Lift Every Voice – LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Every June, the U.S. observes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer, and more (LGBTQ+) Pride Month to honor the 1969 Stonewall uprising in Manhattan, New York, which occurred when patrons of the Stonewall Inn rose up to resist the police harassment, persecution, and discrimination to which LGBTQ+ Americans were commonly subjected. Today, we celebrate the impact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history around the world, and we work to achieve equal justice and opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. We’re also proud to officially launch our newest employee resource group, LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming!

1. Why are allies important to the LGBTQ+ community?

Mark Allison, Senior Content Writer

Allies help empower the community, and they offer really meaningful support to organizations that work to eliminate harmful bias and promote equal rights. Allies are also important, I think, because they help make connections between people instead of putting up barriers.

Hilary Lentz, Digital Communications Manager

Allies are important to the LGBTQ+ community in a number of different ways. In terms of driving change in our workforces, communities, and laws, their voices represent power and privilege in overcoming discrimination, advocating for equal rights, and driving inclusion. However, allies are also important in the coming out process with family and friends. They offer an ongoing support system, and in the instances where a person’s friends or birth family aren’t supportive of their LGBTQ+ identity, allies are an important part of what we, in the LGBTQ+ community, call our “found” or “chosen” family.

Jess Weron, Project Engineer, Water

The community relies heavily on allies to make impacts in the community. LGBTQ+ people in America continue to face discrimination in their daily lives, and while more states every year attempt to pass laws to protect the LGBTQ+ community, we continue to see legislators advancing bills that target transgender people, limit local protections, and allow the use of religion to discriminate. So far this year, five states have already passed or implemented executive orders limiting the ability of transgender youth to play sports and receive certain medical treatments, and there’s been little to no backlash. But in 2017, when North Carolina passed a bill for transgender bathroom provisions, there was a lot of backlash, and the bill was quickly repealed. So that’s really the impact of allyship. Transgender people cannot advocate for themselves alone; there are not enough people in the LGBTQ+ community alone to fight all of these provisions, but together, with allies, we can make positive change.

Heather Wilkie, Associate Business Analyst II, GeoDecisions

Allies can use their position and privilege to fight against discrimination in the community, and people are often more likely to be accepting of the LGBTQ community if their friend or someone in their “in group” is an ally.

Chuck Yorks, Principal Technician, Transportation Operations

Allies are important to everyone, and by allies, I don’t mean cheerleaders. Allies don’t stand back. Allies step up. Allies are advocates for fairness, for an open mind. Allies don’t hold back. Allies speak up. Allies are important for any person who feels alone, isolated, or left out. We’ve all needed them, and we’ve all appreciated them at one time or another because there are bullies among us. Bullies bully overtly and quietly, out of ignorance and sometimes out of hatred. The words “ally” and “bully” are pretty close when you spell them out – only a couple letters difference. Don’t let it be you.

2. What is the significance of the Marriage Equality Act in the U.S.?

Mark Allison, Senior Content Writer

The Marriage Equality Act provides for full and equal recognition under the law instead of denying anyone the rights we all share, and I think it really is the result of a lot of hard work by an awful lot of people.

Hilary Lentz, Digital Communications Manager

The significance of the Marriage Equality Act in the U.S. is that it told people that LGBTQ+ love and partnerships are equal to those of heterosexual and cisgender people. And while it is a truly joyous thing to celebrate, it’s so important to remember that this ruling only just happened in 2015. The fact remains that LGBTQ+ people in the U.S. lack basic legal protections in states across the country. This means that LGBTQ+ people continue to face discrimination in key areas like housing, employment, credit, education, public spaces, federally funded services, and jury service. Until a comprehensive federal law like the Equality Act is passed, we, in the LGBTQ+ community, will continue to face uncertainty and potential discrimination that impacts our safety, families, and day-to-day lives. It also prevents LGBTQ+ people from living their lives out loud because of fear.

Jessica Weron, Project Engineer, Water

Any law that excludes an entire class of people from an institution is fundamentally wrong. That is why it should matter to everyone in this country, not just queer couples who finally had their constitutional rights recognized. I think it’s a common misconception outside of the community that marriage equality is the be-all-end-all, but the LGBTQ+ community still faces a lot of discrimination, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Heather Wilkie, Associate Business Analyst II, GeoDecisions

The Marriage Equality Act was just the first step in equality for the LGBTQ+ community. While we celebrate that the government finally recognizes same-sex marriage, we have to remember that there is still so much discrimination in the community, especially for transgender individuals. It’s also important to keep intersectionality within the discussion of equality. We need to create a world where everyone is equal before we’ll ever achieve true equity and justice.

3. Why do you think it’s important for Gannett Fleming to promote equity and inclusion, and how have you seen Gannett Fleming support this position?

Mark Allison, Senior Content Writer

A strong organization expects their people to do their best work, and I think that’s only possible if employees feel like they are valued and a part of a team. By promoting inclusion and equality, Gannett Fleming becomes stronger, more competitive, and a better place to work for everyone.

Hilary Lentz, Digital Communications Manager

When I heard that Gannett Fleming was forming the LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming employee resource group, I felt like I not only had a safe space to be out professionally, but that Gannett Fleming was celebrating my identity. While I have had other employers who were tolerant of LGBTQ+ people, this is the first time I felt like I could really thrive and not just survive in my career as an openly LGBTQ+ person. In my role, I work closely with our talent acquisition team, and I’m so thankful that I have an opportunity to help more LGBTQ+ people find success in STEM careers and the AEC industry.

Jessica Weron, Project Engineer, Water

When diversity, inclusion, and equity go together, your workforce is empowered to do their best work. In large workforces like Gannett Fleming, you are bound to have varying levels of education, with employees coming from privileged, disadvantaged, or multiple other socio-economic backgrounds. If all of these individuals are treated the same and trained the same, it is likely several talented individuals will not meet their full potential. So, one way Gannett Fleming has promoted equity is by implementing ERGs. ERGs are an excellent way to raise awareness around different employee needs, which is integral to equity. They’ve also rolled out an inclusion calendar, so we can all be aware when holidays are occurring that our clients or our co-workers may be observing.

Heather Wilkie, Associate Business Analyst II, GeoDecisions

Equity is about more than just giving everyone the same resources; it’s about really looking at what we can do to lift those who might be disadvantaged from the start. This means making a space at work for those marginalized communities to share their experiences without fear of discrimination, and this is part of our goal with our new employee resource group, LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming. At Gannett Fleming, we emphasize our company culture, which we lovingly call our “special sauce.” To cultivate that special sauce, we have to recognize our differences, and that will ultimately bring us together.

4. How will you celebrate Pride this year?

Hilary Lentz, Digital Communications Manager

It might sound cliche, but for me, Pride really is a state of mind. I love that every June we collectively come together as a community, but I do my best to demonstrate Pride year-round by supporting LGBTQ+ businesses and art and donating to charities and organizations that help to protect LGBTQ+ youth. I want to do more, though, for advancing LGBTQ+ people in the workforce, particularly in STEM careers, so I’m looking forward to becoming more involved in this at Gannett Fleming this year.

Jessica Weron, Project Engineer, Water

This year, I think I’ll be celebrating by attending the LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming ERG kick-off event, which is scheduled for June 1, and if you’re an employee of Gannett Fleming, I hope that you’re there to celebrate with us or watch the recording if you can’t make it.

Heather Wilkie, Associate Business Analyst II, GeoDecisions

As the vice-chair of LGBTQ+ of Gannett Fleming, I plan to start Pride Month off right with our official ERG kick-off presentation and getting the ball rolling on a bunch of awesome projects we have planned for the rest of 2021. Unfortunately, there won’t be any in-person Pride celebrations to go to this year, but it’s important to celebrate how far we’ve come all year long.