Creating Space for Diversity: A Letter from lumenomics CEO Marti Hoffer
A Letter from lumenomics Founder & CEO Marti Hoffer
Every June, businesses, companies, and corporations circle up their marketing departments to figure out how they’re going to celebrate Pride Month. Like the changing of the leaves in the fall, we witness the transformation of our social media feeds to bright, rainbow-colored logos in corporate profile pictures with spirited posts about LGBTQ+ employees and positive affirmations. It’s not that these actions aren’t important- visibility and representation matters, and every ally in this yearly digital celebration is valued and welcome.
While this annual phenomenon is a solid indicator of progress in our world, there is still much work to be done. While our company pages during Pride Month may indicate we are safe places for LGBTQ+ people, our industries and job sites remain unwelcoming. As owners of companies and businesses, we have a responsibility to make diversity, not just for LGBTQ+ people, but for all- a year-round priority. To change the face of our industries, we must not simply go with the flow. We must change its course.
As a lesbian woman with over 25 years in the construction industry, the concept of “passing” is something I have encountered my whole career. Essentially, there’s an accepted cultural flow of things in our world that goes in one direction, like a river. People that float along with that flow will move effortlessly in that direction with minimal friction, but for those that stick out, they will be met with immediate resistance and difficulty. For many people, they may find themselves able to move with the flow naturally without a second thought. For many others though, they have no choice but to stick out. Some of them might be able to unmoor themselves enough to move along with the greater flow, but others will ultimately remain as they are- distinctly contrasted to the greater current. For many of us LGBTQ+ people, we have no choice but to stick out in an overwhelmingly heterosexual world.
In my career, I have been able to go with the flow of a predominantly white and heterosexual construction industry through passing. By hiding and omitting parts of my identity as a lesbian woman that went against the current, I was able to pass amongst my peers and camouflage myself to move with the flow. This ability to adapt to the flow is what is called a passing privilege, and for many of us who are able to hold it, we have become comfortable with using it to our advantage.
While using our passing privilege feels safe and comfortable, it comes at a great personal cost. Our ability to be honest and open with others is diminished, making our relationships inauthentic and hollow. The pressure to maintain appearances and meet expectations can be disastrous for our well-being. Ultimately, passing serves only as a capitulation to the status quo. The same status quo that says we’re different and need to change to fit the flow. That we stand out. That we don’t belong.
We must not be content to simply pass along with the flow. We must choose to stand against it and change it- not just for our own well-being, but for those who cannot hold passing privilege. In our companies, we have employees whose innate characteristics and identities inherently contrast the general homogeneous flow of our industries. Our employees shouldn’t need to change themselves to fit into our industries’ cultures- we should change these cultures to accommodate them. It is for this reason as leaders, we must boldly stand out and resist this flow. When enough of us stand against it, we can redirect and change the flow entirely.
This Pride Month, I ask everyone to consider how they can stand against the flow and redirect the currents of power and success in their industries to include all. To my fellow LGBTQ+ individuals with passing privilege- especially those who are business owners and CEOs- I challenge you to not be content passing along with the flow, but to boldly be your authentic selves. Take steps towards visibility like certifying your businesses as LGBTQ+ Owned and celebrate what makes you unique. Become a symbol that inspires other LGBTQ+ people to come forward and join the ranks of your industries. Together, we can create a world where nobody feels they need to hide or change who they are to fit in.
CEO + Founder of lumenomics