Here at Microsoft, we strive to create an environment that brings the power of diversity to life — where people with different backgrounds and experiences thrive in both their professional and personal lives.
Our employee resource groups (ERGs) are one way that we build a supportive community across diverse groups within Microsoft. These groups connect our teams across identities to provide career development, networking, and mentorship, while also hosting activities that promote community engagement and cultural awareness.
In celebration of Pride Month and Juneteenth, we’re highlighting two of our local ERG chapters:
➡️ GLEAM, the ERG for Global LGBTQIA+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft
➡️ BAM, the ERG for Black and African American employees at Microsoft
Here are some of the events we had the opportunity to host and attend in June:
GLEAM New England Presents — Alex Newell:
First up, GLEAM hosted a virtual conversation with Alex Newell — a Massachusetts native who went on to become one of the stars of the NBC hit show Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist and Fox’s Glee. Alex discussed what it was like growing up queer in Massachusetts, being an out celebrity, and what it means to be queer in 2021. Topics of discussion included what hardships she’s faced, pronouns, anti-LGBTQIA+ laws, discrimination, and more.
Alex told us, “I’m doing it for my kids, I’m doing it for my friend’s kids … I want the people coming after me to live in such a true way, to live better than I did.”
GLEAM New England Presents — “Pride Was a Riot”
The next event examined the question: Is Pride a celebration or a demonstration? For this discussion, GLEAM paired up with The History Project, the only organization focused exclusively on documenting and preserving the history of New England’s LGBTQIA+ communities and sharing that history with LGBTQIA+ individuals, organizations, allies, and the public.
We were excited to be joined by Joan Ilacqua, Executive Director of The History Project. Using photographs and stories, Joan covered Boston’s first Pride commemoration and march and the continued debate around if Pride is a celebration, protest, or both. Joan also presented information about the Stonewall Riots and the over 50 years of protests and celebrations that followed.
Learn more about The History Project at www.historyproject.org.
The Racial Injustice & Inequality Committee in partnership with the Federal CSU Culture Council presents Transgender Community: Allyship In Crisis
From there, GLEAM hosted an event where attendees could share individual experiences and discuss issues transgender people and the gender expansive community are facing.
Participants united around common challenges, explored how they’re facing them together, and defined ways to bring progress for and beyond the LGBTQIA+ communities. This journey starts with deeply understanding one another’s experiences and perspectives, which must begin with open and honest dialogue.
One of the important key points in the discussion was about the over 250 anti-LGBTQIA+ bills that have been introduced across the United States in the past six months. Meanwhile, protections proposed in the Equality Act (H.R. 5; S. 393) have not yet passed the Senate. The Equality Act includes amendments to civil rights laws which would explicitly extend non-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Fundamental protections based on gender identity are at risk for housing, employment, education, public services, and more. At the same time, violence against transgender people and members of the gender expansive community is increasing. This GLEAM-sponsored event called on allies to use their voices. The LGBTQIA+ communities at Microsoft believe that true power is driven by coming together — across groups, identities, and dimensions — to create collective change.
In addition to celebrating Pride Month, NERDs also participated in a variety of Juneteenth activities, including a Juneteenth musical performance by Bob Familiar, Boston MTC Director, and a Mental Health Series with Amanda (Page) Gilchrist, LPC/S, CPCS. Our NERDs also attended Microsoft’s week-long commemorative events that amplified Black voices and organizations with the goal of learning how we all can support the Black and African American tech community.
We sat down with Tarikh Campbell, our Diversity & Inclusion Business Program Manager here at Microsoft New England, to discuss what Juneteenth means to him.
“Juneteenth is a tribute to the first step of freedom taken by African American people in the United States. It is also a reminder that total freedom was not won on June 19th, 1865,” he tells us. “We all must continue to fight systemic injustice in every form and not declare victory until we live in real equality.”
According to Tarikh, it’s important to have diversity and inclusion discussions not only in our personal lives but also in the workplace. That’s why Microsoft encourages all employees to come to work as their authentic selves.
“This means that the workplace needs to be a safe place for people of any identities and backgrounds,” he says. “Historical systemic prejudices have had an impact on workplaces that have often made them unsafe and limiting for people of marginalized communities. So it’s important we have discussions that lead to actions which stamp out bias from our workplaces.”
Tarikh’s biggest takeaway from this month’s events was the recognition of the challenges faced by people at the intersections of marginalized identities.
“You can’t ignore that transgender women of color are targeted with violence at a much higher rate than the average person. You have to acknowledge the disparities in mental health challenges when you compare Black and queer youth to the general population,” he says. “It means our society hasn’t done enough to ensure just and humane treatment for all people. There is so much work that needs to be done and the time for it is now.”
GLEAM board member Christabel Sheridan agrees, noting that her most impactful takeaway from these events was about how universal human experiences are, regardless of what oppressed group they’re coming from.
“We’re no longer the minorities if we come together,” she said. “I’m proud of the work on the intersectionality of our own voices and other people in the community.”
Our GLEAM and BAM employee resource groups represent communities at the forefront of human rights nationally and internationally. They uplift the voices not only of employees, but of their family members, friends, and those whose voices go unheard. They understand that when their community members can bring their authentic selves to work, regardless of who they love, how they identify, and what they look like, they win that right for all people.
As we move on to the rest of the year, it’s important to keep the conversation going about LGBTQIA+ and Black community rights and remember: although it can be easier to focus only on ourselves in moments of crisis, it is only when we come together — across race, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and more — that we can make an impact. Together, we can change the world.
If you are a Microsoft employee and would like to join the GLEAM or BAM ERG, contact your supervisor.
Thank you to all of our local ERGs for organizing the great events!