At Cengage Group, our employee resource groups (ERGs) are a crucial part of our culture. Founded in 2018, our Pride ERG was the first and now has nearly 300 members. “The ERG’s mission is to create an inclusive culture among the organization that provides educational insight, resources and support to not only our members, but also the leadership of Cengage Group. We have driven organizational changes and created awareness around situations that challenge our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiatives,” says Chase S., District Manager.
Cengage Group Celebrates Pride 2022
“The Pride ERG is excited to celebrate who we are individually and together, and we have several opportunities to do that,” says Nicole R., Senior Product Manager. “This year’s Pride Month celebrations focus on our international colleagues. We will be sharing a series of personal narratives, providing a support group focused on travel and plan to host our third annual Intersectionality Panel with participants from our international teams.”
Colleen R., Manager of Content Production & Development, explains that this year “we are hoping to highlight the global LGBTQIA+ experience and increase awareness of our Pride ERG abroad. Being a Co-Chair for the Pride ERG is my favorite thing about working for Cengage Group, and I want my colleagues in our global offices to feel the impact of Pride and all the ERGs. Most of all, I hope we are making the LGBTQIA+ community at Cengage Group feel seen, supported and glad that they work for a company like ours.”
What Does Pride Month Mean to You?
Sonny C., Senior Research Coordinator says, “the original meaning behind Pride Month is incredibly important, especially in the wake of recent homophobic and transphobic legislation. This is a time to join with your community to celebrate the fact that despite everything, we’re still here. To toast authenticity, love and being your messy, beautiful, genuine self in defiance of cishet society.”
“It’s important to remember that the LGBTQIA+ community exists everywhere, big cities and small towns,” adds Sonny C. “I grew up in a semi-rural town where the concept of being queer wasn’t even on the table. Due to the efforts of local organizers, my hometown held its first-ever pride parade in 2019 and hundreds of people showed up. When I saw the pictures of kids and teens celebrating their authentic selves in a way I never could, I cried with joy for them.”
Rachael H., Trainer of Academic Outreach & Engagement and a Support Lead for the Pride ERG explains that “Pride Month is a chance to engage with our community at in-person celebrations, Pride-related parades and events. It’s also a great time for more people to become allies - people who put in an effort to not just accept folx in the queer community, but also work to understand our challenges and history.” This year, Rachael plans to “attend as many Pride events as I can, enjoy my queer kickball league and (legal docs pending) will be marrying my wife!”
Celebrating and Reflecting
Kirsten B., Senior Digital Success Specialist and Communication Lead for the Pride ERG says that “Pride Month is a smorgasbord of celebration, reflection and trepidation. In June, surrounded by rainbow-patterned merchandise and support from both allies and other LGBTQIA+ people, I feel confident enough to take my full, authentic self out 'into the wild,' so to speak. But while seeing rainbow flags displayed on houses, storefronts and car bumpers does make me feel more seen and validated, it also comes with a healthy dose of reflection on how far we’ve come and how far we have to go.
I think of Marsha P. Johnson and Stonewall, the AIDs crisis, the 'Don’t Say Gay' bill; I think of all of the people we have lost because they could not, and still cannot, safely live their truths. So, as I celebrate the fact that I’ve been given the ability to unapologetically march through the streets of Cincinnati wearing the bisexual flag as a cape, I remember that there is still much work to do.”
“Since joining the LGBTQIA+ community, I have been able to let go of misconceptions and stop judging myself for the way I exist, it has been very freeing ... I no longer feel so alone or out of place.”
Why is the Pride ERG Important to the Culture at Cengage Group?
“We hope to broaden our colleagues’ perspectives when it comes to issues pertaining to the LGBTQIA+ community, so they can feel even more empowered to offer support both in the workplace and throughout their lives,” says Justin D., Director of Corporate Communications and an Education and Culture lead for the Pride ERG. “It’s clear there’s so much more work to be done to combat discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community and advance the cause of equal rights for all. During Pride Month, we shine the spotlight on all of the work that has been done over the decades, while acknowledging the work is not done yet.”
Sonny C., a Social Lead for the Pride ERG says “I want to see members of the Pride ERG form close bonds, feel supported and loved by their community, whether they’re LGBTQIA+ or an ally.”
Justin adds that “just the very fact that Cengage Group has a Pride ERG is a strong signal about the company’s values and the culture it’s trying to create for employees. With nearly 300 members, it’s an important force within Cengage Group that will continue to push for more diversity, equitability and inclusivity in hiring, policies and benefits we offer to employees as well as in the educational experience we offer to learners.”
Raising Awareness and Building Allies
Shelby B., Associate Content Manager, says they wishes more people understood that “being queer is only one part of who we are, and we may not have that part of our identity at the forefront in every situation. Every queer person is different, presents themselves in a different way, uses different pronouns, just as every straight or cisgender person does. Just as you wouldn’t assume everyone is gay, you shouldn’t assume everyone is straight. When talking with someone, its best to use gender neutral terms.”
Lina Ž., UX Researcher and an Education and Culture lead for the Pride ERG says, “I am passionate about creating platforms that educate the larger organization about LGBTQIA+ topics. If I inspire one colleague to look up a new topic or a name that pertains to LGBTQIA+ lives, I consider my mission here a success. I come to Cengage Group with 5+ years of teaching college-level courses on LGBTQIA+ topics and I am also an active community organizer in my native Lithuania, where I helped run queer festivals and media projects on LGBTQIA+ history. So, I see my responsibilities at the ERG as an extension of my past work.”
Lina adds that, this year “I am working to raise awareness about how more people can become allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Allyship is most effective when it is proactive. It’s best to think about it as your action rather than an identity.”
How to Help Model Proactive LGBTQIA+ Allyship by Lina Ž.
Listen to LGBTQ+ people. The easy part of allyship is that there is no need to re-invent the wheel. LGBTQ+ people know their needs best. So, start by listening to us more proactively.
Educate yourself about LGBTQ+ history. It’s always fun to start from local stories. When did the first Pride march take place in the town you’re from? Are there any LGBTQ+ landmarks in your neighborhood? Once you learn about local history, go farther. Learn about LGBTQ+ people in other states and countries. The sky is the limit!
Find a cause. For your allyship to be authentic, it’s best to align with causes that resonate with you. If you care about the safety of LGBTQ+ kids in schools, dive right in. Maybe you worry about the limited support LGBTQ+ elders get? Whichever cause speaks to you loudest, it’s always good to think about historically excluded identities within the larger LGBTQ+ umbrella. Explore and commit to one cause and see change happen!
Speak up. LGBTQ+ people should not be the only ones in the room calling out injustice, blatant homophobia or microaggressions. This is where allies can truly shine. Speak up about making language more inclusive. Speak up when you hear jokes with homophobic slurs. Use such moments as opportunities for inclusive education.
Donate. Donate your time through volunteering. If you can, donate especially to local LGBTQ+ groups and organizations as local organizing is underfunded.
To anyone who is struggling to bring their whole selves to work, Kirsten B. says, “First and foremost: have a support system. Friends, family, significant other, a therapist - whomever you feel comfortable talking to – and consider telling them about how you’re hesitant to be your full self at work. Knowing that someone had my back while I was anxious made all the difference. Take baby steps, whatever that looks like for you. It could be including pronouns in your email signature or putting a little pride flag next to your name in Slack, Skype, etc. Remember that you are not alone be confident in your journey.”
This content was originally posted as part of an employee takeover on our LinkedIn page. To see more, follow us on LinkedIn.