Pride month might now be over, but at Thoughtworks we know it's important to support and empower LGBTQIA+ people throughout the year. It's not enough to simply talk about equality in June: it needs to be part of our culture for the other 11 months of the year too.
While there are many ways we support LGBTQIA+ people, it all starts with recruitment. To explore how we do this as an organization, I spoke to Yot Anonglekha, a recruiting lead from Thoughtworks' Thailand office, who gave their perspective on their own experience as an LGBTQ+ person in Thoughtworks, and explained how their role is important in helping us build an inclusive and diverse culture.
Hi Yot, could you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Yot Anonglekha and I am also a recruiting lead at Thoughtworks Thailand. I’m passionate about talent development, diversity and inclusion.
What are the most common misconceptions about LGBTQIA+ people?
In my personal experience, the first thing that comes to my mind are assumptions about gender. For example, people who dress and express themselves like women can mistakenly be assumed to be transgender. This assumption goes within the affinity group itself, too; one time I assumed one of my colleagues, whom I had known for a few years, was gay.
The underlying issue is that we all have unconscious bias. It’s important to remember that there is a difference between gender expression and gender identity — we generalize that one's gender expression is the same as identity. The best way to work this out is to validate the assumption. You can directly ask the person "how should I refer to you?" Even better, ask their pronouns.
Are there any obstacles in life to being LGBTQIA+?
When I was growing up I noticed people around me expecting me to be funny and extroverted when they knew I was not straight. I also observed that other non-straights seemed to be showing up that way too. The local media I watched would portray LGBTQ characters with similar traits to "funny," so my conclusion back then was it was the right thing for me to live up to.
Not knowing why things were the way they were, my obstacle was that I didn't listen to my voice; I was too busy trying to be funny and extroverted. I judged being silent and introverted to be wrong. Ironically, it was even worse because I do enjoy being introverted in my own personal time, so I was really suffering from the constant pressure to express the energy that didn't belong to me.
Things worked out in the end. I found a boundary where I could enjoy the best of both sides, finding a way to be an introverted person who enjoys socializing with people. If you don't appreciate yourself - and the way you think about yourself - there will always be this heavy feeling of living under a mask trying to be someone else.
What are the unique qualities of LGBTQIA+ that have a positive effect at the workplace?
I think it's overthinking! I'm just kidding; I don't think we are more unique or special than anyone else in the workplace. But a workplace can gain a lot from a diverse group of talent like an LGBTQIA+ affinity group; it provides people with the ability to see things from a different angle. When we work in a team with different opinions, we can solve problems more creatively.
It's a success driver for the capability uplift within the organization, a sense of belonging for employees, and ability to attract and retain talent.
A workplace can gain a lot from a diverse group of talent like an LGBTQIA+ affinity group; it provides people with the ability to see things from a different angle. When we work in a team with different opinions, we can solve problems more creatively.
What has been your proudest moment at work?
Being part of the Thoughtworks SEA Leadership Team (SLT) in 2020 was one of my proudest moments. The SLT consists of functional leads and senior executive leaders, which is the most challenging yet inspiring group of people I have ever worked with. The opportunity to work with this SLT has accelerated my growth. I'm proud of this because regardless of my age or gender differences, I feel I'm being trusted with my values as a person. My self-confidence has also improved. This journey is not an easy path for me. It also comes with higher expectations to improve my leadership skills. Basically, I need to be a better person and I'm still learning.
What should people do to show that they have respect for LGBTQIA+ at the workplace?
Before we talk about respect, I would like to bring up the difference between "equality" and "equity" first. Equality means equal access to opportunities. Equity, meanwhile, refers to the custom tools that identify and address inequality. So, when we say we want respect for one affinity group, we really mean that we want equality and respect like everyone else who is straight. We don't mean we want any special equity about respect.
Respect for employees could mean having their managers not watching behind their backs to prove if someone does the job or not. It can also mean senior leaders holding their thoughts and listening carefully to junior employees about how we should make better decisions and strategies. Sometimes it's just a little thing — like recognizing someone's good intentions even though we disagree with their ideas. It's a two-way street that is performed by both sides, but it is ultimately down to an organization to nurture and protect regardless of one's specific needs.
Thanks Yot for taking the time to talk!
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.