Pride Month at HENNGE: Embracing Diversity in the Workplace
As June 2023 rolled around, HENNGE, a company who values diversity and inclusion, embraced the spirit of Pride Month and held a remarkable celebration. So, what’s Pride Month, and why did a SaaS company like HENNGE decide to hold a celebration? Please join us on a journey as we reflect on the remarkable Pride Month Celebration at HENNGE. Here is a report made by Chi, PR Intern, recounting the experience as the festive activities unfold throughout the month.
What is Pride Month?
Pride Month, usually held in June, is the international celebration and commemoration of the LGBTQ+(sexual minority) community. Its roots date back to the historic Stonewall riots in the US in June 28, 1969, where brave members of the LGBTQ+ community stood up against injustice and sparked a movement for equality. In recent years, although awareness about diversity and inclusion has been on the rise, many LGBTQ+ people continue to face unequal treatment in the workplace, healthcare and other areas of life. Thus, the annual Pride Month is the occasion to raise further awareness, encourage acceptance from others, and create an environment where people can feel acceptance of themselves.
The symbolic rainbow flag of the Pride Month Celebration
■So what does this have to do with HENNGE?
Raising awareness about diversity sounds great, but as you keep reading from this article, you may be wondering, what does this have to do with an IT and SaaS company like HENNGE.
In recent years, the number of global members has rapidly increased in HENNGE, currently more than 20% of employees are non-Japanese. This increase in the number of global members contributes to a diverse working environment, and facilitates a cycle where employees respect each other's differences, value each other’s challenges, leading to the transformation of HENNGE to one that is even more open to change and diversity. Thus, as a company, we believe that diversity is the key to business expansion. We strive to maintain a positive work culture that values respect, acceptance and equality among all members of HENNGE.
To that goal, HENNGE is an active member of Work With Pride, an organization that promotes the creation of workplaces where LGBTQ+ people can work as themselves in Japanese companies and other organizations (See more details here). Additionally, this year was also the first year for the company to hold a booth and participate in the parade at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, an event where you can learn more about LGBTQ+ life in Japan.
HENNGE at Tokyo Rainbow Pride, April 2023
Going strong with these efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, this time, the Internal Relations and Communication Section, which is the organization in charge of enhancement of company internal communication and company events, decided to hold a month-long celebration for Pride Month at HENNGE.
■The first announcement
As June approach, a video announcement was posted in the Slack #official channel, to which all HENNGE employees have access. The video featured our director Ogura-san, along with 2 members, Sonam-san from People Division and Rob-san from Cloud Product Development Division (CPRD), announcing the exciting Pride Month initiative. Sonam and Rob are two members of the LGBTQ+ community, and have been actively supporting the initiatives.
In the video, Ogura-san highlighted the importance of creating an environment where everyone could feel free to be themselves, and perform to their highest potential.
Captures from the announcement video of Ogura-san, Rob-san and Sonam-san
■Time to start Pride Month
June has finally arrived, and with it is the start of the much-awaited Pride Month event. One of the first exciting initiatives that kicked off our Pride Month celebration at HENNGE was the creation of the Pride Wall. Located in our Shibuya office, this served as a vibrant and inclusive space for everyone to engage with. The Pride Wall featured a range of engaging elements, including eye-catching infographics explaining the history of Pride Month or how to use pronouns accurately, collaborative art projects, and a collection of pride pins and LGBTQ+ related books for sharing and distribution.
Collection of Pride pins and LGBTQ+ related books
HENNGE members were invited to share their supportive messages about accepting ourselves and others, embracing our uniqueness and individuality.
Collaborative art projects with supportive messages from HENNGE members
■Deepening my understanding at the Pride Communication Lunch
One of the highlights of the Pride Month celebration at HENNGE was the Pride Communication Lunch, where we all had the chance to delve deeper into the LGBTQ+ community and enjoy some delightful Pride-themed food.
The first part of the lunch featured a captivating presentation from our co-worker, Rob. Rob shared valuable insights about what Pride represents and offered a comprehensive understanding of the LGBTQ+ community.
Rob sharing valuable insights about what Pride represents
The second part of the Pride Communication Lunch was the usual gathering where we had the opportunity to interact with members from various departments across the company.
During the lunch, I had the pleasure of sitting at the same table as Rob. He opened up about his anxieties before coming to work in Japan from the US, expressing concerns about whether he would be accepted as he truly is. However, he was relieved to find out that HENNGE embraced diversity and inclusion. This reassures his confidence in being able to be his authentic self at work.
The Pride Communication Lunch was not only an educational and informative experience but also a very heartwarming occasion to understand more and celebrate diversity within our HENNGE community.
Colorful Pride-themed food
■Hearing personal experience of HENNGE members at Pride Talk
Pride Talk was the final activity of the Pride Month celebration at HENNGE. The event was a platform to deepen our understanding of the LGBTQ+ experiences, and how each of us could become an “ally”, someone who supports equal civil rights, gender equality and LGBTQ+ social movement. This session featured personal stories and experiences shared by our fellow HENNGE members, shedding light on their individual journeys and perspectives.
First up, we had the chance to hear again from Rob, member of the CPRD division.
Rob bravely shared his experience of discovering his sexuality while growing in a boys-dominated environment. He touched on the challenges he faced as a gay man, as well as the cultural differences between his home country and Japan. It was insightful to hear about his experiences living in Japan as a foreigner in the LGBTQ+ community.
Rob and his experience of being a gay men in Japan
Next, Sonam from the People Division took the stage to share her journey of self-discovery regarding her sexuality while growing up in Bhutan.
Sonam candidly spoke about the challenges she faced in a society where the concept of bisexuality was not widely recognized or understood at the time. Sonam also highlighted the stereotypes and discrimination she encountered as a bisexual individual:
“Can you guess which of the following comments I have heard before?” (See the slide in the next photo)
She continued to discuss the unfortunate instances where people perpetuate harmful stereotypes or make jokes about bisexuality:
“I actually have encountered all of these comments as a bisexual individual. I understand that, most of the time, these often stem from ignorance, or lack of awareness, rather than bad intentions. Thus, I want to further emphasize the importance of promoting awareness and education about sexuality and LGBTQ+ issues.”
Lastly, Hayashi-san from the Cloud Sales Division, as a straight ally, shared his perspective on supporting the LGBTQ+ community in Japan.
Hayashi-san on becoming a LGBTQ+ ally in Japan
Last April, Hayashi-san also participated in the Tokyo Rainbow Pride as a DJ. In the event this time, he recounted the story of his high school friend coming out and highlighted the incredible impact that the support from the other classmates had on this friend's happiness and well-being.
“I remembered he was overwhelmed with joy when our classmates all showed our support for him”.
Hayashi-san offered valuable insights and advice on how to be a supportive ally within the office setting. For example, instead of asking if someone has a “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, which are gender-specific terms, we should use gender-neutral terms such as “partner”. Additionally, when faced with discriminatory remarks from colleagues in the office settings, we can speak up and kindly remind them that such jokes may make others uncomfortable.
The Pride Talk session was a powerful reminder of the diverse experiences within the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of empathy, acceptance, and allyship. Their openness and vulnerability created a sense of unity and fostered an environment where all HENNGE members could feel seen, heard, and supported.
■ Unraveling the motivation and vision of Pride organizers
After the talk event, I asked Alina, who is currently a member of the Internal Relations and Communication Section, who planned this event, about the motivations for organizing the Pride events this time and her thoughts on diversity initiatives at HENNGE.
Thank you for organizing such meaningful celebrations this time! I’m curious, what motivated you to organize Pride Month-related activities at HENNGE?
Before joining HENNGE, I was always interested in topics related to diversity and inclusion. In fact, I conducted research on this topic during my university years. I also have close friends who belong to different minority groups. Additionally, as a foreigner, I find the whole topic of diversity fascinating and wanted to learn more about it in the context of Japan.
That's a fantastic personal motivation, Alina. In your opinion, why is it important for a company to promote diversity and organize diversity-related activities?
Companies operate within societies that consist of many individuals from different diverse groups. Thus, it’s crucial to attract and create a safe space for these individuals within the company. Only when employees feel comfortable and are able to be their authentic selves could they be creative, and work to their best potential. This is, of course, directly related to the performance of the company.
I see. It is truly very important to create an environment where employees could feel comfortable to express themselves. So besides Pride Month, what other initiatives has HENNGE been involved in to promote diversity and inclusion?
HENNGE has been actively supporting the rights of women, promoting cultural diversity, and embracing inclusion. Just this spring, we organized EID celebrations to acknowledge and support our Muslim colleagues. We also constantly raise awareness about Japanese culture among our global members. Overall, our goal is to create a diverse and inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.
That's great to hear. Let's talk about the recent Pride events at HENNGE. How did they go?
As for the responses, overall, it was very positive although we had fewer participants than expected. We understand that we still need to make more efforts to target and encourage more participation.
Looking ahead, what plans do you have to further promote diversity at HENNGE?
As we continue to grow, we want to focus on including more diverse individuals. We aim to organize more events that promote awareness within that community and cultural events that celebrate diversity. Our biggest ambition is to engage more and more people in different ways.
That's a wonderful vision, Alina. Finally, what message do you have for potential candidates who may be hesitant about expressing themselves or their individuality in the workplace?
HENNGE is a unique company in Japan where you can truly be yourself. We embrace diversity and have diverse opinions within the company. As a company, we believe in progressive ideas and wholeheartedly support diversity and inclusion. So, if you're worried or hesitant, please join HENNGE, where you can feel confident expressing your individuality.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights and experiences. It was a pleasure speaking with you.
Participating in these events has been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. I knew about the LGBTQ+ community and have always supported them from before, but it was more in a passive way.
Supportive message from our members on Pride Wall
Through the Pride Month events at HENNGE this time, I've learned how I can show more active support, both in my personal life and in the office setting, and become an ally for the LGBTQ+ community. Through learning about the diverse experiences of HENNGE members who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I was able to understand and become more empathetic towards the different challenges that we face as members of the society. As HENNGE continues to grow and welcome new members, I look forward to seeing more initiatives regarding inclusivity and diversity at the company!