Do Seattle companies measure up to the city’s liberal reputation? Last Tuesday night, the Ethnic Cultural Center hosted a panel on the queer (or not) friendly environments of several Puget Sound workplaces, not excluding the University of Washington. Other organizations included Amazon, Adobe, Tacoma School District, and Pacific Medical Centers. Panelists D.A. Clements, Nan Leiter, Jill Seidenstein, David Sumerlin, and Thomas Yetman contributed their perspectives.
What was the verdict? Turns out our corporations, for the most part, do live up to the cities gay-friendly image with domestic partner benefits, non-discrimination policies, and open-minded employees. Highlights:
1. Before seeking employment, did you research the company culture to specifically understand their stand on sexual orientation? If so, what resources did you use to research?
a. Numerous panelists utilized hrc.org, the website for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay and transgender civil rights organization that promotes equal rights in the workplace and community.
2. How do you navigate cultural differences when they arise in the workplace? And by cultural differences I mean the different life experiences held as queer versus straight?
Jill: Not an issue at Amazon. The real problem arises within the queer community itself. There is a lot of misguided animosity and impatience within our environment towards the straight community.
Nan: I’ve had to suppress aspects of myself to conform to the “norm” image. However, people will listen to you more if you’re professional rather than radical.
3. Have you experienced harassment at the workplace?
Nan: Not outright harassment. Rather, I find I don’t have that automatic trust from those other teachers who come from the “straight with kids” lifestyle.
David: I have in past positions, yes. But I find that it also helps to diffuse harassment if you’re out and proud.
A common theme permeated the night: respect. My favorite quote from the evening was “Being out is a manifestation of respect for yourself and your interactions with others.” The panelists made the point that “living out is a political statement.” What statement will we make at Foster? In our futures? Our generation, generation y, is pegged as one that embraces diversity—we were a driving force behind the election of America’s first African American president. Let’s continue to live up to that image, both at Foster and in our future careers, in promoting the rights of all our diverse peers.
-Elizabeth Comley (Senior, Marketing & International Business)