June is Pride Month, a time to celebrate individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer, as well as the history of LGBTQ+ rights movement.
In 2021, tech is still a predominantly cis male industry, but increasingly, companies are encouraging conversations around ways to improve inclusivity. Across the country, a variety of groups have emerged to support LGBTQ+ people in the tech sector such as StartOut, Lesbians Who Tech, and TransTech Social Enterprises. These grassroots organizations were founded by members of the LGBTQ+ community who saw a need for better resources and representation.
This month at Cadent, we spoke with colleagues who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community to learn more about who they are, their experiences in and out of the workplace, and what Pride means to them.
Jordan Dunnigan, Human Resources Generalist, has been with Cadent for over two years, and in that time, he has had the opportunity to watch the organization grow, as the first point of contact for many employees. When Jordan’s not at work, you can find him out with friends in Philly or binging the latest season of “The Real Housewives.”
To learn more about Jordan, check out our Q&A below.
The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.
Tell us about your role.
I am a human resources generalist, so I have my hands in a little bit of everything with HR! Day to day, my main responsibilities are the onboarding of new employees, getting their offer letters set up, getting them situated with IT, and then being the point person for questions and concerns about benefits, as well as running new hire orientation. Some other key responsibilities I have are running our internship program which we just kicked off last week and being a business partner for the broadcast operations team.
Have you always worked in HR?
I have for the last 4 and a half years or so, but my first job out of college was as an entertainment news writer for a site that’s no longer up and running. I wrote about topics like Bravo – lots of ‘Real Housewives’ articles, pop stars, and daily entertainment news.
Are there any mentors or experiences that shaped your career?
I owe almost all of it to the bosses, who I also consider mentors, that I’ve had! I’ve worked for 3 companies doing HR and I’ve been very lucky that at each of them, I had a great boss that I could go to who were not only interested in developing me in HR but also personally. I knew I could always go to them with any questions or concerns. There were no stupid questions. They wanted to see me grow and give me the tools to do, so I owe my success in my career so far to them.
I would say my first role – at a staffing agency in Philadelphia, one of my colleagues was a gay man in his 50s who I met through that role, and we stayed friends. I haven’t worked in that role for about 3 years now, but we still stay in touch! He was somebody who didn’t necessarily mentor me professionally but was a mentor personally, being a gay man in Philadelphia, hearing his stories. Our twenties and thirties were different times – a lot of his friends lost their lives because of the AIDS epidemic – so it was great but of course sad to hear about his upbringing in the gay community. He is someone I consider a mentor and someone who helped me be more comfortable being who I am.
What does Pride mean to you and how are you planning to celebrate this year?
Pride to me is a celebration of who we are. It’s a place, and a month, and the events that are held. Somewhere that you can go that you know will be free of judgement. Being a gay man, Pride means a lot to me because it’s a celebration of who I am, and I know there’s this safe space to celebrate. But Pride is also something anyone from any walk of life can join and celebrate love and acceptance. This year, I will be celebrating with my friends in the city. Last year, because of the pandemic, there weren’t big Pride events, so this year we plan to go to any gay bar or local LGBT event that is hosting something for Pride and hit them all up!
One more thing on Pride is I always think it’s important to remember that the first Pride was a riot. Because of the events that happened during the first Pride, it gave us the ability to now celebrate and have that safe space.
Do you have any favorite movies, books, music, or other cultural inspirations from the LGBTQ+ community?
The first thing that comes to mind for me was Lady Gaga. Not only is she a bi woman, but I remember growing up when she first came out and I was starting to think about my sexuality, she was the first mainstream artist that sang about those topics and was a fighter for LGBT equality in society. I remember when she released Born this Way, I was 17 or so, and hearing her sing about being gay or being trans, was such a major moment for me, that somebody can reach such success while singing about these walks of life and fighting for this community.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not at work?
My favorite thing to do when I’m not at work is spend as much time with my friends here in the city as possible. I’ve been lucky that since I moved to Philly, I have made a great group of friends, most of whom are within the LGBT community. So, whether we go out to one of the gay bars, going out to eat, having a ‘Housewives’ night, or going to a concert, I love spending as much time with them as possible. It was hard during the pandemic not being able to see them, but we made sure to do Zoom’s and FaceTime’s whenever we could.
NYC Pride announced that 2021’s official theme for Pride is “The Fight Continues” – something Cadent has adopted for our own Pride initiatives. Can you tell us what “The Fight Continues” means to you?
It means we still have work to do. We’ve achieved a lot over the last few years and decades, but I think 2020 showed that there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think we thought we were in a better place in terms of hate crimes, racism, and transphobia, but that isn’t the case. We still have trans women being killed, mostly Black trans women, police brutality and violence against people of color. I think The Fight Continues means that we’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work to do to fix the cracks ingrained into our society. I’m confident we will come together to help fix these issues. I also think there were those who may not have been as aware of the issues preventing us from achieving more equality and inclusion to do their research more during this past year, bringing them into the fight.
What do you feel helps to foster a culture of inclusion? How have you seen those behaviors and practices successfully put in action?
The biggest thing a company can do is provide a safe space and promote that safe space so employees know they can have those difficult, sometimes awkward conversations. Before 2020, talking about race and identity was uncomfortable for people and make them nervous.
What Cadent is doing now is great, when we have speakers come in from different walks of life, that someone hasn’t interacted with before, people leave those events, go to a team meeting or one-on-one, and are then more likely to talk about it.
After one of the presentations we had as a part of the DEI initiative, people really opened up. For instance, individuals on our team opened up about their experiences, sharing with us things that we wouldn’t necessarily think are offensive or triggering. So, by creating those safe spaces, you’re allowing those conversations to be had.
What has been your proudest moment at Cadent?
A moment that stands out to me is winning the Cadent Crusher award! I know new hires are the ones who submitted me and onboarding new hires is a big part of my day-to-day work life. Of course, we’ve all been in jobs where you start out and you’re like, “I don’t know what to do,” or “I don’t know who to go to,” so I try to foster that positive relationship with them and make sure they know they can come to me with anything, or if I can’t answer it, I’ll escalate it. It was really rewarding to not only win the Crusher, but to have the nomination come from new hires.
What do you think about the opportunities available today to individuals who identify as LGBTQ+? Where is there room for improvement?
In terms of opportunities for the LGBT community today, I think we’re getting better! What can make it even better is acceptance and education. There’s still discrimination in the workplace and things that can be done to prevent that. Aside from federal and state laws, education is a big part of it. The LGBT community has such a long history in this country that we should be teaching our youth more about it. Exposing them to a different walk of life, to a different community, helps them learn more about it and that these people are a part of our country – you probably know them. Educating youth would help prevent future discrimination and create more acceptance.
What advice would you give to a younger colleague or a younger version of yourself?
Be yourself and don’t be afraid to be yourself. Everyone’s situation is different, so the fear of being yourself could be bigger for somebody depending on what they’re going through in their lives. Growing up, I was always very shy and still am a little bit today, and I always thought that’s just who I was. But in thinking about my sexuality more and coming out, it helped me come out of my shell, be more myself, be more outgoing and not be afraid to show who I really am. To my younger self, I’d say don’t be afraid to be yourself – it’s a great thing! It feels great when you figure out who you are and can live in that.