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3 reasons to be proud this Pride Month

Fast Company’s second annual Queer 50 list of trailblazing LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary innovators includes three alumnae.
Fast Company's 2021 Queer 50 list
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Last year, we were thrilled to see alumna Jen Wong (NYO, STA 04-10) on Fast Company’s inaugural list of top LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary innovators in business and tech, particularly since we were celebrating the 25th anniversary of GLAM, McKinsey's worldwide network of LGBTQ+ colleagues.

This year, we have even more reason to be proud, as three alumnae have been included on the annual list (including Jen, in her second appearance).

We caught up with all three to find out what challenges LGBTQ+ people still face in the workplace, what their advice to younger LGBTQ+ colleagues would be, and what they wish non-LGBTQ people knew about their workplace experience.

Liz Jenkins (NYO 05-06), COO of Hello Sunshine

Liz Jenkins, COO of Hello Sunshine
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Liz has been a building force behind Reese Witherspoon’s media company Hello Sunshine, which aims to “change the narrative of women through storytelling and to elevate diverse and intersectional voices,” through films, television shows, books and podcasts. She also sits on the boards of Snap and GLAAD.

Megan Prichard (SPO, SCA, SVO 11-16), Global Head of Autonomous Ridesharing at Ford

Megan Prichard, Global Head of Autonomous Ridesharing at Ford
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In her current role at Ford, Megan is one of the leaders helping this iconic American to brand disrupt itself. Megan views autonomous technology not only as a business imperative for transportation companies going forward, but also as an opportunity to make transportation more equitable and inclusive. Megan is involved in an initiative to create ease of use for women, disabled people, those without bank accounts, and more.

Jen Wong (NYO, STA 04-10), COO, Reddit

Jen Wong, COO, Reddit
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In her three-year tenure at Reddit, Jen has grown its revenue to more than $100 million. In addition, its valuation has doubled to $6 billion, and 52 million people visit the site daily. Read more about Jen on Fast Company.

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What challenges do LGBTQ people still face in the workplace? What can companies do to address these?

Jen Wong: Many larger tech companies have been focused on diversity and inclusion but the reaching cultural fluency is really when LGTBQ+ people really feel belonging. This means that beyond being supportive and an ally, being able to really understand their life experience, share in it, and understand how it shapes who they are. Doing this requires creating spaces and forums where people feel comfortable sharing even more vulnerable parts of their experience.

Liz Jenkins: I work in the media and entertainment industry, so I'm answering through that lens, but I think that some of these challenges are universal. While the industry and the world have made a lot of strides toward inclusion, representation still isn't always there throughout all levels of a company. There can be a feeling of isolation or a feeling of being "other."

Voice is critical. It's up to companies to create an inclusive environment in which all people feel a sense of safety to speak openly about their experiences.

Megan Prichard: Largely, my experience has been very positive. I find the tech community to be very welcoming. There's a lot of innovation, and so people are generally more curious and open, versus some of the more conservative industries that I’ve worked in.

That's not to say it doesn't have its problems. I think it can be hard in tech to find mentors that you identify with both as a woman and as a queer woman in particular. It’s important to look outside your local office or even your company to find those mentors who you really identify with. Finding your crew can sometimes be hard to do, and one thing I really loved about my time at the Firm is that I was very involved in GLAM. I’m still good friends with many of the other members.

If you could give a junior LGBTQ colleague one piece of advice, what would it be?

Jen: Coming out at work is a choice and you alone can weigh the benefits and challenges. I would resist being influenced by what others think you should do.

Liz: Don't be afraid to speak up, and do your best not to be intimated if you feel different or like the “only” in the room. My belief is that your voice and experience will be honored and understood as contributory in a uniquely valuable and impactful way.

Megan: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. I think people are much more open than they used to be in providing that authenticity.

What is one thing you wish that non-LGBTQ people knew about what it’s like working in business / tech as an LGBTQ person?

Jen: LGTBQ people are not a monolith and there is a lot of diversity within the community. It's important to be aware of this because the needs and interests can vary a lot. A trans person is likely experiencing the work environment very differently from a gay man.

Liz: There are certain suppositions that are made. Sometimes people will say "What does your husband do" by default. People see me and they can tell immediately that I'm a black female, but they may not know that I'm also married to a woman. That can be challenging. It's all about how we can be more expansive and understand the impact our unconscious bias might have on the person on the other side.

There's a lot we can do to change our language to make sure that we are being as inclusive as possible, because we may not know that our language can be “othering.” Overall, I'm very optimistic and hopeful about the advances being made across the board. While I do think there are things that are still hard, I'm gratified by the fact that so many companies in both the technology and entertainment industries are creating the space to have these sorts of conversations. We all have to participate in creating lasting change. It's a dialogue, and the onus should not be on the historically marginalized group to explain or defend themselves.

Megan: I really love when people who are not LGBTQ go out of their way to say "partner" [rather than "boyfriend" or "husband"]. People do that now independent of whether they know that I myself am part of the LGBTQ community or not. And things like using correct pronouns – that's huge. It's amazing, and it really makes a big difference. It makes a much more welcoming environment when people proactively do those things, and I would encourage non-LGBTQ people to keep doing it.

Related materials

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– Alumni are behind a number of the latest billion-dollar startups. Read on to find out which companies have “grown their... horns.”

Alumna recognized in list of influential LGBTQ+ leaders

– Jen Wong, COO of Reddit, discusses her time at the Firm and the challenges LGBTQ+ people still face in the tech world.