Introducing the LGBTQIA+ Committee: How TomTom is empowering inclusive action
Companies around the world are talking more about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But do they walk their talk, and what does effective action in DEI actually look like? TomTom has taken concrete steps by enabling an employee resource group, called the LGBTQIA+ Committee. The LGBTQIA+ Committee is motivated to make a difference and is given the support it needs to do so. How’s it going so far? We spoke to members of the Committee to find out.
A company can tell you they care about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But it can’t just give it to you. Inclusion, especially, is an experience that you must be a part of. That’s why many companies are starting to create environments of mutual support that enable employees to help bring causes they care about to life, while providing safe spaces for them to belong.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are the go-to approach for meaningful company-employee collaboration toward their DEI goals. Through its own research and work with hundreds of organizations, McKinsey found that effective ERGs are key to inclusion at work, improving diversity and promoting external impact. However, they also found that if the ERG is ineffective, it can backfire and do more harm than good.
So, what does an effective ERG look like? TomTom’s LGBTQIA+ Committee launched earlier this year and has been a great success so far. To get an inside look, we spoke to Mariya Findzhikova, Global Social Impact Lead at TomTom, and two members of the LGBTQIA+ Committee: My-Linh Dang, a Quality Specialist based in Japan, and Sue Pitts, an HR Support Officer based in the US.
Why did TomTom start the LGBTQIA+ Committee?
Looking beyond the general importance of ERGs, what motivated TomTom to start its LGBTQIA+ Committee in the first place?
Mariya tells us, “It’s important that our people can be themselves and be proud of their unique identities. Unfortunately, LGBTQIA+ rights still vary significantly across the world. Here at TomTom, we want to make sure we’re offering a safe space and supportive community for LGBTQIA+ folks and their allies, wherever they may be based.”
The current Committee is spread across the Americas, EMEA and Asia, with eight members all working in different areas of the company. Each member applied through an application open to all TomTom’ers. Their geographic spread makes it extra important to have one clear mission statement they can all rally around. And when asked, they knew:
The Committee’s mission is to “empower TomTom’ers to be their true and authentic self at work by creating a safe and inclusive environment for the LGBTQIA+ community, through allyship, education and celebration.” To help narrow down the mission even further and drive coordinated action, the Committee set three pillars to focus on: raising awareness, inclusion and celebration.
Making a difference matters
It’s clear: TomTom’ers want to be a part of the LGBTQIA+ Committee, and they want to make a greater difference for their colleagues and people everywhere. Having the chance to do so through a company-supported, employee-led group is an exciting opportunity that members were quick to grab.
“I applied right away when I saw that TomTom was looking for members because I feel really connected to supporting social causes like this,” My-Linh says. “It’s great to know that TomTom is not just focusing on technology, but is also very supportive of equality and diversity for society. Especially for the LGBTQIA+ community, which is still fighting every day for their voices and rights. So, I want to be a part of a meaningful committee that can potentially change people's lives.”
Organizing events, trainings and more
The Committee has been busy. Its first big event kicked off with Pride Month at TomTom, planning a host of trainings, gatherings, networking sessions and presentations both virtually and at offices around the world – including an LGBTQIA+ history knowledge session, psychological safety trainings and local get-togethers.
The Committee did the planning and TomTom supported with resources and communication to spread the word. Especially for its first event, the turnout was impressive: 350+ people joined an online history session, 300+ for the psychological training, 100+ for networking in Amsterdam, and 50% of TomTom’ers in the Tokyo office.
Beyond numbers, the committee and TomTom’ers are excited to get involved. “The feedback and support we’ve got from TomTom’ers has been incredibly positive,” Sue shares. My-Linh is having a similar experience, saying that “The feedback has all been very positive. TomTom’ers are so supportive, and they’re looking forward to all the activities we will hold.”
Management is also jumping in to help. My-Linh shares, “When I suggested the idea of an event at our office in Japan, our management assistant and our site owner were both extremely supportive. They even had more suggestions and plans about how to improve the event. Together, we decided to invite a guest speaker for our first-ever Pride event, and it was so successful. I can see how much TomTom'ers love supporting social causes and they were so willing to help and assist. With an idea or a suggestion to start with, we can make anything happen.”
Following such success, the Committee is not resting on its laurels. “Just because Pride month is over, our work is not. We will be looking to continue to host events, facilitate workshops and any variety of things to help support our colleagues and friends,” Sue says.
How do the Committee and TomTom work together and support each other?
TomTom’s global social impact roadmap seeks to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, Mariya explains. Facilitating the Committee supports the company’s goals while also supporting employees, who are keen to take action for important moments of awareness and encourage allyship, connection and understanding.
The company supports the Committee with a dedicated annual budget, as well as providing communication and creative support to help spread the world and get communications out.
Keeping a good thing going
Talking to Mariya and Committee members, there’s no sign of them slowing down. Everyone is energized and motivated to play their part, contributing to monthly meetings and an array of activations. Here’s what some of that excitement sounds like: “I'm just really glad to be a part of the committee,” says My-Linh and, similarly, Sue says “I would just like to end by reiterating how lucky I feel to be a part of this committee.”
The Committee plans to continue creating initiatives year-round, inviting colleagues to reach out, share feedback and pitch in ideas of initiatives they would like to see happen.
It seems that as long as the company remains supportive, the LGBTQIA+ Committee will continue growing, making an even bigger impact as a positive, effective ERG for everyone involved.
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