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SMG Celebrates Pride Month and Our LGBTQIA+ Community

Jun 01, 2022

SMG Celebrates Pride Month and Our LGBTQIA+ Community

In honor of our commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion within our organization and larger community, SMG is proud to recognize Pride month—a celebration held each June commemorating the anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City on June 28, 1969, which most historians consider to be the birth of the modern LGBTQIA+ movement.

Today, Pride events are held around the country as an opportunity to discuss the history of LGBTQIA+ advocacy, show the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community, and examine recent gains and setbacks made by the equality movement.

We spoke with several employees from our LGBTQIA+ employee resource group (ERG) to learn more about the importance of Pride, what the celebration means to them, and how we can continue our efforts to be champions of equality.

Lauren Arensberg | Implementation Manager

Lauren-Arensberg

What does Pride month mean to you?

Pride month is a time of year to acknowledge and remember the 1969 Stonewall Riots, and that Pride started as a protest and continues to represent the fight for equality throughout the world. It is a time to be ourselves and be proud, and share our knowledge, love, identities, and LGBTQIA+ history with everyone around us.

How will you celebrate Pride month?

I will celebrate Pride by being gayer and outer than ever. I plan to take my son to his first Pride event with me. I want him to be proud to have a queer parent!

What should employers do to provide a more equitable workplace for underrepresented groups?

Continue to uplift and empower ERGs, listen to queer voices, and provide us with the resources and support needed to make fundamental and essential changes within our organizations and communities.

What is the most impactful way for a colleague to be an ally?

To be an impactful ally, a colleague must allow themselves to be uncomfortable for the sake of change. They must be quiet and listen to queer voices. They must turn inward toward their own biases and ask appropriate questions (and not be offended when those answers are difficult pills to swallow).

What advice do you have on being your most authentic self?

Becoming and living as your authentic self is a never-ending journey. We are all doing our best to be true to our identities, but this world is not always accepting of us. Finding my community has been the best way for me to live authentically, because the people I love most are the ones most deserving of my whole, authentic self.

I also believe in being unapologetically yourself as often as possible and being okay with being “too much” for some people.

Sergey Simmons | Client Success Manager

Sergey-Simmons

What does Pride month mean to you?

For me, Pride month is a celebration of freedom and equality—freedom to live my life as I desire and to have equality in the community that I equally contribute to. It is a month to be proud of and celebrate the progress that has been made in bringing equality to LGBTQIA+ community. It is a month to remember those who have suffered incredible pain and losses for the rights that I have today. It is the time to bring LGBTQIA+ awareness to others and encourage them to be outside of their comfort zone to understand and be okay with other people’s views of the world, their feelings, emotions, and political, religious, or non-religious beliefs. Pride month is the time to unite and tear down the barriers that split people into “us” and “them.”

How will you celebrate Pride month?

I will be attending the Chicago Pride Fest. This annual parade marks the Stonewall uprising which began the Gay Rights Movement.

What should employers do to provide a more equitable workplace for underrepresented groups?

First and foremost, make your stance known to the public. Be inclusive and vocal about recognizing the existence of and support for underrepresented groups. Those belonging to underrepresented groups, including myself, are always cautious about the “what ifs…,” especially when it comes to employment. Members of underrepresented groups want to feel comfortable in the surroundings where a third of their day is spent. Employers should re-evaluate their internal policies relating to underrepresented groups and take any violation reports seriously, even if the members of these groups are not protected by federal, state, or local laws. Provide equal pay, benefits, and career growth opportunities. Differentiate donation and involvement portfolios. Mandate education and training that encompass issues surrounding underrepresented groups. Promote, sponsor, and consult ERGs to make the workplace environment equitable for all.

What is the most impactful way for a colleague to be an ally?

Make the LGBTQIA+ community feel welcome and equal in the workplace. Show support for elements that impact the wellbeing of your LGBTQIA+ coworkers in a huge way but may not necessarily impact you directly. Stand up and speak out if you see or hear something that is detrimental to the wellbeing or comfort level of your LGBTQIA+ coworker or the community they are a part of. Be vocal about your support for equality in rights, privileges, and other benefits that members of the underrepresented communities cannot currently enjoy.

Here are two of my favorite quotes that the ally community could use to guide their approach:

“Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It’s not a pie.”

“You are not being oppressed when another group gains rights that you’ve always had.”

What advice do you have on being your most authentic self?

Put your values ahead of others’ opinions.

Kim Burnell | Associate Client Success Manager

Kim-burnell

What does Pride month mean to you?

It is a time where I get to come together with like-minded people to celebrate, recognize struggles, reflect, and build positive experiences. It is a month to uplift LGBTQIA+ voices, acknowledge our history, admit our struggles, and to make change. It isn’t often, even in today’s society, that we get to be fully and totally ourselves without feeling shame or being outcast, but Pride is when I have anyways been able to just be me without fear.

How will you celebrate Pride month?

Each Pride month I make it my mission to volunteer at least once in the community (Kansas City Center for Inclusion is this year), I go to as many Pride events as I can with my friends, and I always go all out for the Pride parade. 

What should employers do to provide a more equitable workplace for underrepresented groups?

Engage in difficult conversations. This means acknowledging biases you may have and why you have them. Ask for feedback from underrepresented groups to understand what you are doing well and what needs to be changed—actually listening and making steps to improve in those areas will make them feel safe and seen. 

Review policies and hiring procedures to encourage diverse employment. Sometimes you must actively be recruiting through a diversity lens and not always choosing those with the most experience. A lot of policies are created with only the majority in mind and the only way we can change that is to continue thinking of the underrepresented. Making changes and acknowledging missteps is a strength, not a weakness.

What is the most impactful way for a colleague to be an ally?

Understanding your privilege and using it to help others. Privilege does not mean you have had an easy life, but it means your race, gender, or sexual orientation didn’t make it harder. 

Make an effort to listen, learn, and understand. Take ownership in your learning—not always putting it on the underrepresented to explain everything, but it is okay to ask questions! Show genuine interest about and compassion for lives that are different from yours. And don’t be afraid to stand up for your colleague even when they aren’t around to hear it.

What advice do you have on being your most authentic self?

First you have to be able to accept yourself as you are. We are often our hardest critics, but in reality we should show ourselves the most love. Once you are happy and comfortable with yourself, you will be able to start showing that outwardly to others. It isn’t always going to be easy, but sticking to your values and being authentically you will result in a happier you.

Alice Wilson | Senior Solution Developer

Alice-Wilson

What does Pride month mean to you?

Pride month gives me a chance to be involved with the LGBTQIA+ community and show my support.

How will you celebrate Pride month?

My husband and I are planning on attending KC Pride, which is being held at Theis Park this year. It is important to us to show our support by being at Pride. 

What should employers do to provide a more equitable workplace for underrepresented groups?

Make sure healthcare is equitable for all.

What is the most impactful way for a colleague to be an ally?

Show up and get involved. My husband and I have helped with Pride, we were on the board of the LGBTQIA+ community center, and helped to lead PFLAG meetings. We feel it is important for the LGBTQIA+ community to see an older (notice the white hair), straight couple attending events and getting involved.

What advice do you have on being your most authentic self?

“Be who you are and say how you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” ― Dr. Seuss