that inspires others to operate with a similar authenticity.
Inspiring LGBT+ Allyship
The panelists had several practical recommendations for practicing proactive allyship:
Use correct pronouns and respect everyone’s pronouns: It is even more significant when you correct someone who has misgendered someone and that person is not present.
Do not out someone: Do not make assumptions about when you should use partner language in reference to a colleague or friend. If you’re in an environment with someone you know that may not be fully out to everyone, do not ask personal questions that make it clear that individual is in a same-sex relationship. Instead, use gender-neutral pronouns when asking about personal updates until that person feels comfortable in that space to out themselves and gender their partner.
Show your support: One panelist recalled their mother giving them a rainbow tank top during Pride Month a few years ago. No one else in their family was out, but their mother saw the rainbow, associated it with pride and their child being a member of the LGBT+ community, and bought them the shirt. This made the panelist feel known and cared for.
Pursue opportunities to learn, especially if you’re in a position of privilege: One panelist who is cisgender and dates someone who is cisgender considers themselves to be privileged in the LGBT+ community, and they have found that listening to people with experiences different than their own is extremely important. In wanting to support friends who were coming out as non-binary and transgender, they found going to their non-binary or transgender friends directly, in addition to learning from transgender-run publications, was a valuable way to learn more.
Don’t rely on people in the underrepresented population to educate you fully: Pursue education on your own, as it is not the underrepresented person’s responsibility to provide you with all the information to be educated.
Once you’re educated, advocate: It’s paramount that educated individuals advocate on behalf of others, especially if you’re in a position of privilege.
Be welcoming: Ensure everyone you interact with feels comfortable being their full selves. Approach all situations with the intention of being inclusive.
LGBT+ and Consulting
One of the panelists believes being LGBT+ makes them a great consultant. They have found understanding the nuances of navigating discomfort has made a big impact on their ability to do this on client projects as well. In addition, it’s made them more empathetic with client and team issues, and they believe they have the ability to hear what people are saying if they aren’t saying it directly.
Another panelist compared the characteristics of high performing teams to the characteristics of impactful allyship. They both have a sense of purpose, common goals, shared mission and objectives, high communication, and commit to engaging with transparency and without an agenda.
In addition, both promote shared leadership where different people in a strong team can take on leadership roles that play to their strengths and make the team better. High performing teams are centered on the tenets of trust and respect and allow space for everyone to be their authentic self—if you can’t trust and respect each other, things will break down in a professional environment.
How to Influence Others to Think Bigger
A panelist commented that the LGBT+ movement has been comprised of many different smaller groups of people who identify with each other. It’s always been rooted in being accepting and bringing the broader community together to make progress. We can increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) by increasing exposure to people who are different than us. This way, we are taught by example through the different views of others.
A diverse workplace and community is more resilient and equitable. When there are different experiences on a team and that team operates with authenticity through trusting each other, they can accomplish great things.
Lastly, DE&I is not just about lifting up minority communities. Improving one group’s equitable share makes the overall picture more equitable—as everyone works together, having a more equitable playing field is best for everyone.
The One Thing
Our moderator wrapped the panel discussion up with a simple question: What’s the one thing you want the audience to take away from the conversation?
The first panelist asked the group to not be afraid of making mistakes, but be open to learning and keep trying. If you get something wrong (someone’s pronouns or say wife instead of partner) correct it and do not dwell on it, just carry on. That’s how we move forward and we all get comfortable.
Next a panelist suggested we not shy away from things that are different from what we were taught. Engrossing yourself in a community where everyone has different views can be healthy and make everyone stronger.
Adding on, the third panelist said we should lean into the discomfort. One of the hardest parts of allyship is correcting people and calling them into difficult conversations, but we can support oppressed groups by being willing to engage in these conversations.
The final panelist wrapped up with an encouragement for our Credera family: continue to normalize having these conversations with project teams, work friends, family, etc. Their hope was that the panelists’ vulnerability and honesty would inspire Credera at large to continue pursuing these conversations after the panel.
Thank you again to our panelists Annie Brennan, Ellie Miller, Jake Meister, Simon Greenhalgh, and our host, Jen Koide, for being willing to share your stories and perspectives.
Join the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Conversation
Credera is listening, and we hope you are as well. If you're interested in connecting on this topic, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and a member of Credera's Diversity & Inclusion team will connect with you.
If you'd like to learn more about the Credera Listens initiative, explore the sessions at this page or navigate to the specific sessions below: