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Connected in Pride: Prism and INSPIRE discuss the power of bringing your whole self to work

  • Posted on September 24, 2020
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

As we celebrated Pride this past June, we witnessed a lot happening in the world. From a global pandemic to racial inequality coming to hearts and headlines across the globe, we saw this as a time when sharing and having genuine conversations, and listening to those voices, are so important.

As part of the #ConnectedInPride series, which originally aired in June, members from Prism and INSPIRE, our LGBTQ+ and Black employee networks, came together for a conversation. Prism global lead Christopher Mostello and Prism member Sheldon Carpenter chatted with Donald Scott II and Dominique Cunningham from INSPIRE about intentional intersectionality, racial diversity across the spectrum and the true power storytelling unlocks at work and at home.

Below is a piece of the discussion:

Christopher: On the theme of bringing your full self to work, which we fully believe in at Avanade, I’m curious to hear what’s enabled you to bring your full self to work, whether in or outside of work; how are you bringing your full self to the table and what’s empowered or enabled you to do that?

Dominique: I think that’s an excellent question. I will say that Avanade has been the only place that I’ve truly felt I can be my full self at work. That doesn’t mean I’m immune to the things that clients might say to me out of ignorance. An example of that is just a couple weeks ago, I was advocating for a team that I’m leading, and we didn’t have what we needed. And I was called out for my “rant,” but I was truly advocating for my team in getting the tools they needed to be successful. So, I still battle with what it means to be a black woman on the job and not being labeled as angry or ranting or anything else negative. But one of the things that continues to enable me to bring my full self is trusting and believing in my own worth and what I bring to the table, knowing and believing in my own value, knowing that others see my value, and if I get something wrong or make a mistake that people can see through that and know that I’m a great person and I have really great intentions.

Sheldon: On top of that, for me my workstation in New York is generally proud and that’s just what it is; for me it’s a sense of pride. If I can’t take pride in my job, then I’m not doing my best. I even sign off every email “with pride,” not just because it’s June or it’s Pride month, but because I’m proud of the work that I do. It’s not about flaunting; it’s about and presenting it as, “Here I am, I’m Sheldon Carpenter and I’ve got all of this regalia on my desk or in my email signature.” It’s about me delivering my best, and I truly feel that I can do that here at Avanade. And if I’m worried about what people think of me as a person because I’m gay, that takes away from my productivity as a whole and makes the work that we’re doing here at Avanade less impactful because I may not be giving 100% of myself. In terms of being part of the LGBT+ community, you’re constantly coming out to folks and for me, if I’m getting it out of the way right from the jump then OK, I’m gay, but that’s not really associated with the work that I do., What else do you want to know? I’m here to work and so are you, so let’s have a genuine interaction and get things done. So, it’s truly a sense of pride that I bring each and every day.

Dominique: Sheldon, that’s such a good point about constantly coming out. On every single engagement I’ve been on, I’m constantly reintroducing myself and reestablishing my value and what I bring to the table. They see my name and that I have good credentials, but when I show up in the room or webcam, they’re like, “She’s not what we expected.”

Donald: I think that Avanade actively goes out of its way to create a space for us to grow. I have friends at different organizations where, not only are they not having this conversation, but they are not feeling supported in whatever full, authentic self they may represent. They are not appreciated and there’s no space for the discussion around the discomfort. In some of my previous organizations it’s been me and one other Black person in the office. And as consultants, we’re not all on the same project so that means many times we were alone in the corporate world. Avanade is the first place I’ve come to, and I think many people have come to, where it was even possible to have an active Black employee network. What’s important about INSPIRE is that our new employees are coming into this space where they think it’s normal to have ERGs, and when representation is normalized that creates an environment for safety and a foundation for growth. Our employees will know that they can exponentially grow because of the safe space created inside this organization. So, I am very thankful to Avanade for actively supporting an inclusive experience because it’s not everywhere.

This discussion has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Listen to the full podcast here:

 

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