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Building an LGBTQIA-friendly workplace: Team Rainbow at Asana

November 22nd, 2017
5 min read
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One of the parts of our workplace that we’re proud of is one that was created by Asanas, for Asanas: our employee resource groups (ERGs). In our experience, ERGs have been paramount to creating an inclusive workplace and contributing to employee satisfaction and success.

As the second installment of our three-part series on Asana ERGs, we’d like to introduce Team Rainbow, our LGBTQIA+ ERG. Team Rainbow is committed to providing a space for LGBTQIA+ people and allies to support and learn from each other in a safe and loving environment.

We recently sat down with a few committee members to discuss the three ways they’ve contributed to creating a LGBTQIA+ friendly workplace at Asana: providing space for people to express themselves, driving change to support community members, and educating and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. If you’re interested in starting a LGTBQIA+ friendly ERG at your company, we’ve also included some actionable tips from Team Rainbow to do so.

Providing space for self-expression

We’ve learned that an integral part of helping employees thrive is creating a space where every individual feels they can bring their full selves to work. This means building, giving, and taking the space for people to express themselves, both in professional and personal settings.

“A lot of Team Rainbow’s commitment to creating space for people to express themselves is supported by our company and founders,” says Elden Seropian, one of the Team Rainbow co-leads. Every Asana employee is encouraged to attend a Conscious Leadership Group (CLG) training, which teaches open and curious communication, and how to hold space for beliefs that might be different from your own. “CLG principles are strong no matter what perspective you carry,” says Michael Armstrong, a Team Rainbow member. “They help us share our beliefs and emotions without feeling judgement or fear.”

LGBTQ+ friendly company

Team Rainbow member Nikki Henderson shows off her pride!

This company openness was exemplified in a forum organized the day after the presidential election of 2016. All employees were welcomed to voice their emotions within a supportive group. “It felt almost like an open mic night,” Michael said. Running an ERG within a broader community of peers that is open and welcoming of different beliefs has definitely contributed to Team Rainbow’s ongoing success at providing space for LGBTQIA+ community members to express themselves.

Within the company, Team Rainbow has championed LGBTQIA+-specific dialogues around topics such as pronouns in the workplace—like having pronoun stickers made and distributed throughout the company—and organized discussions on topics of interest, both at a companywide and a smaller, committee level.

An integral part of helping employees thrive is creating a space where every individual feels they can bring their full selves to work.

For example, on the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL, Team Rainbow organized a memorial gathering for people to remember and discuss their feelings. Recalls Michael, “Interns who were from conservative areas said how nice it was to finally be processing and talking about the horrific event with a supportive community.”

Team Rainbow also hosts monthly lunches where members discuss recent news or just what’s on their minds. “I had previously only come out to individuals,” says Steven Rybicki, a co-lead of the ERG.“I’ve never felt as comfortable in a large group as I do at Team Rainbow lunches.”

Team Rainbow tips for providing space for expression:

  • Organize company-wide events to hold space for different beliefs and perspectives.

  • Respond to recent events to help employees process their reactions.

  • Host smaller gatherings to foster connection among community members.

Driving changes in the workplace to support LGBTQIA+

Team Rainbow has driven various changes in the workplace to support the LGBTQIA+ community in company processes and decision making. Improvements have ranged from the tactical to more strategic. But one thing Team Rainbow has learned is it’s important to get involved in company planning because there’s a good chance that decisions will be made that impact LGBTQIA+ people.

At a tactical level, Team Rainbow and its members have worked with the company’s Facilities Team to ensure that there are gender neutral bathrooms on every floor and that name tags at events include space for attendees to specify pronouns. From a more strategic standpoint, they work with the People Operations Team to review new policies for inclusive language and potential issues for LGBTQIA+ community members.

One of the most impactful ways Team Rainbow has created change in the workplace has been through their impact on our recruiting processes. Their active partnership with the Recruiting Team helps make the candidate experience more LGBTQIA+ friendly.

For example, the Recruiting Team now solicits pronouns on the candidate application form. Recruiters also make a concerted effort to communicate pronouns to the interviewing team, and interviewers use gender neutral pronouns in their written feedback to avoid implicit biases.

Beyond recruiters interacting with candidates, Team Rainbow members make themselves available to talk to LGBTQIA+ candidates who have questions about being LGBTQIA+ and working at Asana. They stay involved in the revision of recruiting practices by attending planning meetings and championing LGBTQIA+ friendly change.

Team Rainbow tips to drive LGBTQIA+ friendly change at work:

  • Identify tactical and strategic ways to make your workplace more LGBTQIA+ friendly and find a champion for each.

  • Get involved in planning and communications processes. Make sure that LGBTQIA+ voices are represented at the table.

  • Show the outside world—office guests and candidates—that you’re committed to a LGBTQIA+ friendly workplace. One simple and effective way of doing so is to incorporate pronouns in the welcome process.

Educate and celebrate

To help everyone feel like they can bring their full selves to work as well as respect one another, Team Rainbow has driven several initiatives to educate Asanas and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community. In their first year, their focus has been on initiatives that build awareness and membership across the company. They’ve created events and educational campaigns both big and small, leveraging existing or ongoing community initiatives—like Pride—to increase awareness.

Building a LGBTQIA+ friendly company

Team Rainbow hosted a learning lunch on spoken word poetry with Kay Kassirer.

Team Rainbow organized various events over the past year, from a LGBTQIA+ history walking tour of the Castro to a fireside chat with Cyan Banister and a Pride brinner (breakfast for dinner) party. They measure the success of each event by the number of attendees, feedback they receive, as well as executive and leadership presence. And every event they produce has an educational aspect—after all, people ought to know what they’re celebrating—whether it’s a talk given, materials distributed, or the entire premise of the event (like the walking tour).

Team Rainbow has also executed ongoing educational campaigns with a focus on posters and table tents. By sprinkling information throughout the office, they allow Asanas to learn on their own time—and add some color to the office, too! Educational campaigns have focused on topics such as Asexual Awareness Week, Alphabet Soup (defining various LGBTQIA+ identities), the history of Pride, and Transgender Day of Remembrance.

ERG tips to educate about and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community:

  • Plan events around existing initiatives, like Pride, to gather support and build awareness.

  • Make events educational so that attendees don’t just enjoy a party together, but actually learn something, too.

  • Find other ways to educate your peers who might not attend events, such as through company-wide communications or office art.

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Looking forward

Everything that Team Rainbow has done—and will continue to do—contributes to creating  a more inclusive workplace at Asana. “We’re just getting started,” says Elden about their work to date. Already, Asanas are pleased with the work Team Rainbow has done: in a recent internal survey, Asana employees gave positive feedback across the board on initiatives Team Rainbow took on in 2017.

In 2018, Team Rainbow will focus on thriving. “By thrive, we mean helping LGBTQIA+ folks at Asana be their best selves by supporting and educating our community—both inside and outside of the workplace,” says Steven. To achieve their 2018 vision, Team Rainbow will continue to build their team of dedicated members, a committee that models cross-functional collaboration.

If Asana and Team Rainbow sound like places where you’d thrive, we’d love to hear from you. See all our open positions on our jobs page.

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