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The Tip of the Spear and Why Pride and ERGS Matter More than Ever

By Tom Loeffert
Chief Human Resources Officer

Happy Pride to all of you. Pride Month is a time of celebration.  A Celebration of the progress we’ve made, the friendships we’ve established, and the lives we’ve won the right to create, just as others around us have done for centuries.

Pride was born in 1969 in a riot at the Stonewall Inn in New York City.  It was led by a courageous group of mostly people of color and drag queens, people who haven’t always been as fully represented in our journey as they should have been.

I was born the year after Stonewall, in the middle of Generation X, and my lifespan has run in parallel with the modern LGBTQIA+ movement.  The men, and they were mostly men, of my parents’ generation, simply wanted to live freely and without shame.  They paid a high price for their courage – their generation was decimated by the AIDS epidemic leaving my generation bereft of role models to look up to.

This meant we in Generation X became the ‘Tip of the Spear’, particularly in the corporate world, and while women of our generation have built upon the progression of the Baby Boom era, we for the most part, have had to do this without the generation that came before us.

The world has changed, but we must ask: by how much?  Do we as a generation need to recognize that being the ‘Tip of the Spear’, whilst sharp, doesn’t always shatter the Pink Ceiling?

My own journey has often been challenging. I grew up in a family which was, to put it politely, flawed, and spending my teenage years in 1980s USA, where the LGBTQIA+ community stood accused of enflaming the AIDS epidemic due to our “deviant” lifestyles, didn’t help. This pivotal period shaped me and shaped my view of life.

But is also important to recognize the world that shaped me, and my generation is not the same world today, and generations that followed us have been – and continue to be – shaped by a far more diverse LGBTQIA+ community. My generation climbed the ladders of life and the corporate world with baggage often never recognized or spoken about. But it is different today.  A dear friend and former colleague 15-years my junior who is also LGBTQIA+ recently said to me: “My generation is different. Mine doesn’t hate itself the way yours does”.

Being the ‘Tip of The Spear’ has at times been painful, both personally and professionally. But it has been worth it, as it’s made the journeys of generations that followed mine marginally easier to go through.

This month, we launched Pride@Kyriba, our ERG focused on LGBTQIA+ employees and their allies, of which I am very proud to serve as Executive Sponsor. Why do these groups still matter?  Many companies are still early in their journey to create a truly inclusive environment.

Take the technology sector, where I have spent roughly half my career. It is progressive in many ways, but still has much work to do to eliminate bias rooted in misogyny, racism, ageism, homophobia, religion and much more.

Has the tech industry allowed LGBTQIA+ individuals to reach the top? To an extent. Take Alan Turing, who many consider to be as influential in creating the technology industry as Bill Hewlett and David Packard at HP and Thomas Watson at IBM. Turing led the team that broke the Enigma Code in World War Two, allowing the Allies to monitor all of Germany’s communication and consequently win the war.  But his reward? A court convicted him of being a gay man, at a time it was illegal to be gay in the 1950s. He narrowly avoided prison, but only by agreeing to be chemically castrated.

Surely then, more than half a century later, we live in a completely different world. Well yes, but also no.

Just look at the Fortune 500 and you’ll see just four CEOs identify as LGBTQ+. And while I recently had the great honor of becoming the CHRO at Kyriba, I look across my peer set in many industries and see very few of us sitting around the table at the highest level.

How can this still be the case?

It is important we understand how history has shaped generations and shaped our industry.  And it’s why I’m so proud of the Pride@Kyriba team that has stepped up to lead us on this journey. It is a privilege to advise them.

Creating an inclusive and diverse culture is about giving everyone the power to shape what organizations become. But with that power comes responsibility – a responsibility I’m proud to say is taken very seriously by Kyriba’s leadership team, a team committed to driving change that ensures all employees are given the opportunity to succeed based simply on who they are.

So, this Pride Month, I encourage you to learn a bit more about our journey, our history, what has shaped it and how it has shaped us. And if you have an ERG, become engaged and involved.  You can only create change by engaging in it. While you might be good at what you choose to be, you can only be great by being your authentic self.

Whether companies or countries, villages or cities, friends or family, seek out those places that you allow you to become the person you are destined to be. To live your truth is the most important thing you can do to ensure your life and career are both fulfilled and fulfilling.