A Cisco colleague came to me recently and asked if she could talk to me about her daughter. Having no children myself, I wasn’t sure how I could help. She confided to me that she suspects her 13 year old may be lesbian, and that she had real worries about obstacles that her daughter may face.
My advice to her was to be openly inclusive – without confronting or forcing a conversation that her daughter may not be ready to have. Take the opportunity to go beyond simply allowing her daughter’s personality and talents to unfold, but to proactively support and encourage her individualism and creativity. What a gift it is to provide a trusting environment, unconstrained by concerns about fitting the norm, one without fear of judgment or retribution. That is a huge win for her daughter, supporting her to explore her full potential and prepare to be a star performer as she finishes her education and joins the professional world.
Sure there are obstacles – but you don’t have to look far to see how supportive Cisco is of our LGBT employees. We advocate and expect an accepting culture of inclusion, we call out both sexual orientation and gender identity in the Cisco code of conduct, and tax and benefit inequalities are addressed where possible. All in all Cisco does a lot to ensure that gay employees and their families are treated the same as all other employees and their families.
It is a great story, and Cisco is not alone – the world is changing, and there are many employers for the upcoming generation who, like Cisco, are working hard to level the playing field for everyone – even if society and legislation may not.
Few people that I know seek to be singled-out for our differences, but rather hope (and expect) to be valued and included for what we bring to the table – be it in a family, social or professional work environment. Being secure, authentic, genuine, creative and unique is an excellent foundation for success – in almost any field. What could be a better gift than that?
Through this conversation my colleague has become a friend – and I’ve learned that being “out” at work can help me help others work through their own thoughts and challenges, and just maybe contribute to a pipeline of top talent as the next generation prepares to enter the workforce.
GLBT & Advocates Lead EMEAR