To mark Pride Month, Craig Buckland, leader of Cisco’s UKI Pride Employee Resource Organisation (ERO), outlines the important role these groups play within Cisco, and encourages other companies to reach out to partner and network…
For the LGBT+ community June marks a month of celebration, as well as a time to reflect.
Here in the UK, where I am based, Pride Month is a time to consider the enormous progress we (and the world more generally) has made with respect to LGBT+ rights, as well as to consider those who may not enjoy the same rights and freedoms that we do. While there has clearly been much to celebrate over the years, there is always work to be done.
This year June is a time of change and lockdown. Many global pride celebrations have been cancelled or taken online across our major cities, potentially limiting that opportunity to be seen and celebrated. This is where company cultures can ‘lean in’ to support employees…
Cisco celebrates diversity across-the-board, and we have a vibrant and varied set of active Employee Resource Organisations (EROs) that represent and enact the company’s commitment to Inclusion and Collaboration across a range of interest groups. Each Cisco ERO is set-up within the local Theatre and run by employees passionate about the causes and groups they reflect. Our PRIDE LGBT+ & Allies ERO exists to create a community, provide representation to our leadership boards, and interlock with our other EROs to produce a supportive whole that is bigger than the sum of its parts.
In these challenging times for our community and for our friends who face their own stigmas, -isms, and -phobias as they go about their daily lives – it is important to highlight the issues that matter to us. LGBTQ+ hate crimes are at an all-time high. LGBTQ+ suicides are still pervasive. And these issues are, in some instances, compounded by the fact that LGBTQ+ spaces and community locations are under increasing threat of closure – especially in the light of the prolonged lockdowns across the world. We need to have a role in protecting the rights and privileges our communities have fought for, and in raising awareness of issues still to be addressed.
Leadership of our Pride EROs across EMEAR is undertaken on a voluntary basis by those who believe in the causes it represents. I am very fortunate to lead the UKI Pride ERO, and we have been passionately involved in a number of activities – organising how we can reach out within Cisco, attending the London Pride march in July last year, and connecting within our industry ecosystem to support like-minded groups and create opportunities to connect.
During this pandemic and lockdown, the UKI organisation also kept staff’s spirits high with a series of internal ‘Drag Bingo’ events, hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Charlie Hides. This also gave us an opportunity to connect with those who are isolating alone – a common theme for LGBTQ+ people, and something we give our time to address via relevant Charities.
As well as providing a ‘high point’ in the week for hundreds of employees at a time, and reaching employees across EMEAR where Pride EROs might not exist, online social activities such as these have also afforded us a valuable opportunity to reach out to external partners and partner EROs to participate. I think that provides useful insight for any other organisations looking to set up their own EROs: as well as the obvious internal cultural benefits, such entities can also afford a subsidiary opportunity for great business networking – ‘building bridges’, if you will.
Focusing on one aspect of Cisco’s support for LGBTQ+ individuals that I care about a great deal, I couldn’t be prouder of Cisco for its policies as regards Trans individuals – policies that have been bolstered and reinforced within the last year. Amongst many other things, Cisco offers enhanced healthcare to Trans individuals, and make sure that training and support for managers is given, without question – to create the right environment for acceptance. And the work is always ongoing. Many Trans people have transitioned whilst at Cisco and have remained here afterwards – a great sign that Trans people are welcome at Cisco and given the right support.
Also hugely important is the co-operation between different ERO groups. As an example, given recent events, the Pride ERO is working to support of the Cisco Black Professionals ERO, demonstrating solidarity to promote the awareness and education needed to drive out ignorance and discrimination, when it’s perhaps more important than it ever has been.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the very first Pride March, and this has highlighted the importance of maintaining continued visibility and pride. Of course, it is unfortunate that we won’t have the opportunity to take place in physical Pride marches this year. However, at a time when it is hard to physically come together, and emotionally tough for many of us, Cisco’s Pride EROs are again reaching out across WebEx to connect and share our stories, ensuring that we are heard and feel part of this greater body of campaigning and mutual support.
If you would like to get in touch to learn more about Cisco’s Pride ERO in your country, or to connect in order to network or create a shared event or activity, we’d be very happy to chat. Feel free to email me on email@example.com, and we can explore ways we might be able to work together to draw attention to the issues that matter to you.