Dan Gamble, Founder & CEO, DGPR.
Something that’s clear about the LGBTQIA+ community is that it’s filled with stories that have deeply shaped the individuals within it. Much like superheroes, we each have an origin story that has manifested the person we are today, whether that’s in our career choices or how we show up in the world.
When it comes to my story, I grew up in a working class town in the northwest of England in the ’80s, and it’s safe to say that I was a little different from the get go. Even before I knew or could articulate that I was gay, there were many things about me that stood out. I remember strutting down the street in my mum’s heels, being obsessed with Madonna and being more into horses than football. I thought that was the norm. I felt very special in my household, and my parents made sure I had everything they never did.
From as early as I can remember, I was bullied. Because of this, I learned how to dull my shimmer, without realizing the impact it would have on my later years.
Leaving home for university gave me a chance to breathe and grow. It also introduced me to the world of public relations, and now 20 years later, I haven’t looked back. Working for various PR agencies—all of which had female founders and CEOs—set me free. My leaders and peers encouraged me to be myself in a way I hadn’t experienced before. In fact, it was around this time that I began to slowly come out to friends and family—before coming “out of the closet” fully in my mid-twenties.
My journey as a gay man is still very much ongoing. What I’ve learned is that when I bring my whole self to anything, people respond more, whether it’s a client, a friend or another member of the community looking for advice. My true self is undeniably the best version of me.
When I think about Pride, it’s this journey and how it’s enabled me to be my authentic self that comes to mind. Yes, my origin story is painful in places, but being part of the LGBTQIA+ community brought me to where I am today, and I love where I am today. I work with diverse leaders in the tech sector from all walks of life and help tell their stories. It’s truly a privilege and a joy.
The LGBTQIA+ community still faces significant challenges in terms of acceptance, access to wealth and opportunities. At the corporate level, only four CEOs of the Fortune 500 openly identify as LGBTQIA+, and only half of the companies in the coveted list offer domestic partner benefits. Look outside of the corporate numbers and it’s heartbreaking. As I write this, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has declared its first state of emergency for the LGBTQIA+ community in the U.S. due to the proliferation of legislation regulating the lives of queer people. At least 45% of U.S. youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, and fewer than one in three transgender and nonbinary youth found their home to be gender affirming. How is this still the case?
Within our sector, I feel like there’s still more we can do to support and celebrate the community. I look at women leaders and executives in my network and how they rally together to overcome systemic challenges, and I’m in awe of it. I think that’s what’s missing in the tech sector’s LGBTQIA+ community.
Where is the vocal support on social media? Where are the awards and professional associations for the community? I don’t know if that’s the answer, per se, but what I do know is that most people in the LGBTQIA+ community have spent a long time looking for belonging, and we have an opportunity to create that for them.
Here is my advice for business owners to make Pride year round at their organizations:
1. Listen. Offering a safe environment for team members of all minority groups to share their challenges and experiences, both anonymously and openly, is key. Provide a safe space for communication.
2. Ask how you can support as a business and/or leader. The LGBTQIA+ community faces discrimination constantly, and we each have our own experiences and journeys. Further tailor your support and programs to your individual business; there isn’t a one size fits all. Ask, then respond accordingly.
3. Equal needs to be equal. If you don’t offer the same support and benefits for queer employees as your wider employee base, change it and communicate it openly.
4. Educate yourself. As a leader, you don’t need to have every answer but you do need to have a solid foundation of understanding. If you don’t, speak to members of the community, read more articles like this one, and understand where your knowledge gaps are.
5. Be open to feedback. If your employees are taking the time to offer you their insights, it’s because they have something valuable to share and input. Take the feedback, thank them for the time and then make the decision how best to respond as a business.
As I enter my 40th year, I realize that, for me, as well as for all businesses, Pride has to be year round. It’s a life-long commitment. And as I continue building relationships, being true to my identity and doing what I can to lift up other LGBTQIA+ folks in the industry, that commitment is to stay proud. Not just for myself and the little boy who grew up in the northwest of England, but for everyone in the community. My hope is that we can all find a place to be proud of ourselves year round, and bring up those who need us the most.
With that, I’ll leave you with the wise words of RuPaul Charles: “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love somebody else?”
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