According to a 2015 estimate, 43 percent of the of the L.G.B.T. STEM work force is closeted at work. Without having a community or a sense of inclusion while at work, many people in the LGBT community have learned to both suppress and compartmentalize personal aspects of their lives. At Cogo we have affinity groups, like Cogo Spectra, that provide a space for open dialogue and support. Paul Leninger, Cogo Spectra group co-leader and Analyst at Minerva Analytics, elaborates on his experience being out in tech and what drives the initiatives and focus of Cogo Spectra. Read his story below.
I, along with Kenzie Marsh, head the LGBTQIA+ employee group at Cogo Labs. We call ourselves Cogo Spectra. Spectra was started a little under a year ago, and the community that we've cultivated over the last year is so vital to the culture of Cogo Labs. Since it is Pride month, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of the things to love about Cogo Spectra.
We often say at Cogo Labs that our people are our best asset - I agree with that wholeheartedly. First, I have to mention the previous leader of our group, Eli Rider, who did all of the heavy lifting in getting this group off the ground. Her vision for creating an inclusive and affirming space was genuinely inspirational, and her hard work paved the path for Kenzie and me.
Also, we're lucky that the entire group of people that work here - from the executive staff to the interns - consists of exceptionally caring and open-minded individuals. I believe that around 50% of the people that attend our events are allies (though we don't keep track of that number rigorously). To me, that is a phenomenal statistic. It shows that the ally community at Cogo is vibrant and genuinely interested in supporting our community. It also means that there is a safe space which extends beyond the confines of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues.
Spectra is a unique name for a group like this, and I think that it fits our mission and vision well. Spectra is the plural of the spectrum. The term "spectrum" does a decent job of encompassing the (sometimes blurry) shades of the LGBTQIA+ community. However, the plural "spectra" recognizes that even within the letters of the acronym, there are no clean lines, no easy definitions. People are complex and are going to place themselves on multiple different spectrums among the communities that we aim to support.
As humans who desire a structured view of the world, it is easy to put try and place people in categories. But life is not that easy or straightforward, and the borders of those definitions are vague at best. "Spectra" reflects that there is no one definition for who is welcome in our group. Our goal is to create a space that is both inclusive and affirming, and the name supports that vision.
"We welcome all who welcome all."
Our motto purposely does not include LGBQTIA+ language for two reasons: 1) we want people of all stripes to feel welcome. As I mentioned, our large community of allies is such an essential part of who we are - and what good would an inclusivity group be if it didn't truly include people of all backgrounds. 2) while Spectra does focus on supporting the LGBTQIA+ community at Cogo, we also recognize that other people need a supportive space that might not be able to find one elsewhere. We hope that those individuals feel that Spectra is truly a welcoming place to all.
That's why we leave the motto so open-ended. Our only requirement for attending an event is that you must welcome all!
The support from Cogo
I think that we're fortunate for the support that we've received for this group from the company itself. So often, companies parade their affinity groups as recruiting tools and showpieces - a token attempt at making an "inclusive" environment. While these efforts are often grounded in good intentions, too often, they fail to take into account what will be beneficial to the communities they aim to support.
Cogo is different, though. Spectra is entirely employee run - while we receive guidance and support from the executive staff and HR, Kenzie and I (two data analysts), along with the rest of our community, have broad latitude in the direction that the group takes. I think that is truly special - it shows that Cogo is genuinely committed to creating an inclusive environment for its employees not only in name and policy but also in support of employee-driven efforts.
There is so much to love about Spectra! I consider myself very lucky to work at such a supportive company. I'm proud of everything that Spectra has accomplished so far, and I'm excited about the future of our group.
To join Paul and many other inclusive and passionate coworkers, click the link below to apply for one of our open roles!