Feeling pride in bringing your whole self to work

June 23, 2021
By AlphaGroup Medical Editor Angie Schaefer

The author, Angie Schaefer (she/her) pictured right with her partner Nicki (she/her).

Safety at work.

This phrase can mean many things. For me, this means feeling accepted and unafraid to bring my whole self to work.

But the reality for many LGBTQ+ individuals is that this still is not a possibility. Often, if spaces have not been established as safe, it can feel daunting to come out, and entering into a new workplace requires a tiring level of awareness, research, and careful listening to determine if coming out will be met with acceptance or consequences.

I remember my first days at a new job, when conversations as simple as talking about my weekend required immediate assessment of whether or not I was safe to use my partner’s pronouns and if doing so could lead to social, emotional, or professional consequences. Without that certainty, there were times when I missed out on opportunities to build relationships or felt distracted by the mental load of those uncomfortable situations.

My “ah-ha” moment of acceptance at AlphaGroup came a month into my time with the company when I heard my manager use language in support of the LGBTQ+ community. It let me know I was safe and allowed me to feel comfortable beginning my process of coming out at work. But it wasn’t until the introduction of a DEI task force that I realized the support extended beyond my manager and a few colleagues—the AlphaGroup at large held the same values I did and just needed help to create transparency as the inclusive workplace it is.

As a founding member of the TIDE committee, I have had the opportunity to effect real change by creating monthly DEI themes supported by guest speakers, all-staff training, suggested readings, internal events, and volunteer outreach. Incorporating these lessons and events in addition to encouraging staff to identify their pronouns in emails and daily conversations in hopes that that other employees can have their “ah-ha” moment even sooner.

AlphaGroup’s DEI themes initiated by the company’s TIDE committee.
Feedback from AlphaGroup’s Angela Schlegel (they/them) about TIDE’s inclusive language training. 

TIDE has also helped me to find my voice within the workplace. At first, I didn’t talk much at meetings or with colleagues. TIDE has allowed me to come out confidently, openly connect and share my experiences, and bring skills and passions to work that I hadn’t shared previously. For the first time, I feel seen at my job and that recognition makes me more productive and more open than ever before.

As a result of the TIDE initiatives I have helped to develop, I can see my company and my colleagues becoming more transparent about their attitudes of inclusivity and acceptance by making small changes:

  • Include DEI values in your mission statements and across your website and social media
  • Ensure that job listings highlight inclusivity to encourage a diverse applicant pool
  • Utilize inclusive language such as “Hello, everyone” or “tell me about your family” to eliminate gendered language and stereotypes