On Thursday Sept. 3, Missouri State’s Career Center held the first segment for their new series, Diversity in the Workplace.
The first installment focused on being “out” in the workplace as a member of the LGBTQ+ community with a turnout of 23 viewers in attendance.
On Instagram Live at 4 p.m. (@msucareercenter), host Jerri Arnold-Cook, career resources specialist, and guest Tony Strawhun, licensed professional engineer, discussed various scenarios LGBTQ+ employees may face in the workplace.
Strawhun identifies within the LGTBQ+ community as gay and is non-binary, meaning he doesn’t exclusively identify as male or female.
“Our plan is to host an Instagram Live event at the beginning of each month this fall focused on diversity in the workplace, and guests with different identities from different career fields will be featured each month,” said Arnold-Cook.
Tony Strawhun, the first guest, has been in the engineering workforce for nearly a decade.
Arnold-Cook said what made Strawhun an ideal candidate to have on the series was his experience working in multiple workplaces and his activity in LGBTQ+ organizations as a student at Missouri S&T.
“The biggest thing it depends on is your level of comfort, your personal situation and the company you are working for,” said Strawhun when asked about how to disclose minority status in the workplace.
Strawhun did preface this by saying any opinions are purely representative of himself and his experiences and not the company he is currently employed under, and that he cannot speak on the experiences of others.
“It is easy to determine a culture when you go on site (for a job interview) because the company wants to showcase themselves, but you’ve got to know what you’re looking for,” said Strawhun on Instagram Live.
Strawhun said companies tend to brag about themselves, and it is important to notice if they highlight employees’ performance but also what they do outside of work.
“As you’re going on those facility tours, looking in cubicles to see pictures of their family, are people’s cubicles fairly decorated? Do people seem to be free to express themselves in their workplaces? That will tell you a lot about the culture of where you're working,” Strawhun said.
Strawhun said it is also possible to create spaces in the workplace to meet people with similar interests or lifestyles called affinity groups.
Affinity groups are a group of people linked by a common interest or purpose such as religious or identity groups.
These can be brought up in interviews by asking about LGBTQ+ related affinity groups in the company without necessarily “outing” yourself.
“Everyone’s got their own right time, just like anybody in the coming out process. There’s a stage, there’s a process and there’s many different ways to have that conversation,” Strawhun said.
Strawhun said ultimately the culture of where one works becomes a key driver if he or she feels comfortable to come out, and when.
Arnold-Cook said the primary goal for the series is to increase awareness and spark discussions about how identity impacts individuals in the workplace.
“Our greatest desire is that it will also initiate an exchange of ideas that will help empower and inspire individuals to take an active role in creating more respectful, welcoming and inclusive environments, not only in workplaces, but also on our campus and in our communities,” Arnold-Cook said.
Arnold-Cook said viewers are encouraged to engage in the conversation and ask guests questions of their own.
To stay informed on when each installment will take place, visit @msucareercenter on Instagram for more information.