During the past month, there was no shortage of memes and think pieces discussing the temporary nature of the celebration of pride, especially for corporate entities. When July 1 hit, the rainbows came down and most were none the wiser. Like all celebratory months or days that acknowledge otherwise underrepresented groups, there’s always a question around why we only do this for a part of the year. Why not celebrate year-round? We’re gay or lesbian or bi or transgender or an ally 365 days a year. The tokenization of minorities of all kinds has come to be an unfortunate hallmark of today’s corporate culture even as businesses invest in diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and education.
Pride at Prophet has been in existence for a few years. Prior to the formation of any ERGs (employee resource groups) at Prophet, there was a general shared sense of wellbeing for LGBTQIA+ employees because of the composition of our leadership team, the firm’s clear investment in pro-bono work for relevant causes and the visible sense of recognition that comes with seeing others like you. As the firm grew, a clear need to better acknowledge different, diverse cohorts within the organization became clear, and over the last three years several different affinity groups have naturally— and intentionally —formed to make an impact at Prophet.
We’ve celebrated pride as an organization in different ways for many years, but given remote work life, Prophet decided to take a broader approach to Pride Month celebrations this year. With local office teams unable to come together physically, we curated a program of blog posts, panel discussions, virtual events and playlists that put a spotlight on a community that is as diverse as it is unique. But what the program mainly did was show that every part of our business, every region, every role, includes members of the “community.” More than 10% of our firm’s employees directly contributed to this month’s content, highlighting the broad depth of experiences embedded within our company and presenting opportunities for allies to engage, learn, support and uplift LGBTQIA+ community members in various forums.
Panel Discussion: ‘Queer in Consulting’
One of the most impactful events was a panel discussion that featured firm leaders and hit on topics including what it’s like to be “queer” in consulting. It featured U.S. and European managers and partners and spanned across our corporate, strategy, design, digital and delivery teams. The conversation reflected on the unique but shared experiences of panelists, while highlighting the diversity of their experiences. Overall, the sentiment conveyed by our panelists was the idea of being extremely lucky — lucky for having professionally grown up in industries in which it wasn’t necessarily hard or at least a not big deal to be gay, and lucky for having found a workplace that always encourages its employees to bring their full, true and complete selves to their job.
Many of our attendees found it eye-opening to hear panelists discuss experiences like having to come out again and again to new teams and clients. One of our panelists spoke about being “in and out” as he transitioned through different companies and roles until he got to the point in his professional and personal development where code-switching was no longer an option. From day one of joining Prophet, he belonged in a culture where he felt truly embraced, if not celebrated. Another panelist talked about the “boys club” environment of the ad world that had surrounded him for most of his career. This made him prioritize finding a workplace that fostered a more diverse environment and eventually led him becoming a Propheteer.
A third panelist recalled a statement he had to make during his interview process. In the interview the panelist explained that he wouldn’t be successful if the firm expected him to change who he fundamentally is and how he expresses himself. For many of us, it’s taken a lifetime to build up the strength and confidence to be our best selves at work. Uncomfortable questions are asked by clients, colleagues make assumptions, we sometimes find ourselves in situations where we feel we don’t belong. Creating a comfortable environment for everyone no matter how they identify is something we are committed to as a firm.
Our programming this year was focused on raising the profile of the impact and broad-ranging reality of the “gay” experience in the workplace and beyond to help celebrate the fact that the diversity of our perspectives makes our business and community stronger.