Global technology giant Fujitsu hosted a landmark discussion as part of Digital Pride 2017.
On 27 April, a global discussion took place in three of the company’s offices: London, Lisbon, and California.
This online debate was streamed live with people across the globe dialing in to follow the panelists.
Chaired by technology expert Dr Sue Black OBE, recently named in the list of Europe’s top 50 women in tech, the discussion focused on LGBTI Inclusion in the Digital Age.
Participating in the discussion were Fujitsu’s Diversity and Inclusion Global Ambassador Steven Cox, Sarah Kaiser, Fujitsu’s Diversity & Inclusion Lead in the UK and Ireland, Yahoo’s Director of Native Ads and Programmatic Strategy Mick Loizou Michail, and Stewart Monk, Senior Director for UK & Ireland at Oracle Corporation Human Capital Management Applications.
They were joined by LGBTI activist Marta Ramos and a Fujitsu Marketing Operations Manager, Helena Santos; Fujitsu America’s Compensation Analyst Mike Kolanski and Gabrielle Antolovich, Board President of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center for the Silicon Valley, dialed in.
The panel started by talking about how digital networks, from social media to intranets, can impact LGBTI communities both positively and negatively.
‘I recently heard people talk about how it’s not a work life balance,’ Cox said.
‘But a work-life-blend.’
He said with work and home time blending more together, the normally private social media mindset was increasingly merging into the work environment.
For Kaiser, people are the drivers of technology. She said a growingly digital environment could help better connect people in three distinct ways.
First is the impact of digital stories.
‘In Fujitsu we’ve done a lot around encouraging to have personal stories,’ she said.
‘And everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve just seen the impact that one person’s story can have on so many people.’
At one of Kaiser’s former employers, a team member felt so empowered by someone else’s story they sent an email to the entire company to say they were starting their transition, and to advise their colleagues on how to address them.
Secondly, being able to reach people no matter which role they hold in the company.
‘It’s very easy to get a message across to people who all sit in the same building, or who all sit in front of a computer each day,’ Kaiser said.
‘But we have people out in the field.’
Digital, Kaiser said, made it easier to reach everyone, even if they are not physically present in the office.
The third point, Kaiser said, was the importance of visibility, and how digital allows people to celebrate themselves.
‘I think [for] all of us it’s important to see ourselves represented in the culture around us, to have that confirmation; that here you are, it’s recognized and legitimate,’ she said.
‘And it’s incredible how we can use digital to really show such a variety of identities and people and celebrate them, in a way that makes everyone feel more valued.’
What are the steps that you take to start it up, to get it going?
Cox said not having support for LGBTI employees made the company lose out on promising applicants – which was the starting point to kick off their work.
‘You need to ask for your systems to reflect diversity,’ he said.
‘So people hae a view of what diversity is. So, whether you self-declare during the on-boarding, we as a community need to ask HR to reflect that in the system encapture.’
He said right now, diversity is often only hard-coded when it comes to benefits and lodging any dependences.
For Michail, like for Kolanski, the key aspect was that building a company which reflects diversity takes effort.
And it’s also what makes the difference between having a diverse and an inclusive company.
‘Diversity could be as simple as a box-ticking exercise. Do we have a gay person? Yes. Do we have a black person? Yes. Do we have a disabled person? And it could be as simple as that,’ Michail said.
‘But when you make the effort to actually develop a strategy about making sure everyone feels included and feels like they belong and can be authentic and can be themselves at work, that’s when the D and the I come together and really mean something.’
From Portugal, Santos said Fujitsu Portugal never took part in any Pride events – and credited it to the company feeling diverse already.
‘I do feel that I have a very loose and very open environment,’ she said.
In terms of digital innovation, the panel agreed that artificial intelligence is a great chance.
But Kaiser warned that it is only as good as the people who work on it.
‘Tech affects us all, and we all design things that really work for us,’ she said.
‘So we need to get really diverse groups of people working in tech, to make tech work for everyone and to make sure that the artificial intelligence of the future does not compound the prejudices which exist in our present.’
Speaking after the event, Gay Star News’ co-founder and editor-in-chief Tris Reid-Smith said digital technology ‘transformed the LGBTI experience globally’.
‘It’s liberated many of us but created huge problems for others,’ he said.
‘It was great to hear experts in three countries discuss the big issues – from artificial intelligence to creating LGBTI-inclusive workforces in the tech giants.
‘Thank you Fujitsu for the fascinating insights and for supporting Digital Pride.’