Supporting the mental health of LGBTQIA+ tech professionals
Pride month is all about celebration. Celebrating all identities, no matter who anyone is and whoever they love. Celebrating the progress we’ve made for equality, even if there’s still a long way to go. Indeed, Pride is also a time to recognize the journey we face and the steps we all need to take for the LGBTQIA+ community.
You don’t need to look far to see that mental health continues to be a problem facing the LGBTQIA+ community. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), reported that people who identify as LGBTQIA+ are twice as likely to develop a mental health condition than people who identify as heterosexual.Within the tech industry, we all must accept that the issue around the mental health of LGBTQIA+ professionals is there as well. In fact, the pressures of work could just add to any pre-existing conditions. Software engineering is demanding, even when we work hard to make a working environment flexible, collaborative and supportive. There’re lots of deadlines; there’s a lot of responsibility in handling big, open-source data. These concerns can easily pile up, adding to any stresses outside of work for the LGBTQIA+ community.
As more and more of Gen Z join the tech industry, the more LGBTQIA+ representation we see. Everyone has a role to play in creating an environment that’s not only comfortable for LGBTQIA+ professionals but is psychologically safe.
What can be done (and what's already being done)There are many ways to ensure people feel like they have a place in the world within a workplace.
It starts with the hiring process. Take TomTom for example. They work with myGwork, the largest job board for LGBTQIA+ professionals: by doing this, we can reach out to and bring even more of the best talent. It gives us a channel to directly reach people and demonstrate that there’s an environment for people to be treated equally.
Then come the interviews. It’s vital that everyone feels equally welcomed and included and that we recognize and avoid unconscious bias. When it comes to mental health, even the simplest of greetings and conversations can reassure or relax. The same can be said of correct pronoun use. By using the right pronouns and/or gender-neutral terms, it simply shows the person you’re speaking to that you respect who they are, helping them feel seen and heard.
Making a workspace a safe spaceFrom the big events to the most casual conversations, all of us can play our part in helping the LGBTQIA+ community feel accepted and respected for who they really are. Walking around any of TomTom’ers offices, whether in Amsterdam, Pune, Madrid, Lodz, etc., hearing everyone tell their stories and talk openly about their experiences is a positive sign of things to come. But we’re far from the point where we’d like to be: where mental health is no longer a concern and everyone is judged as equal, no matter where they are in the world. I can see TomTom doing the best it can. But the company, as all of us must, will continue to do more. Because the community, with all of the skills and value they can bring, needs allies who celebrate and value them for being their real authentic selves.
Be you and be proud at TomTom.
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