Written by Shanna Gregory
Shanna Gregory, Chief Program Officer, Women Who Code
Shanna Gregory, Chief Program Officer at Women Who Code, discusses being queer, the challenges she and the LBGTQ+ face at work, the importance of building community, and the importance of Pride month.
- What does pride mean to you?
Pride is a remembrance of the resistance to unjust treatment and the powerful response by a community of activists at Stonewall. It’s now a time to publicly celebrate who you are. It’s a time to recognize progress that has yet to be made when it comes to the rights and liberties of many in the LGBTQ+ community. Every June, we’re reminded to celebrate and honor our chosen family and the rich history in the community.
- What is the greatest challenge you’ve had to overcome professionally being part of the LGBTQ+ community?
People with marginalized identities are often ostracized in the workplace, especially in environments that lack diversity. I’ve struggled in past jobs with coworkers’ comments about my relationship, like assumptions that my partner is a man, and sometimes more blatant disrespect for my identity. Those negative experiences made me reluctant to bring my full self to work. When interviewing for my next job, I purposefully hid my sexual orientation from potential employers. I put away the rainbow flags that normally appeared in my Zoom background. I even hid my nose piercing because I thought it made me look too visibly gay. I didn’t mention my partner.
The day I was hired at Women Who Code in 2018, my new manager, Joey Rosenberg, called to extend the offer and review the details of the role. While on the call, she mentioned something about her wife, who was in the background. I had never had a queer manager and that conversation made me even more excited to join the team. The rainbow flags, nose piercing, and honest discussions about my family and relationships were suddenly something I didn’t feel compelled to hide. It was a relief to know that my new team would support me.
While I’m lucky to have a supportive team and company, 46% of LGBTQ+ workers report having experienced unfair treatment at work at some point in their lives. Queer people of color experience higher rates of discrimination and harassment in workplace environments. It’s legal to discriminate against LGBTQ+ employees on the basis of sexual and gender identity in many countries, and in many states within the US.
- What would you tell your younger self about navigating life (work) as part of the LGBTQ+ community? How do WWCode (digital) events help LGBTQ+ members in tech?
It’s important to find a community that reminds you that you belong! Before joining the team full-time, I found my community by volunteering with Women Who Code and making friends with incredible people in this industry. Attending my first Women Who Code CONNECT conference was a huge part of my decision to stay in the tech industry! For the first time, I was surrounded by people in tech from all around the world. I could see that there is so much talent in the industry and it took getting out of my local tech company bubble to see it.
- Is there something you’re excited about this pride month?
The Women Who Code team takes a week-long break in June, observing Juneteenth and Pride month. Also, I’m getting married this month! In the US, same-sex marriage became recognized at the federal level the year that I met my soon-to-be wife (2015). Growing up, I remember the constant debate on marriage equality and I couldn’t understand why LGBTQ+ people were ever denied the right to marry! It’s a bit surreal to be getting legally married and I’m grateful to have so much support.
- What are your hopes for the future of the community?
My hopes are that Pride continues to be a celebration and remembrance, something that exists beyond the addition of rainbows to corporate logos each June. In the long-term, I’m hopeful for the introduction of legislation that protects those of marginalized gender identities and sexualities. I’d like tech companies to radiate the acceptance that I’ve felt at Women Who Code for their LGBTQ+ employees. And I’m hopeful that our work continues to contribute to a more diverse workforce.
Celebrating Pride 2022 Recommendations!
Shows: We’re Here (HBO)