Remembering the Roots of Pride

  • techUK techUK
    Friday03Jul 2020

    Meghali Banerjee, Partnerships and Integrations lead at MeVitae discusses how to ensure the hiring process is free of prejudice & latent bias with new technologies.

Regardless of the place it holds in modern debate, history is to be remembered. In this spirit, it is imperative that we celebrate pride and how far the liberation of LGBT+ rights has come, and understand how far it has yet to go. It is critical to remember why the movement came about, and the story of how it was those in society most vilified who stood up for their wider community.  

An introduction to this is the story of the incredible work of Marsha P Johnson: the black, trans, drag queen of New York who co-founded the STAR group (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and was a prominent figure-head of the Stonewall Uprising.

The STAR House, founded along side Sylvia Rivera, sheltered young homeless, queer youth in Lower Manhattan. They funded the care and shelter of the youth themselves, during a time when police raids on gay villages were accepted and commonplace, despite the charge of sodomy having been reduced to a misdemeanour in 1950.

The Stonewall Inn provided a space for the poorest and most rejected of the LGBT+ community, such as effeminate young men, drag queens and transgender people, not welcome at the more palatable bars that could be mistaken as a meeting place for straight, male, very close friends. A raid on the premises on June 28th, 1969 by the New York City Police resulted in demonstrations that lasted for several days and nights, and saw thousands of supporters.

Johnsons involvement in the uprising is shrouded in legend, with several accounts of her actions. One story is how she threw a shot glass into a mirror, shouting “I got my civil rights!” It was the fire that lit the match of tightly-strung tension between the law, those that enforced it and the people trying to be who they are. A year on, the first pride march with 5000 attendees took place. They carried on annually; 51 years in 2020.

Where we stand at the present time, 35% of LGBT+ employees still hide their sexuality in the workplace, while the percentage of the population that self-identifies as heterosexual has dropped from 95.3% to 94.6% from 2014 to 2018. Why is that people are not yet comfortable in sharing their identity in 2020?

There are however several technology companies that can be celebrated in their efforts to amplify the voices of their employees who identify as within LGBT+. Apple is proud of its employee-led groups like Pride@Apple to facilitate education, networking and a leadership program. Fujitsu also has an internal network, the Shine LGBT+ Network to raise awareness and shape inclusive processes. MeVitae is another company dedicated to increasing diversity in the workplace.

It is known that the leading cause of lack of diversity in the workplace is down to unconscious biases. The technology developed by MeVitae works by removing any information that could be indicative of protected characteristics, so it can be ensured that this stage of the hiring process is entirely free of prejudice and latent bias.

It should be the aim of every organisation to celebrate all walks of life within their workforce. By remembering and retelling history of the pride movement, and the reasons for which it had to take place, we can keep in mind the importance of society welcoming and amplifying LGBT+ voices.

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