“Pride is 365, not just a month. We want everyone to feel visible and seen 365 days out of the year.” — Ash Smith, Member Experience Manager, Downtown Seattle)

“Pride 365” explains why our Pride employee resource group (ERG) co-chairs are so driven by their mission to create a safe and supportive space for LGBTQIA+ employees and to make Industrious a more inclusive workspace for the queer community. 

Co-chairs Ash Smith and Brent Remby (Member Experience Manager, Kierland Commons) recently shared how they’re driving impact across multiple levels of the employee experience.

Support as a community

Over the last year, the Pride ERG has focused on creating a safe space for LGBTQIA+ Industrious employees, “because everyone is on their own journey” according to co-chair Ash. 

“For those that aren’t out yet, Pride gives a way to connect and ask questions in a very non-judgemental space, figure their path out, and have support that not everyone has outside of work or even inside of work in some companies,” Ash says. 

Members have leveraged the ERG as a sounding board, supporting each other as thought partners on personal and professional issues. Ash describes how these conversations act as stepping stones to delivering great service to our members: 

“We’re giving people tools and soft skills to communicate in tough situations and in ways that translate not only from a coming out story but to having hard conversations with customers or upper management and knowing how to navigate through that confidently.”

They’ve also created virtual and in-person connection points for their members and allies. Monthly ERG meetings, a company-wide Pride Month speaker event, and an in-person gathering at the company offsite have given employees opportunities to strengthen their relationships and to be seen and supported across the organization by their allies.

Co-chair Brent stressed the importance of having safe, protected times and spaces for the group to gather. While new in the co-chair role this year, as a member of the ERG beforehand he realized, “I’m in a company that walks their talk.” 

“I see the company leaning in and wanting to do the real work behind the ERGs, creating a sense of value and a true resource for employees,” Brent says. “I really enjoyed having that experience as an ERG member last year: being able to be vulnerable, ask a silly question, and have someone jump in and partner with me right away. It helped reinforce connections that I already had with some colleagues and also forge new relationships.”

Pride 365’s impact on a personal level

The Pride ERG community has had a profound impact on individual employees personally.  Right before the holidays, a newer member just starting their coming out journey attended one of the group’s monthly calls. They were able to connect with people who, per Ash, “have been through it at different points in their lives or who are currently going through it.”

“That space allowed them to ask questions, lean in for support, and give them confidence,” says Ash. Over the holidays, this person decided it was the right time to come out. According to Ash, it all worked out for the best.

“We’re hoping that our impact makes people feel that it’s okay to take your time,” Ash says. “It’s okay to be who you are, just embrace who that is. You have people alongside you who are willing to be there and care for you as an individual, to make sure that you’re okay.” 

Co-chair Brent shared his own personal experience as a Pride member, seeing the group as “a landing space” to connect with like-minded people. 

“We have a saying in our community that it’s all about your chosen family, and this is definitely one of the best ways to have a chosen family here at work,” says Brent. “It’s a family of people that I can go to with not just work issues, but personal life issues too. Everyone in the community has some sense of awareness and perspective of what we’re going through on our individual journeys.”

“Growth” is the word of the year 

Looking ahead to the next year, Brent and Ash plan to provide new resources and more structured meetings to strengthen the support network that’s already been established. They’re also looking to provide more ways for ERG members to connect both during and outside of their regular meetings. Brent noted, “It’s really about opening things up, creating equity across the board for everyone to be able to access, utilize, and leverage.”

The co-chairs are equally passionate about expanding the Pride ERG’s impact across the Industrious organization and beyond. “This year our word is growth – equitable and inclusive growth. We’re focused on not only growing our members but as an ERG and the impact that we can have,” said Ash.

“Pride intersects with all the other ERGs,” she explained. “We want to partner with them and ensure we can help shout-out, showcase, and give opportunities for their members to shine and be highlighted throughout the year — and to show how important being visible is across the board.”

One moment Ash is most proud of from last year was a Pride Month workshop she organized that was open to all employees. Elise Schuster — co-founder and Executive Director of Okay So — was invited to lead a virtual workshop titled Come as You Are: Understanding LGBTQIA+ identities

Ash found the company-wide participation of employees inspiring and added how “it felt authentically real to have that support going over gender identification, what that means, and what that looks like on a personal level. Then, in weeks and months afterward, watching folks start to use pronouns in Slack and putting she/her or he/him in their email signatures. It felt like a respectful tone towards those in the community, showing that you hear them and you see them.”

As part of their growth theme, the co-chairs are planning to invite allies into even more spaces.

“There’s a big ally support here at Industrious that we haven’t fully tapped into because we wanted to create that safe space for members first,” Ash explains. “Now that we’ve created this space, we’d like to grow from untapped areas and create subsections starting with our allies, adding increased equity by bridging the gap between ERGs and allies.”

Not only do Ash and Brent believe this growth will open up allyship and partnerships, they know it will help create a unique and safe work environment that offers experiences you can’t find at other companies.

“We believe that Pride is 365, not just a month. We want everyone to feel visible and seen 365 days out of the year versus just when a specific notion on a calendar prompts you to observe something,” Ash says.

Brent summed the conversation up succinctly by adding, “We’re gonna have a lot to be proud of this year.”