This month, CDW’s BRAVE BRG is hosting a number of virtual events to celebrate Pride, focusing on the topics of communication, community and understanding. One of the highlights was a panel on the topic of the LGBTQ community at CDW. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from three members of BRAVE (Kaneko Ceh, Candace Farmer and Travis Rickert) as they shared their personal stories when answering questions from moderator Maureen McDermott.
Here are some highlights from the conversation.
What does community mean to you?
I found a definition in the dictionary, which really resonated with me. It says community is a feeling of fellowship with others so far as common attitudes, ideals, and goals. When I think about my labels, things such as a Japanese (Asian) American woman, a single mom, all these things might not seem very significant or impactful, but when it's through the perspective of my community, suddenly those words are incredibly powerful. They fill me with pride and, I consider them an actual privilege.
Community is all about acceptance and being an ally for those that don't identify specifically like you. I'm not a lesbian, I'm not a trans, I don't know the struggles and fight that those individuals have to deal with. So being part of this community is really showing that support and allyship on my end. So we can come together, have great support, great debates, and help move that needle forward, even if it is only a foot.
Do you think that authenticity helps CDW build our coworker community?
Why and how?
Not being authentic is a disadvantage. It's a disadvantage to you as an individual and to everybody around you. They have no idea how to approach you, how to look up to you, what to say. I don't think I was authentic the first, 10, 12 years of my career. I was the only person in the office that even looked like me. All I did was come to work to work. I met friends by default. I didn't even try to reach out to people because I felt so different. But looking back at that, I wished that I would've done it a different way.
I say to people now, you have to be your authentic self. For one it's a lot more accepted. It’s so important just to be you because you can do your best. You're more productive, you make more friends, you can communicate better and you just feel good about yourself when you can be you.
Candace hit it right on the head. It is really important for us every day to bring your authentic, genuine self. One of the golden rules about sales is that you should sell the way that you like to be sold, and people buy from people who like them. When you're able to be genuinely yourself in the aspect of selling, you make that further humanistic connection with people. More often than not, when I've shared the story of my child transitioning, I've received more shared stories from parents in return.
I think by us bringing our authentic and genuine self to the office, we develop our own community even in the office and it's a beautiful tapestry of humanity.
From the day I interviewed 10 years ago here, I never felt that I could not be my authentic self. And I've been in interviews where I'm like, “Oh, I can't say I have a partner. I can't say that I'm gay”. But when it came to CDW, I never felt that. And that was a big relief for me because for the first 25 years of my life, I could not be my authentic self. Having that freedom and being my authentic self here, I think not only helps me personally, but I think it has helped the coworker community in the Madison area. I think that vulnerability is really what has helped me continue to be successful here within the company.
What can people do to support the LGBTQ community?
Ask how can I be supportive? What can I do to listen and understand where this community comes from? Say, “Hey, I don't know”. And that is okay, right? None of us are perfect. None of us have the answers, but if we show that vulnerability to seek the answers together, that's really, what helps that support.
It actually starts here. CDW can't change the world. CDW can help change the world and it starts small. We do small things. Have that listening ear and be bold. We pride ourselves on being bold. So ask questions, get uncomfortable.
At CDW, we’re proud to be bold, ask questions and celebrate Pride with our LGBTQ community. We are committed to cultivating an environment of equal belonging and inclusion, where all coworkers can be their unique, authentic selves.
As Maureen McDermott says, “change happens when we work together, when we have our community with us. We need our communities. They provide strength, they provide support, they look out for one another. They help us to navigate these times inside and outside of CDW's walls so we can get to a better tomorrow together.”
Learn more about CDW's Diversity & Inclusion efforts here.