A strong workforce is inclusive of all employees and their unique backgrounds, cultures, and identities. The “Making Our Strong Community Stronger” initiative is just one way companies have come together to accelerate diversity. The collaborative initiative of Broadcom, IBM, the Open Mainframe project, Rocket Software, TechChannel, and VirtualZ Computing shares voices, perspectives, and corporate cultures to inspire meaningful conversations and approachable actions that elevate inclusivity with lasting impact through webinars for the mainframe community.
Larry Cook, global events manager at Broadcom, participated in the most recent webinar, “Fostering Inclusive Work Environments for the LGBTQIA+ Community,” which is available on YouTube. He answered a few questions for SHARE about his experience in the mainframe community and offered his advice for building supportive environments for LGBTQ+ colleagues.
What made you passionate about this topic?
I’ve never hidden who I am at work or in my personal life. Because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to speak numerous times about gay issues in the workplace and was fortunate to participate in a gathering of 400 senior LGBTQ employees at a three-day summit during my time at IBM in 1999. It was one of the most positive experiences I’ve had, learning what others all over the world were dealing with in their own lives. It’s far too easy to become myopic.
I’ve spoken many times to employee groups from my companies and others. And the one thing that always amazes me are the people you touch. Those you least expect have shared experiences.
One of the things I am most proud of is when a college friend called me and asked me to meet her son who was in high school. He was gay and had started a gay group in his high school. She asked me to meet him because she wanted him to have a professional role model to meet and talk with. To this day, we are still friends. He has gone on to get his Ph.D. in AIDS research and is the recipient of a Gates Foundation scholarship.
How could your personal LGBTQ+ journey inform your organization’s approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
I’ve been in the business world for almost 40 years. I feel like Sophia Patrillo from “The Golden Girls.” Picture this, Sicily 1922, I’ve always worked in what would be described as a white-collar environment in large metropolitan areas, where I never encountered challenges as a gay man. However, I realize that is not the case for many of my peers, particularly those who work in smaller cities or in different types of occupations. I simply never made it an issue.
With that said, many of my friends were afraid to come out at work for fear of what it would do to their career. And that is still the case today, which is very unfortunate as there are many studies demonstrating that individuals who are free to be open at work are far more productive and have greater job satisfaction than those who feel the need to hide who they are.
As an employer or a manager, I challenge you to make sure your employees are free to be their authentic selves. But it’s up to each person to determine what they are comfortable doing.
What is one place where the industry could be more inclusive for LGBTQ+ people?
I would encourage LGBTQ networking events at each of the major conferences. This would be a great opportunity for SHARE to become a leader.
What is one piece of advice you have for organizations or individuals within our industry looking to support LGBTQ+ community members in the workplace?
I have two.
- Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are a business issue, not a moral issue. If people are uncomfortable buying from you or working with you, they will go elsewhere.
- Encourage your employees and teammates to be their authentic selves. People who are not afraid to be who they are at work are far more productive than those who have to hide, and their job satisfaction is far greater. As managers, take the lead!
No matter their background, all mainframers have a valuable role to play in our important industry. SHARE’d Intelligence is honored to be a platform where diverse mainframers can share their stories of challenge and success, reflect on our industry’s strengths, and encourage members to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at work.