Having a diverse and inclusive work environment means that we celebrate differences and embrace all of our people for who they are each and every day. This month, DHG recognizes and celebrates Pride month. At DHG, we’ll be highlighting some of our terrific people and we will be participating in events in several of our markets. Summer Brooks from DHG's Greenville, SC office joins us in this podcast to share her journey and why it is important to celebrate inclusion and diversity at DHG and beyond.
Episode 41 Transcript
AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG podcast series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue because we get to hear from our people about the things that matter the most to them: flexibility, careers, and of course our people. Having an inclusive work environment means that it is a great place to work for all, for everyone, that we celebrate differences, that we embrace people for who they are each and every day. This month, DHG recognizes and celebrates pride month. The LGBTQ community holds educational events, community outreach, and even celebration parades during the month of June to raise awareness. At DHG, we’ll be highlight some of our terrific people and we will be participating in events in several of our markets. You may even see program of employees proudly wearing our pride T-shirts that were made available for anyone who is participating in local events. Today I have a regular guest with me, Summer Brooks, to share her journey with us. As you may recall, she joined us back in January to share yoga tips. She’s my Yogi friend and Summer and I are pretty close, really close inside and outside of DHG, and I was actually one of the first people that she told about her sexual orientation and I’m so proud of her journey. I’ve witnessed her bravery and her candor around this topic. So, welcome to the podcast!
SB: Thanks, I’m excited. I’m excited about this.
AGH: This is going to be fun. Less than two years ago, you and I were having a casual lunch in the break room, as we normally do, when you shared with me that you were seeing someone and it was a woman. Pretty sure that you had to pick my jaw up off the floor because normally when we have lunch, you’re dishing about your latest boyfriends, your ex-boyfriend, what shoes you just bought. Or I’m talking about what my husband’s done to drive me crazy or something cute that my two year old did. So, what was it like to share that with me? Like I said, I think I was one of the first people …
SB: You were.
AGH: That you told. What was it like?
SB: You were, and at that point I think we had been dating several months and I knew that there was going to come a time where I would need to share it, but I wanted to make sure that this was something that was going to be permanent before I did share it. Because you know having, like you said, having dated men in the past, I’m sure people would judge and think that it was, “Oh, it’s just a phase.” I really did a lot of soul searching before I brought it to anyone’s attention even as close as we are. I knew that there would be a shock but since we are so close, I knew that it would be safe to tell you even in a work environment. I wasn’t necessarily afraid. In fact, in the beginning, I was much braver than I am now. I was actually proud. So and, you know, that has changed over time, not in the work place, but having seen friends be discriminated against. I have an experience too much of it personally but yeah, at the time, I was really proud, I was excited to tell you. But yeah, your jaw did drop, it did.
AGH: Shocked to say the least. But, I mean, you know, I’m glad you felt safe with me because, you know, I am a safe environment. I love people for people and who they are and it doesn’t matter to me. So, we’re going to fast forward a little bit. I knew this was happening, there was a big HR meeting, and at the HR meeting, everybody sent in a picture of them and their life outside of work and told a little bit about each — everybody stood up and told a little bit about themselves and you stood up in a room full of coworkers and shared this. Were you scared?
SB: No, again, I wasn’t scared. I personally felt if there was any safe department to share it with, it would be the HR department, which I’m proud to be a part of. So yeah, each of us were asked to send in a picture of our significant other or us doing our hobbies or whatever it is that we enjoy outside of work and I think there was even maybe a photo contest. So I submitted it like anyone else and I think I got a response back because, you know, you had to include descriptions of the pictures and I got a response back asking if I was comfortable sharing that and I was like, “Well yeah, it’s the truth, let’s do it, you know?” I got no other response than, “Oh, what a beautiful picture.” So everyone was super supportive and really treated me like…
AGH: They always do.
SB: Yeah, and I think that’s the beautiful part about it is that inclusion and diversity at its core truly means including us like they would any other group and that’s how I feel I’ve been received since coming out, if you will.
AGH: Yeah. Because I mean, you’re not different, you’re the same person I love.
SB: I am still the same person I was five years ago when I was dating whoever it was I was dating. I’m still doing the same work. Who I choose to love does not change who I am.
AGH: No, absolutely not. Why do you think it’s important for DHG to celebrate and bring awareness to pride month?
SB: Well, I think it’s important because there is a stigma whether you like to admit it or not, there is a stigma around sexual orientation and I realized we’re in 2017 now and even in our minds, we feel like there shouldn’t be but there is, especially here in the south. Some may be afraid to come forward with their sexual orientation for fear of, like you said, for fear of perceptions being changed around them or maybe they’re potential performance at work. Or, you know, what their lifestyle is like, which I don’t even know what the gay lifestyle is because I still do the same things, I go to bed at 9 o’clock, whatever it is. But I think it’s important to draw awareness to it to make people comfortable and even those with a traditional sexual orientation and make them feel comfortable as well because some people don’t know how to approach the subject. So I think it’s on both ends, making everyone comfortable with being who they are so that we can put and decide and do our best work.
AGH: That’s exactly right, our best work. All right, here’s my final question related to this. What’s one thing that you think anyone can do to help facilitate an inclusive environment at work?
SB: At work? Well, I was just going to tell a story to begin this. I remember — I don’t remember what talk it was but I was on a conference call with Effin and it may have been a fire side chat or something like that and she specifically said she didn’t want people to not feel like they couldn’t put a picture of themselves and their significant other of the same sexual orientation on their desk, and at this point, I had not, I mean, I’m sure I told you but I had not told many people in the office. The next day I came to work and brought a picture and put it on my desk and took a picture of the picture and emailed it to Effin and I was like, “Here you go, we’re doing this,” and she was so pleased to see it. So I think just not making assumptions, maybe being aware of the things that you say and how you say it and because it could potentially, you know, hurt someone’s feelings or make them feel uncomfortable with being who they are, which we all know then doesn’t really allow us to put our best foot forward. Looking at things like that through the lens of other people, wherever they might be in their journey and just letting them be that.
AGH: I mean, I feel like that’s true for everyone. Whether it’s the LGBTQ community, the black community, the striped, white, gay community. People just should be themselves. I love the response, we do a lot of sponsorships with NABA, the National Association of Black Accountants. We have their national meeting next week and we had T-shirts made the say, “Just be you.” I just feel like that’s the notion of this awareness month, so that people can just be themselves, and as you said, do their best work.
SB: Yeah, absolutely. I feel like, having been with the firm since I graduated college, I feel like…
AGH: Which was last year guys.
SB: Yes, absolutely. I feel like that is at the core of who DHG is, from finding what it is that you like to do in your profession to supporting your efforts outside of work, I’m just really proud to be a part of a firm that is so inclusive.
AGH: That’s great.
SB: And supportive.
AGH: Proud and pride.
AGH: Well thank you so much for sharing your story with us.
SB: You are so welcome. Anytime.
AGH: Yes, you’re special…
SB: I’m a regular.
AGH: Okay, we got to find another topic for Summer. Okay, thank you all for listening to life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stores about our Life Beyond Numbers. Join us next time for another edition of Life at DHG.