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WEBINAR: How to Be an Ally Beyond Pride Month

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Kyndall Elliott
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This month at CareerCircle, we hosted a webinar on "How to Be an Ally Beyond Pride Month," highlighting the importance of supporting our LGBTQ+ friends and colleagues all year round, not just in June.

Our panelists—Brittany Knowles, Chris Ware, Steven Del Gaizo, Andy Heppelle, LaToya Papillion-Herr, and Carla Johnson—shared their personal stories and practical tips. They discussed the importance of being an ally, using inclusive language, and advocating for policies that support the LGBTQ+ community every day of the year.

If you're looking for ways to support your queer coworkers or tips on how to be a better ally, we've got you covered. You can watch the recording linked below or read through the transcript right here in this post.

Watch The Webinar:


Brittany Knowles (She/Her): Hello! Hello! Hello! Welcome, everyone. Thank you for joining today's webinar, “How to be an Ally Beyond Pride Month” here at CareerCircle. We are a workforce solution company on a mission to change lives by connecting underserved communities with career opportunities and helping organizations build skilled, diverse pipelines. Today, we have a wonderful group of panelists who will provide some insightful and actionable advice on creating and maintaining inclusivity inside and outside the workspace. Who am I? My name is Brittany Knowles. I'm an African American cisgender female. My pronouns are she, her, and hers. I'm wearing clear, wide-rimmed glasses, champagne gold dangled earrings, and a natural braided hairstyle. We're currently recording this webinar to ensure accessibility for all participants.

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): You may enable close captioning by clicking on more on the bottom right of the screen. Then click captions and show captions. I want to take this opportunity to thank our panelists. Let me just say I've had the incredible opportunity to watch the moderator today, Chris, for a couple of years now. It just so happens. Right before this started, we had the opportunity to share with each other, and I did not get to say just how excited I am again for the 3rd time to see you do this. So I'm so excited, as are those of you in the audience. You all are in for a treat because this panel of esteemed panelists that we have is going to truly provide us with some insightful information today. So before we get into them introducing themselves, I wanna again just thank you all. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story with us and for sharing how we can be more inclusive as well. I wanna thank those attendees who have joined, whether or not you're a part of the community, an ally, or just here to learn. You are welcome, and we are ecstatic that you've decided to join us today.

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): We ask that this conversation be truly rooted in Pride and positivity. All of us, including myself, are on a continued and ever-evolving journey of inclusivity to start off our webinar. Before introducing our amazing panelists, I wanted to provide some impactful statistics based on studies from the staffing industry analysts and HRC. Foundation, 41% of LGBTQIA workers say they face bias. 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ workers report having been told or had coworkers imply that they should dress in a more feminine or masculine manner. The top reason is that LGBTQIA workers don't report negative comments they hear that LGBTQIA people won’t go to a supervisor or human resources? Because they don't think anything would be done about it, and they don't want to hurt their relationships with coworkers. So, some grim statistics. 

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): Let's go into the positivity piece because we've already discussed that we want this to be a positive conversation. What's positive? 41% of those workers from the staffing industry analysts report that they face less discrimination now than in 2019. 51% say their employer has taken meaningful action to create an equitable workforce. We must continue to educate, learn, and interrupt patterns that can keep our LGBTQIA colleagues from feeling safe in and outside of the workforce without further ado. I'd like to pass it over to the one, the only, the amazing Chris Ware to moderate this wonderful conversation.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Panelists. You know what I mean. We have a phenomenal crew today. You know what I mean. So thank you. Thank you. And thank you to the CareerCircle. I greatly appreciate it, and I'm honored to be able to moderate this year's event. And I am so excited for these panelists that you all are about to hear what we have! Our conversation today is going to be something I'm telling you we have when we talk about inclusion, diversity, and equity. We're gonna hit it from all angles today. And I'm just super excited. I want to be able to go down this journey with all of you. So, as you already know, my name is Christina. I go by Chris. My pronouns are she/her/hers.

Chris Ware (She/Her): I have brown curly hair with a little salt and pepper going on, brown eyes, and a black golf shirt with a black blazer. I am a government solutions executive here at TekSystems. I've been with the organization for almost years. And before just transferring over, not transferring, but moving over to tech systems. I was with Aston Carter, where I was a part of an ERG, which was called diverse genders and sexualities. It was one that we found just a few years prior to my moving over, and it was just such a good time to be a part of that ERG employee resource group and also be the Co. Chair of that. So, without further ado, I'm gonna pass it over to the panelists, and we're gonna start this introduction round and get into the questions.

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): Thank you. Thanks for having me. My name is Steven Del Gaizo. I use he/him pronouns. I'm a Latino cisgender male with dark brown hair. I wear black glasses, and I'm wearing a gray overcoat. So thank you for having me. Oh, and I'm working at Luminar Technologies.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Thank you, Steven, for joining us, Andy. You're up next.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Well, thank you very much, Andy Heppelle. You'll hear a Canadian accent for those with an ear for it. I identify as he/him. I'm married to a wonderful man living here in California. I have a headset on so that you're crystal clear to drown out the noise of Cairn terriers that may or may not be in the background. I'm wearing an orange undershirt and a red, purple, and blue overshirt. And I'm sitting in front of a photograph of the largest living organism on Earth are thousands of trees that are identical to each other, and they're connected by the roots under the surface, which I think of as a metaphor for all of the humans that are in this call today. We're all connected somehow. We just don't see it.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): So I've been with Capgemini for years. I'm in a part of Capgemini called the Accelerated Solutions environment, which has the rare privilege of helping humans come together, learn from each other, and figure out how to optimize their path forward together. And I am here representing other colleagues whose shared purpose is unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. And I know that sounds like the corporate thing. But it's real. And I'm so proud to be here with you today.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Thank you, Andy. Next up, we have Minister LaToya. Please, please introduce yourself. Thank you for being here.

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her):  Of course. Thank you so much. My name's LaToya. I am a wedding minister; my pronouns are she/her. I'm a Black Cisgender woman. I'm sitting here with my hair cut into a bob, hopefully, a very welcoming smile, and beautiful pictures of weddings behind me. I have a floral shirt and fabulous nails, which you can't see, but they’re there. 

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her):  With the trans community, I allowed them the opportunity to put their money where their mouth is and make sure that they know how to engage with us in a way that is equitable in a way that is sustainable, and pushes our community to thrive and out of surviving.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Amazing. Thank you for all the work you're doing. I greatly appreciate it, and it's greatly appreciated that you're here today. Next, we're moving over to Carla. What's up, Carla? 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): It's such an honor. Good afternoon, siblings. My name is Carla Johnson. I'm an African American assistant or woman. Same-gender loving woman, my pronouns are she/her. I work for Allegis Corporate Services as the CSR Manager. I have dark brown hair. The gray is not showing. I do not have a haircut today, and I have brown eyes. I'm wearing a white golf shirt and a dark red blazer with a lapel pin of the Progressive Pride flag. I am currently sitting in Hanover, Maryland, on our corporate campus.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Fantastic. Thank you for joining us, Carla. Thank you for being here, I'm gonna start off by just taking you down a quick little journey or a peak behind my journey real quick. So I'll tell you that I started this organization years ago, and when I first started some of these stats, I could relate to some of them. And it was because I felt the need to conform, or I felt like I needed to wear the girl clothes with the hoopy earrings, and just to try to fit in, you know. And that just wasn't me right? But the nice thing about. You know. What we're talking about today is how to be an ally, right? 

Chris Ware (She/Her): I had some great allies, some great partners that stood with me. In a time where I was trying to discover myself and figure out, you know who, who was Chris? Was it Christina? Who am I right? And it allowed me to gain confidence. To really step into myself. And so with that, that's where you see the haircut. You see the suits, you see that I was rocking the bow ties. You know what I mean, and so thank God for the allies that I had because, without them, I couldn't have been able to grow professionally. I feel like and down this journey, and it set me up so well for success by having those allies and then having the confidence that I knew that I could, you know, do my job with confidence, knowing that people believed in me for who I was. 

Chris Ware (She/Her): So I wanted to share that because we're gonna kick off this first question. I need to find allyship. What does it mean to be an ally within the workplace? And what are some specific actions that you can take to drive allyship? And I'm gonna start with you, Latoya.

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): So, first, I want to share that my perspective on allyship is that it's not for me to define. I'm not in the community that would need the allyship, specifically focusing on my conversation of talking about the trans community. So I don't get to decide what allyship looks like. They get to decide what my allyship looks like. So, it is that you're listening to the community you want to be there for, the community you want to support and give a voice to. Finding out their immediate needs and then stepping into those spaces for myself was putting my body in rooms that some of our members, our TransTech community members, need to be more comfortable doing. They feel unsafe in corporate boardrooms and when talking with agencies about specific things. Maybe they need help with what they wear and how they present things like that. And my version of allyship was stepping into that space for them, being more aggressive and confident in my body, and putting myself in between them. And essentially, their oppressors. Be honest, and be able to advocate for their needs and to get them appropriately. So my biggest suggestion is to look to the community you're hoping to allyship for, ask them their needs, and then show up in those spaces. That's what I've done.

Chris Ware (She/Her): And I appreciate that. And you know,  you hit on something, you said advocacy. What does that mean?

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): Yeah, advocacy, I can hold that on my own a bit more than I should because advocacy just means me doing the work and showing up to continue to amplify the voice of the community that needs it most. I do my best to make sure that when I speak, I speak the language they feel most comfortable with. With that, I reach back and point the microphone toward the people who are speaking up, the people who need to be amplified and share their messages. So advocacy looks like just taking center stage, getting everyone's attention, and then turning around and passing the mic.

Chris Ware (She/Her): That's right, that's right. And I really wanted to highlight that individuals, you know, seeking to be a better ally— advocacy is so important, especially when you know people are in rooms that we might not be in. It's a great opportunity to advocate for individuals, especially when we're talking about some of those statistics of people feeling, you know, not feeling belonged or needed, or, you know, so on and so forth. So, I appreciate what you just said. There, I'm gonna send it over to Steven. Steven. What are your thoughts on this topic? 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): Yeah. So I think allyship is not just a noun, but it's a verb. It requires action. And I think it's important that we recognize that everyone is on a different path or spot along their journey to allyship. So, what does that look like in the beginning? I mean, it could be you sitting here right now in a learning position, just listening and learning. So, you know, dive into those resources. We have a ton of great resources from the Trevor Project and from HRC. From PFLAG. Simple things like following social media accounts for advocacy groups like that. It gets into your content. It gets into your day, however, you learn and digest media. Find those avenues for you to learn. Next, you might start becoming more of a visible ally. So what does that look like? Maybe it means having a Pride flag at your desk. Maybe it’s a Pride pin or using a Pride background. Sharing this recording and other recordings with your friends, your family, and your colleagues within your community. And then you can slowly grow into being an active ally, being an advocate, and promoting inclusive policies within either your workplace or your local community. 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): And sometimes allyship means intervening and stepping up when something doesn't sit right with you. Different people handle those situations differently. Some tools I learned are if you're non-confrontational, you can just make a verbal sigh or something like a gasp or something that shows your disagreement. Or if you're bolder, and you know you really want to lean in, you can step in and ask people well like, “What did you mean by that”, and it allows them a second to think about what they just said and respond to it. I think a really important takeaway is that allies help. Others become allies. They don't alienate me, as a queer person, and many others in our community. Sometimes, we don't always have the mental capacity to help people along their learning journey because, in our everyday lives, we have microaggressions. We face discrimination, and so that's where allies can really step in and show up and help us out. And again, like allies, help others become allies. We don't want to alienate people. We want to bring everyone along the journey and learn and grow.

Chris Ware (She/Her): I appreciate that, Steven. You said a lot of great things there, and you know, one thing Steven didn't talk about in this intro: he came from General Motors, where he was the president of the LGBTQ+ ERG when he was there. So, first of all, that's amazing because that is one of the leaders in the automotive industry. And talk about allyship. Did you learn a lot, I guess? What did you learn from being the president of the LGBTQ+ ERG when you were over at General Motors, was there anything that you could share with the group that might be beneficial?

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): I learned so much. We did a global ERG and then, now, in my current job, I’m a program manager, but also leading their DEI committee so I’m very passionate about it. Learning from a big company, a big corporation – it starts at the bottom, and it also starts at the top. So both ways and both paths are helpful. A grassroots effort. Find your allies both within the working level and with your colleagues and co-workers. But then also find your executive allies. Advocate and have them advocate for you. We moved many mountains and hurdles. I was able to get domestic partner benefits, transgender-affirming care, and transition guidelines within the company. For me, I think one big learning is to take time for yourself, because DEI can be exhausting, and it can burn you out. But to all the work that you and we and everyone out there are doing, it's changing people's lives for you, the current state, but also the future state. Everyone that comes after you. So while you're taking those moments to rest and recharge and relax, what continues to drive me is knowing that the work that I'm doing is impacting others. And it's making others' lives greater. They're able to live authentically and show up in a way that is authentic for themselves.

Chris Ware (She/Her): That's amazing. See, I'm so glad I brought that up. You work, but I had to break it up!

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Are we all allowed to cheer out loud like that?

Chris Ware(She/Her): Yeah!

Chris Ware (She/Her): Seriously. That's another little flag flip.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Exactly, Steven.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Okay, go, Steven! And so, Andy, what are your thoughts on this? I gotta tap you in.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Well. So. being descended from French and Scottish people who settled in Canada—imposter syndrome in the diversity and inclusion area keeps kicking in. Because who am I? I'm this privileged white dude, who was handed enough shelter, food, education, and opportunity to have a great life. Oh, I happen to have had a husband for years, so that thread for me related to Pride Month and beyond Pride Month, and allyship, turns into acknowledging that when I was born in Canada, it was illegal to be my authentic self. I could, when I was a teenager in Canada. People were still being taken to jail from nightclubs if they loved someone of the same sex. When my husband and I first moved to the United States twenty years ago, we were told it's essential that you take your rings off and be in separate lines, because under the immigration laws you can be rejected entry based on your orientation under the statutes. So we moved back to Canada. By then it was legal to get married, and there were full equal rights in Canada. That's awesome. 

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): In 2015, my now boss called and said, “Would you and Paul consider moving to California?” And I said, “No, because of the Draconian laws that are there in the United States”. And they said, “Well, a funny thing happened in the Supreme Court this summer. The law changed, and now people have equal rights. The Obama Administration made full equal access under the law for immigration for same-sex couples”. The day that SCOTUS acknowledged equal marriage. So from that day on the immigration form, my husband was a check mark the second time we came. So the first time was completely “do not acknowledge the one you love”. The second time was a checkmark on the form. The immigration officers said, “Welcome to the United States gentlemen”. 

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): And along the way a colleague here at Capgemini back in 2007, I was so grateful that KA – Krystianne Avedian said, “I think we need to have a conversation about people who love people of the same sex at work. I don't know what that looks like''. Well, back then, it was, to your point, Steven, of starting at the bottom, and well, no one was having that conversation. And what could that shape up to be now? It's in 24 countries, this thing called “Out Front the KA”. Two friends in a parking lot started it one evening. I was fortunate enough to be a past president of it for the Americas. And before it went global, KA took over. And now this year, we're seeing from an allyship perspective. The CEO of our company is acknowledging that it's Pride every day, not just in Pride Month. The CEO of Capgemini America just sent a note the other day on LinkedIn. Last year our global CEO thanked KA for founding this thing that has reshaped our culture and, by the way, launched opportunities to acknowledge the values of those differences in multiple dimensions. So now we have this whole suite of employee networks focusing on different areas to lift us all. So I know that's a lot. But I did not mention when I said “Hello”, that I have a white mustache and a white beard that used to be bright red, but now they're white. I've earned them. But the hopefulness of allies, and the last thing I'll share is that just putting yourself out there and being vulnerable and visible, gives other people the permission to do the same, and the number of kind, compassionate, empathetic, curious people who don't happen to be LGBTQ Spirited+ that want help in thinking it through with their families, with their children, with their brother, with their father. You know LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, and the people we work with have all those connections to us that we don't see, because we haven't shared so thank you for the opportunity.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Andy, Thank you for sharing all of that. There's a reason why you have almost 22,000 followers on LinkedIn because Carla said it earlier: “I could listen to you speak all day”. I could do it, too. So you know, if you're not following Andy on LinkedIn, really, you should. You should follow all of us. But, Andy, thank you so much for going down that journey with us. So I'm gonna move on to the next question. What are some practical steps individuals and businesses can take to support LGBTQ+ employees year-round? Let's dig into it a little bit further, a little bit deeper. Steven, let's start with you.

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): So if you haven't started already, I think one of the most practical steps is starting a BRG or an ERG for your Pride organization, and not just Pride, but all minority groups. The concept of intersectionality, how all of our identities come together to create who and what we are, and our lens of experience through the world is great. I think starting ERGs (some companies call them BRGs), but starting those groups is a really good starting point and a practical first step because it allows queer and Allied folk alike to come together and network and start building that community within the workplace. And for me, that was really important. When I was first coming out in the workplace, having an ERG there to support me, and just kind of find other people within the community at work was really beneficial, and I cannot even begin to explain how it changed my life and changed the trajectory of my career. 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): The other thing is, that a lot of these ERGs have mentoring programs, they have career development opportunities, and there are people there to guide you. Also, you're doing the social aspects. Which again, when you're coming out trying to find people who will love and accept you for who you are, both in your job and outside of work as well. Having that network is hugely beneficial. Once you have that established just some ground rules are good. The next place to start is if you're in a place that can influence the company, taking a look at the company policies. The HRC Corporate Equality Index and taking a look and seeing if you have a doctor Transgender affirming care? Do you have domestic partner benefits? What volunteer activities are you doing within the community? How are you supporting the community in other ways? How are you giving back? What does your LGBTQ+ inclusion look like? We just said it – Pride is not just a month. It's a year-round activity. So there are DEI holidays all throughout the year. Transgender Day of Visibility, Lesbian Visibility Week, National Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia, Coming Out Day, Intersex Awareness Day – I just want to take a moment and recognize the intersex community because that is a community within our LGBTQ+ hat that doesn't always get the recognition. Having, you know, some resources and pulling different things together to bring awareness. 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): So there's a lot of different opportunities to develop, content to just develop, you know. Send out articles, and learning content. It's all available. Linkedin. You know, you can find a ton of training resources on all of these nonprofit pages and LinkedIn content. I could go on and on and on, but I'll pause there.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Thank you. And you talked about it, and I know I mentioned it already as well. But the employee resource groups. They are so important, way more important than I think people really realize they really help build a sense of community. And I think when I finally realized just how important some of the work we were doing we're building out the ERG that we built out at Aston Carter being a founding board member of that we we started that ERG in the middle of COVID, and there was this dire sense that they wanted to build. People wanted to have that sense of community especially because they were at home alone. Now let me peel back the onion a little bit. 

Chris Ware (She/Her): Let me give you an example. We hopped on an ERG call, and it was a get-to-know-you call with the whole ERG, and there were probably at the time maybe or of us, not many. We went around the horn. We spent the hour just kind of getting to know each other. We told our coming out story just so again to build out that sense of community. There was one individual on this call, she was at home, and she was not able to fully communicate her coming out story because she was with her family, and she had not come out to them. So she was actually in the midst of going through it, and the reason why she joined the ERG was because she was looking to build that sense of community and get advice, and how to get allies, and so on, and so forth. All of us going around and telling our stories, it then further gave her the confidence to start reaching out to individuals, and then she eventually came out to her family. But it was just interesting how she couldn't talk about her story on the call. She had to type it in the chat. And so it's just, you know, these ERGs are just so important. And so that's why I wanted to, you know, share that little tidbit. Andy, what are your thoughts on the topic?

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Well, so I just dropped in the chat a “Thank You” note to KA – Krystianne Avedian who founded that first Out Front LGBTQ+ ERG. The founders happen to be a person who worked at Capgemini as he went away for a while and was rehired as she. And so we've had transgender founding of our LGBTQ+ ERG. So all the letters actually mean real things to real community members. So thank you all for acknowledging all of the people like we're all human with different attributes in this community. And yet sometimes it feels so fractured. So, having that safe space in an employee resource group or an employee network recruiting Capgemini is in our business. We are consulting. We are people helping with ideas and the most creative, wonderful things emerge at those intersection points between different backgrounds, different identities, and different life experiences. 

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): And so how do we create a culture of attraction to create the future we want, which is truly what we're always working to build employee resource groups? And then the safety thing. It just still rips my heart out when new consultants ask, “Is it okay to mention my significant other at work?” YES, of course, you know, but people are still dealing with that piece. People will ask in recruiting events, “Is it really a place for women? Is it really a place for African Americans, for Hispanics?” Well, through the years these different employee resource groups have fostered communities that have now got formal relationships between Capgemini and different communities to source these talented colleagues we want to work with. But it's that catch – How do you not be a bunch of people in blue blazers with khakis, who are all male and middle-aged, and of the same genetic makeup? How do you attract and create that diversity of thought and excitement in building new things without the ERGs? I can't imagine, Steven, you put it so beautifully, and it's an opportunity for you, and everyone to learn as they participate in those. That's a lot. But you asked, and there it is!

Chris Ware (She/Her): I appreciate that. No, that tees it up for the next question I have: How can professionals educate themselves and their coworkers about pronouns and gender-neutral language? So I'm gonna start with Carla. What do you think?

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Yeah, thank you. We have to breathe in that representation matters right? We need to begin to educate ourselves. Do the work. Understand what pronouns are, what gender identity is, and what and how important inclusive language is. Chris talked about it earlier when I first started at Allegis Group. I followed her on Linkedin. She was the only visible person in my ecosystem that I saw that looked like I did. Her bow ties, her short hair, her ethnicity. She led by example for us to continue to educate ourselves as professionals. We must lead by example, by using gender-neutral language and sharing our own pronouns with my siblings in the LGBTIA community. I think Steven talked about it being heavy, it is a lot. And it is for me, Chris, to be quite honest, the weight that we carry. We create the representation that we want. You were my example to continue to pull back my own layers and reframe how I'm showing up to be in the role that I am in now. Advocate for policy change. We've talked about that. What is within your organization, your DEI strategy? What are your DEI leaders working on? 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Here at Allegis Corporate Services, we are led by our vision statement, which is that ACS is a place where we are invited to be our authentic selves. We feel that we belong in this community. Our contributions are valued, and where there's the opportunity for us to develop and grow. To continue, to live and lean into that particular vision statement, we must understand that we are the examples. One of my mentors and friends, I jokingly call him the Doctor Franklin Reed, he is the executive director of Texas DEI. He shared with me years ago, when I got into this role, that change takes time and sustainable effort is from everyone. So that is how, as professionals, we continue to advocate and promote gender-neutral language.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Love that and I love everything you just said. 

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): I was gonna say, are we allowed to cheer out loud again?!

Chris Ware (She/Her): Okay, yeah, we can cheer out loud again. Okay? Cause woo! I mean, you've told me that before. But thank you again, Carla, I mean, you know. And it's so funny like, now you're the example that people have to look up to. You know what I mean. And it takes time like Franklin just said it does. It takes time, you know. So I appreciate what you just said. Steven, I know you were getting ready to say something when I initially asked the question. Tell me, what are your thoughts?

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): So I guess just to build upon everything Carla just said, find resources. Listen, learn, and start by changing your own vocabulary. For me growing up, I grew up in southern Texas on the border, but everyone around me always used, “you guys”, as just a gender catch-all word. And it was meant gender neutral. But as I moved on and learned and grew more in the DEI space. I had to recognize that not everyone interprets my language the same way, and I had to train myself to start saying, “you all”, “folks” or “team” and so it's just more welcoming now that I do it. It's become a habit and sometimes retraining your vocabulary and retraining your language does take time so give yourself grace, but also learn and correct yourself as you go along. Slowly it takes form but it's just more welcoming. It feels more natural now to me. When I say, “Hey, you all”, or “Hey, team?”, you know it's fully inclusive, and people don't interpret it as one way or the other. Right? 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): When it comes to pronouns, I think one important thing to mention is, that if you're unsure about pronouns, ask, don't make an assumption, and accidentally misgender someone because you are unsure. That's why we started off our panel today with our introductions, our names, and our pronouns. Because when you go up to someone and you don't know them, and you don't know their identity, I can go up to them and say, “Hi! My name is Steven. I use he/him pronouns. What about you?” And so you're taking that moment to learn about that person, learn their name, learn their pronouns, and their identity. It takes the burden off the other individual to correct you and stop the conversation. Maybe they just don't feel uncomfortable, or maybe that is the 10th time that they've been misgendered that day and they just don't have the mental capacity to continue doing it, right? It takes a burden off of them. And it's just an easy way to introduce yourself. 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): Also, we live in a global society. You know there are names out there that we may not recognize if they're masculine or feminine, and even within our English language there are names that have both masculine and feminine associations with them. We talk about gender-neutral language, but also gender-neutral pronouns. This is a really important one. Take the time to learn someone's pronouns, use them, and use them correctly. If you make a mistake, just correct yourself. You can go like, “Oh, sorry” and then move on. Don't make a big to-do about it, because then it draws attention and focus to that person, and it might make them feel uncomfortable. But catch yourself. make a quick apology. move on, and then just train your mind and correct it. Next time.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Yeah, you hit the nail on the head with all of that. And I think with us living in a virtual world. It's not hard to add to your signature, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs. It doesn't always have to be the LGBTQ+ community that's doing it, it could be everybody. So eventually we can get to a point where it's like we are all “he/him/his”, and “they/them/theirs”, and so on. And so you know what I mean. I know you can do it on Microsoft Teams. You see today, we have it on Zoom. We have our name, and it doesn't have to be awkward. 

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): I'll try to keep it quick because of the time but I realize that often it's probably a bit of a privilege to function in the world as an assistant or woman, and being able to say things in certain spaces that other folks in the community may not feel comfortable saying. One of the things that I talk to allies specifically about, or people who are trying to be allies, is that these things should be general language. The idea of educating yourself is really difficult when they don't know what they don't know. What do you research when you have no clue? So it is a matter of understanding that this language is not specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. Don't ask the people that look different what their pronouns are. Make it a general language that we just say “y'all”, or we just say “they” or we just use their names. It's not a complicated practice for us to strip away this idea that you're a good person. 

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): We get ostracized being in a community by the person who's well intended. And the problem is that we are the only community vocalizing these things, and what I try to do is take it out of our LGBTQI+, and give it directly to everybody. Just use gender-neutral language that includes anyone or just use their names. “Hey? I wanna be able to use your name. Can you make sure I'm pronouncing it right?” And that's it. You don't have to worry about misgendering somebody when you speak to them directly. The other part that I wanted to share is when we were talking about how organizations can show that they are inclusive of all genders and make everyone comfortable, putting them in leadership. You have no idea how many rooms I walk into and I'm the only brown woman. Or I'm the only outwardly vocal LGBTQIA+ person. So if you want us to recognize that you are accepting of all people, put all people in leadership. It seems absolutely ridiculous that you're a white male-run organization and telling me that you have an ERG of people. But none of those people are making decisions about your organization. It enrages me. Actually.

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): Let everybody say their piece. We're the representation, and we show up. We are always the representation for ourselves. Today’s platform is education for everyone to learn, and how to make space for us. It is not about affirming that we will make space for ourselves. This is giving them information on what to do, and what you need to do is put us in leadership, put Black folks in leadership, put Indigenous folks in leadership, put trans folks in leadership, put LGBTQIA in leadership, and so on and so forth in leadership.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Yes, ma'am!

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): In my mind, there are no other metrics that you need to take because if you ensure that Black trans women are part of running your organization, they will ensure that everyone inside your organization has access to what they need. It's just the default on a trickle-down. So make sure that the policies and your benefits fit all people. You know how? By having all people be the decision-makers for those policies. Have a person who's in a domestic partnership in there, have a person who needs adoptive and fertility support services for birthing and non-birthing partners, and have that person in there on the call with HR. That's how we figure that out. We don't have to make it, where our ERG groups are throwing information and ideas from staff, put our dynamic faces and Intersection-lived experiences in leadership, and you won't have to question whether your organization is inclusive or not.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Mic drop.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Okay. Okay, so let me do this real quick. I gotta get through this. I'm only gonna ask one more question. And then I have quite a few questions from the audience, and I wanna see if we could get nailed out real quick. Okay, so are we ready for this? How can workforce professionals advocate for LGBTQ+ rights in their communities and beyond? Are there opportunities to collaborate with local LGBTQ+ organizations or participate in advocacy campaigns? Carla, I'm gonna kick it to you first.

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Yes, yes, and yes, and understand the importance. I think LaToya already kind of schooled us. Right? So ERGs are extremely important. Know who you're who you're donating to and understand that the practice in the workplace they taught you all talked about already. Sexual orientation, gender identity, non-discrimination policies. Participate. Show up. So when the ERGs are doing something, make sure that you're there. Understand who your advocates are. In your workplace and in your community. So if you can't name it, I encourage each of the people watching this: If you want to be an ally beyond Pride Month, learn about two LGBT organizations, grow to donate to those organizations, and then understand how within your employee base your ecosystem is donating and participating. When the HRC identified that the LGBTQ+ community was in a crisis, what did you do? Right? So how are we learning from the things that are already in our system? 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Make sure if you're an ally beyond Pride Month that you don't just talk about what your ERGs are doing during June. I am big on leading by example, and so I do feel like as an ally, our allies should be holding our LGBTQ+ community accountable. Here at Allegis corporate services, I'm thinking of a particular ally who is hungry to learn. She's a mother, she's a wife, she's a friend, and she wants to know how to continue to show her authentic self in support. So understanding that we are again leading by example. We are paying attention to our surroundings and talking about this beyond the workplace. I know what the question is, but change happens as we continue to matriculate it into our natural known ecosystem. So if we are having conversations with people who we know aren't supportive, how are you using language? How are you informing? How are you being an example? I'm continuing to again understand what the community needs. I think it is indicative to say that we don't have a transgender, representative representative sibling in this panel. And so how are we being advocates to ensure that the next time there is full representation? I think we all bring great passion and input. But we need to continue to be vocal when we don't see the representation in front of us. Hope to answer your question, Chris.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Yes, it did. Okay. So, Steven, I'm gonna let you go. 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): Quick a few ways are, to hold your company accountable and hold yourself accountable. So within your community. How are you showing up? Are you showing up to your student council meetings? Are you showing up to school board meetings? Are you showing up in your community in ways to advocate within your workplace? Are you looking into things like donations? Where is your company donating and supporting? And are they supporting the causes that you believe in and are aligned with? So a really great, great way is to find opportunities to either make donations to or create volunteer outreach projects to local LGBTQ+ community centers. Or make some arrangements and alignments with national LGBT organizations. There are some really great ones like the Trevor project. PFLAG. HRC. The list goes on and on.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Okay, thank you so much. That was good. Let me ask this question from the audience, real quick. Should someone ask what someone's pronouns are? I usually say mine, and it opens up the door for them, but I don't ask for fear to pressure them to share when they may not want to share. 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): I can jump in there. 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): I believe you can. You should feel comfortable to lead, and you should feel comfortable to ask. It just continues with what LaToya talked about normalizing. We have to do it because people are ostracized, people are left out, and so when it becomes a part of our normal dialogue. Then it becomes normal, right? It becomes natural and people will lead that way. To continue to drive that particular narrative. I would say. Yes, I would encourage it. To ask what folks' pronouns are.

Chris Ware(She/Her): I’ve got one more and then another question. I think this one is gonna be a good one. With the recent gender-affirming healthcare ban in South Carolina, how can individuals impacted by this be supported by their peers and companies? 

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): I think this is really difficult for the trans community, even for myself. Because part of the work that I was doing at GM, and even outside in my personal life was, you know, tracking some of this policy work, and the sheer number of bills is staggering. I have no other words. One thing that we can do within a company, within the organization, and one thing that I was able to work through is ensure travel reimbursement within your benefits. If you live and work in a state where healthcare is not being provided to you, and it's gender-affirming, life-saving healthcare that you need. If you're living in an area that is not provided, the best thing that an employer can do is offer travel reimbursement services. So that way you can access the care that you need.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Thank you, Steven. 

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Yeah, if I could. How can you be supported by your peers in your company? This is what our human resources department is for. So, being able to talk in confidence with your HR department. And ensuring that you feel comfortable, vulnerable, and safe. Ensure that your support system is there, to make sure that you're protected. Steven, you talked about all of the laws that are quickly changing. Ensure that if your company has a legal department, you're seeking to understand how you can be supported even when talking with your HR. Your HR should be providing that level of understanding. If you don't feel that they are, reach out to your legal team, and understand what you should be saying, and could be saying in order to continue to create that safe ecosystem for you.

Steven Del Gaizo (He/Him): I also want to highlight the importance of mental health and well-being. So if you're really struggling, your friend is struggling, a co-worker, or a family member is struggling. I want to destigmatize mental health and encourage them to find resources. That can help them through a difficult time.

Chris Ware (She/Her): Thank you, Steven. That was the gem that needed to be dropped. Thank you so much, and honestly give yourself a round of applause, all of you all for participating in this wonderful conversation. Such an impactful conversation! I feel so honored and blessed honestly to have been able to have this conversation with you all today. Hopefully, it inspired and encourage some allies to be able to stand with some of our peers here that are in this space and are just looking to be better humans around the world. So I thank you. And thank you to CareerCircle. I feel honored again to be able to have done this. Such a great time. I'm gonna turn it back over to Brittany.

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): If I can say this presumptively. Just clear your schedule for next year, Chris, like everyone, let's just do this again next year.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Yeah, all right!

Chris Ware (She/Her): Same here, same here!

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): Okay, I told y'all this is gonna be lit right? I told you all this going to be the conversation of the year, and you all did not disappoint in any way, shape, or form. We want to thank every single one of you for sharing your experiences, and your knowledge truly from the heart. We truly appreciate it. We hope that everyone that is on this call has learned something that they're gonna be able to pull, to create that inclusive work, environment, and to be able to contribute to best practices. Please check out CareerCircle’s event, page on to register for upcoming webinars we have in store. We'll be sending you an email with the resources discussed today as well as upcoming event information. So be on the lookout. Thank you all so much again for your time, and we look forward to seeing you all here next year. Make sure you bring a friend. 

Brittany Knowles (She/Her): Thank you.

Andy Heppelle (He/Him): Thank you all.

LaToya Papillion-Herr (She/Her): Bye everyone.

Carla Johnson (She/Her): Bye everyone!