On Lesbian Visibility Day, I’m grateful for the acceptance I’ve found at Avanade
- Posted on April 26, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
April 26 marks Lesbian Visibility Day, an annual observation dedicated to elevating the experiences of lesbian women. In honor of the occasion, Avanade Senior Director of Global HR Valentina Ubbriaco shares her story and the importance of visibility in the workplace.
Lesbian Visibility Day is important as it helps share with the broader community who we are and what we believe – and how we can all collectively work to create a future of representation and belonging.
Growing up in Italy, I experienced firsthand what it was like to not have a sense of belonging. Playing football, having short hair, dressing “as a boy,” and enjoying all stereotypical “male” activities in Sicily in the ‘90s put me in the spotlight, but not in a positive way.
I was “visible” but not accepted for my identity as I was not conforming to the stereotypical gender norms of Sicily’s old-school, male-centered culture. I was considered “not normal,” the rebel boy to criticize and to laugh at.
During this time, I fell in love with my best friend, which was the start of a constant internal battle and struggle with my sexuality. I found myself asking if I was sick, and one of my friends even told me I should consider an exorcism. I wondered to myself why something as simple as loving someone should ever be such a problem.
But still, it felt like there was no one like me in Sicily, and at that time, being a lesbian was not something that I or anyone else even knew existed. I felt that I should hide myself and be “invisible” to avoid being bullied and marginalized. The good thing is that, instead of listening to everyone who said I was “not normal,” I decided that another world should exist where I could express myself and be accepted for who I was! I left for Paris and discovered other people like me – a new world, the wonderful world of LGBTQ+ community!
In Paris I at last felt seen, listened, welcomed and appreciated, even by a very innovative and open-minded priest who told me, “God is love and won’t judge you for loving and respecting someone.” That felt especially meaningful after having grown up in an environment where people used religion to discriminate against me.
At work, unfortunately, the situation was a bit more complicated. My workplace at the time had somewhat backwards views and I worried that being openly out might jeopardize my career, especially in a leadership position. I decided again to hide myself and keep the information limited only to few people. Luckily for me, things got better when I arrived in London, and I had the chance to find a very welcoming work environment.
To add to that, last year a friend of mine invited me to join Women of Interbank, where I started to build a professional network within the LGBTQ+ community. There I met Avanade Director Sarah Rench and realized that I could be a lesbian leader! I didn’t need to hide myself anymore.
Sarah talked to me about how Avanade was an inclusive and diverse organization and suggested that she would refer me for an open People Solution Lead role. Today I’m covering that role for Avanade, and since the start I felt welcomed and accepted for being a lesbian. It’s truly a culture of top-down support: Our Chief People Officer Caroline Fanning and Chief Information Officer Ronald White have gladly included me in their executive team and always make me feel equal!
Thanks to our culture of inclusion and diversity at Avanade, I feel finally seen and welcome for who I am, but also valued for my skills and professionalism. Writing this blog to celebrate it on Lesbian Visibility Day was for me a way to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point.
I would like to conclude also with a key take away: promoting visibility as well as diversity and inclusion has a significant impact on employee motivation and self-esteem, which contribute significantly to improve performance and engagement at work.
With that in mind, let’s rise above discrimination together and promote visibility!