A recent study identified that in the US, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have an unemployment rate nearly double the national average. Comparatively, 17 percent of LGBT people have a Bachelor's degree while 18 percent of non-LGBT identifying people have a Bachelor's degree. Discrimination in hiring LGBT people is no secret, however recruiters like Sarah Magner at Cogo portfolio company, Hopjump, makes it her mission to keep the application process equitable and inclusive to all. Sarah talks about her experience with coming out in both the context of work, but also to her family and friends.
Since Spectra began, it has always been faithful to its mission of welcoming all who welcome all by extending resources to all Cogo family companies. But to be honest, when Braden asked me to write about my story for this blog - I tried to come up with 100 reasons why I was too busy and wouldn't be able to get it done in time. I quickly snapped out of that and remembered how and why I decided to come out in the first place. I think most people might think it's strange to talk about your sexuality in the workplace, but I feel fortunate to know that I am part of a company-family that wants my story to be shared. When my coming out journey began, I set a goal for myself to one day be comfortable enough to share on a bigger platform so I could help other people and I'm excited that the opportunity has finally presented itself with Cogo Spectra. Telling our stories is much bigger than sharing our individual experiences; for me, it's about representation and giving a voice to people that have been scared to speak up for too long.
I grew up with parents that have been together since they were sixteen. They met in high school, fell in love, got married, had tons of babies and dogs, and for a while, we even lived in the house where my dad grew up. Then came along baby sister. My parents were older, the company they built together was successful, and the time had come to move on to a bigger house where there were better schools.
I thought 'that's how life happened. You fall in love as soon as you can, get married, have babies, move to a bigger house, and you're happy...right?
The town where I spent my more "formative" years was less than what I would describe as accepting to diversity. Lots of Wall Street parents, very defined cliques of girls and bullies. Lots of bullies. The number one target for bullies: the very few out kids in my high school steadfast on living their truth.
I wish I could say I was one of those kids. I wish I were strong enough then to have been one of those kids. I wish I were strong enough then to have been able to be the bully to the bullies of the gays. Instead, I played it safe. I definitely was never a bully to anyone, but I hung around with big crowds and acted out my frustrations in probably not the healthiest ways possible.
Early in high school, I had my first kiss with another girl, and after that night, she refused to continue being my friend (she kissed me!). I pushed away my family, and although I hung with the "popular kids," I could never bring myself to follow that crowd. For the most part, I ran on my own, and that was because I felt I hadn't truly found my tribe. (My closest high school friends have known all along and been amazing! If you're reading this, hi I love you thank you so much! I'm sorry about that one time I told you I actually 'wasn't gay' just because I was tired of answering your questions!).
In college, I met an awesome guy, and we were together for a long time. After graduation, we moved in, had a dog, and I thought I was in a good place. I could never silence the voice in the back of my head that knew I wanted to be with a woman. The only thing I ever really wanted for myself was to be successful and eventually have kids (I used to say I wanted ten kids and 'didn't care if I had a spouse.' Probably just a dramatic teenager, but also probably only in the closet). I didn't think that life would be possible if I came out.
Fast forward to starting my first real job out of college. Moved to Boston, met great new people, and loved the place I was working. Shortly into my time there, I was assigned to a new manager. My new manager had been with the company for over ten years; she had won multiple sales contests in several different territories, was well respected among her peers, and was an absolute powerhouse in the office. She was also staunchly outspoken about her sexuality. From day one, I looked up to her, and she took me under her wing. I eventually came out to her in the most awkward way over lunch. I'm pretty sure my exact words were: "yeah, you know, 'I'm on the spectrum...my sexuality... it's blurred" or something along those lines. She encouraged me to keep talking about it and exploring. She was the example I needed in my life all along, and she showed up at the perfect time. She had everything I wanted that I 'didn't think would be possible if I came out in my professional life. After that, everything just blossomed. I started speaking up more in uncomfortable situations and quickly got comfortable. I realized all I needed was someone to show me it was possible to be a successful, respected, influential LGBTQIA woman in the workplace and society in general.
If I had more resources or role models growing up, I can't help but think things might have played out a little differently. I also think it's pretty impossible for someone to reach their full potential when they are uncomfortable with who they are or who they're becoming. When I came out to my parents, I couldn't have asked for a better reaction, and since then my relationships with every person in our massive family have strengthened tenfold. Family friends have asked me to speak with their young kids and I've been lucky enough to lead two diversity and inclusion initiatives at two different companies. I also realize that in a majority of these coming out stories, not every person is as lucky to have the same experience I had.
To me, being out in tech means being part of the solution. As a recruiter, I've had the somewhat recent experience of being on the other side of the interview equation. In my interviews, I always highlighted my desire to be a part of building diversity and inclusion initiatives, and that was best received here at Hopjump. Since joining last year, my team and support system at work has always provided the resources and encouragement I needed to get this going. It makes my job a lot easier to find talent, knowing the interview teams are committed to hiring the mind that will push us forward. If you can write that code or solve that data problem, we want you to work with us.
I'm a big believer in leading by example and cultivating diverse teams where new ideas can thrive. When I was approached by the Cogo team to be part of Spectra, I jumped at the opportunity. I'll never turn down taking on more work if it means building out a program like Cogo Spectra because I know firsthand how important it is for a person to find their tribe so that they can thrive. My goal is to be the mentor and leader my former manager was to me and to create a space where others have someone to inspire them, regardless of how they identify. I hope always to encourage people to reach their full potential by being the best versions of themselves and continue to attract them to a company that values their individuality.
To work for a family of companies like Hopjump, that treat each other like family, click the link below to see our current openings!