Blog Post

Celebrating Pride: Inclusion, Support and Advocacy Across FTI Technology

Scott, you’ve been very active as a speaker, sponsor and volunteer for Out for Australia, which provides mentoring and professional support for young LGBTQI+ professionals. Can you share more about the work you’re doing with that organization?

Foster: Yes, FTI Consulting is a major sponsor of Out for Australia. Along with other colleagues in Australia, I serve as a mentor to the organization’s members. Last year, we hosted LGBTQIA+ rights advocate Janine Middleton in support of Wear It Purple Day, which raises awareness and “strives to foster supportive, safe, empowering and inclusive environments for rainbow young people.” It was an honour to participate in that event.

This is a big year for the LGBTQIA+ community in Australia. Sydney was the host site for WorldPride2023, which was held over the course of two weeks in February and March. To embrace this international celebration, FTI Australia went all out to show support for the queer community. We created videos about WorldPride and our partnership with Out for Australia, we marched in the Parade, we decorated our offices with rainbows, balloons and a Drag Queen mannequin — yes that’s right a Drag Queen mannequin — and we hosted a Drag Queen fundraiser for Out for Australia with clients and staff.  

As we turn the corner now to Pride Month, each of our Australian offices, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane will be hosting a Pride Month Trivia contest for our staff. In addition, each staff member is welcomed throughout the month to take a Polaroid selfie with props from our Pride Station to show their support. These events have been well attended and provide an opportunity for education for our staff of the LGBTQIA+ community and its challenges.  

Lydia, last year you attended a Lesbians Who Tech conference. After the conference, you mentioned that you felt “unstoppable” for being a part of change. Can you speak to some of the changes that you think are still needed within the technology industry and broadly?

House: Yes, the energy and atmosphere at that conference was amazing, and I left feeling a great sense of inspiration and responsibility. In my conversations there, the topic of corporate responsibility in the tech industry came up again and again. And I agree with the general sentiment that companies can improve their policies to help nurture humanity.

It can be intimidating to be open about identity and gender in the workplace. Some organizations and people continue to struggle with misgendering or implementing the supports people need. This is why it’s so important for people at all levels, especially senior levels, to demonstrate openness and celebrate the benefits of making the workplace an inclusive place for LGBTQIA+ people. Also, open conversations can help people reflect on why certain things make them uncomfortable, which can help with becoming more open to diverse perspectives and experiences.

How do you celebrate Pride at work?

House: Last year, I organized educational and fun Pride events to take place out of our Chicago office. We had a Friday night “get ready with me” event where we had two drag queens show us how they do their hair and makeup, all while we discussed the history of the queer community in Chicago. Afterwards, we went to see the Queer Eye musical as a group. This year, we’re marching in the Chicago Pride Parade. This is the first time FTI has marched in a pride parade, and it’s a credit to my colleague Ethan Ramer’s hard work. Last year it was just me running Pride events, and this year it’s been so cool to work with a team to grow!

Schroen: It may not be as glamorous as all the sparkle of formal office Pride events, but my favourite way to celebrate Pride at work is to have conversations with colleagues that don’t have that much experience with the LGBTQIA+ community. Telling colleagues about queer history, stories and experiences and helping people learn more about my community is what gets me excited about Pride.

Spencer: I am celebrating Pride at work by speaking at the Lesbians Who Tech Pride Summit this June. I am honoured to be representing FTI’s Pride Network and share some of my expertise in blockchain and digital asset technology in the process.

What has inspired you to be so actively involved in the community and connecting that to the workplace?

Foster: I’ve seen a bit in my career and witnessed first-hand how people reacted to homosexuality — from it being perceived as a psychological disorder, through the fear of the AIDs crisis, to legalising gay marriage. The LGBTQIA+ community has come a long way but there is quite a bit more road in this journey. I’m inspired to help empower people to be flexible, be brave, be bold and to get involved and form meaningful and supportive relationships. Anyone can motivate change and have some fun along the way.

Spencer: At my previous job I was the only out employee, and it has been a wonderful experience being at FTI, since I now feel like I am a part of a much larger community. I feel a social responsibility to be outspoken about being a lesbian. I think it is important to be visible both for those who are struggling with their journey, and for those that may need more interactions with the LGBTQIA+ community to see that we are all just people.

Schroen: I have not always worked in accepting environments and I come from a part of the world that was very homophobic when I grew up. I didn’t have the same opportunities that a lot of my straight colleagues did at the beginning of my career as I did not “fit” in. Now that I am more senior in my career, I consider it a personal responsibility to be visibly queer in the workplace so that younger LGBTQIA+ colleagues can see that their sexual orientation does not need to be a barrier to their career success.  

Do you have any comments about your experience with inclusion at FTI Technology?

House: I was very prepared to have an uphill battle when I started here, especially as I’ve had negative experiences at work in the past. But everyone was so welcoming and cool. Consultants work so hard in our field and in our practice, so it’s quite a relieve to not be carrying around that worry. What’s different about FTI is that we value experience and expertise so much, and as an extension of that, we have really interesting people here who are openminded and welcoming of individuality.

Schroen: What impresses me about inclusion at FTI Technology is the understanding from senior leadership that creating an inclusive work environment is a continuous learning experience. Inclusion isn’t something that you achieve and tick the box as completed, it is ever evolving and requires continuous work. I have personally been approached by SMDs that have wanted to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ community, language and experiences so that they can make sure that they are equipped to continue to lead inclusive teams into the future.  

Spencer: I have been pleasantly surprised how easy it has been to be openly lesbian at FTI. I have not felt any pressure to be more or less outspoken, and that is a wonderful feeling, knowing that I can exist as myself. I am appreciative of the Pride Network at FTI and the events we have access to. This past month I went to the Washington National’s Night Out with the FTI Pride Network in D.C., and it was very encouraging to see so many of my co-workers enjoying the experience together. 

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.