For some reason this year, Pride Month is really having an emotional impact on me. Maybe it is because my city, Toronto, is embracing Pride like never before. The largest mall is covered in rainbow flags, all LCBO stores, national chains and small local shops, even my neighborhood Starbucks (which is not in a “gay” neighborhood) is decorated for Pride. It makes my heart swell. I’m happy to be a gay, working woman in 2019.
But it hasn’t always been easy. I am blessed to be gay in a country that prohibits discrimination. In June 2017, the Canadian government amended the Human Rights Act to outlaw employment discrimination based on gender identity and expression. But even when there are legislated protections against discrimination, seeing those protections realized is an entirely different story. There are still very real challenges to being happy and productive in the workplace when there is subtle (and sometimes, not so subtle) discrimination based on sexual orientation. I, like many in this community, have experienced the negative effects of working in organizations that simply don’t get it.
That is why, along with my mission of helping people take sugar out of their diet and embrace good fats, I am also on a mission to build a company that lives and breathes inclusion and diversity; that celebrates bravery and courage.
According to Catalyst, Building LGBT-Inclusive workplaces, there are three factors that impacted LGBTQ+ career advancement, the formation of critical relationships in the workplace and the resulting productivity and effectiveness of both the person and, ultimately, the whole company.
First, there is the absence of knowledge and awareness about LGBTQ+ experiences and challenges. With this lack of knowledge, many rely on stereotypes which automatically put LGBTQ+ people at a disadvantage.
I have children, who I love to the end of the universe, but I have been asked the most inappropriate questions by naïve coworkers and managers. In one instance, I had a manager ask me, “So which one of you is the biological mother?” Why does that matter? She may not be in the family. The child may have been adopted, or one of the mothers may have carried the baby while the other contributed the egg. That question should be off-limits because it can imply the validity of mothering, or lack thereof: that the mother who gave birth is more of a mother. And don’t get me started on, “who’s the father”. Co-workers who have adopted children are not subject to these kinds of questions.
Secondly, and unfortunately, outright discrimination still exists in some organizations, and I have experienced blatant and direct forms of homophobia. Just yesterday, we had a consumer cancel their order when they realized we are LGBTQ+ friendly.
Finally, it can be difficult to form connections with important people inside the company. LGBTQ+ individuals make up a very small percentage of the C-suite/senior leadership (the actual number is probably higher than what we know of as many people may choose not to come out). According to the Catalyst research, some LGBTQ+ employees reported being overlooked for outward facing roles due to their company’s presumption that clients and customers may be uncomfortable with interacting with LGBTQ+ employees. I’ve experienced exclusion from networking opportunities both for being a woman and for being gay.
As the leader of a growing and thriving business, I want to build a different kind or organization. One that embraces all differences in skin color, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and beyond.
I am not shy about my sexual orientation and encourage my team to be informed about LGBTQ+ issues. I’ve found my team to be incredibly interested and engaged. If you can come out to Toronto or New York Pride, you will see a high energy group from every walk of life.
I’m also very intentional about building a diverse team. We are more than 50% women, 15% LGBTQ+ and 27% first/second generation immigrants (2 of us are pure laine Quebequers). We each bring unique talents and perspectives to the table and it is critical for me that we are making room for people.
While there is a lot of work to be done, I feel joy in knowing that Love Good Fats can make positive strides towards true equality and be a safe space for our team to thrive. As we continue to celebrate Pride, we will be at both Toronto Pride & Remembrance Run 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈 and World Pride New York and look forward to seeing our work in motion within a beautiful community.. 🏳️🌈🏳️🌈 Come see us, say hello and try our ridiculously delicious bars and shakes. Happy Pride!