How does belonging help people in the workplace?

June 22, 2021

What does the term “othering” mean to you? Is being “othered” something you’ve ever experienced in your personal life? What about at work or at school? Was being different something that was celebrated — or were you bullied for it?

In this episode, Chris Hyams speaks to Olivia Fromm, Indeed’s Regional Diversity & Inclusion Group Co-Chair of iPride in Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA) and a Senior Client Success Specialist of Dedicated Enterprise Strategy. They discuss her personal journey — and the experiences that shaped her to become the activist and advocate she is today.

- Welcome everyone. I am Chris Hyams, CEO of Indeed. My pronouns are he and him and welcome to the next installment of Here to Help. This is our look at how Indeed has been navigating the global impact of COVID-19. Today's June 14th. We're on day 468 of global work from home. And June is pride month. So I'd like to begin by saying happy pride month to everyone. Participating in Pride parades in cities all over the world has always been an important part of Indeed's celebration of pride. However, this year, like last year, we are once again not able to join parades in person. And that's why the theme of Pride 2021 at Indeed is bringing pride home as a celebration of belonging at Indeed while we remain apart. Throughout June, our diversity inclusion and belonging team and our I pride inclusion resource group will be hosting many events that uplift LGBTQIA+ voices and educate allies on how to support the community. Inclusion and belonging is one of Indeed's core values. And the I pride IRG was the first inclusion resource group at Indeed and paved the way for other IRGs now flourishing as part of our global community of Indeedians. Today, I am delighted to be joined by Olivia Fromm, Regional Diversity and Inclusion Group co-chair for Ipride in EMEA and senior client success specialist for enterprise dedicated. Olivia, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thank you.

- Well, let's start where we start these conversations each week. Which is how are you doing today?

- To be honest, Chris, I'm a little nervous, but I'm also really, really excited to be here. This is incredible to be able to share my story with all of you guys.

- Well, excited to have you here. Before we dive in, I'd love to start with a little bit on how you help people get jobs and what exactly a client success specialist does?

- So, a CS specialist, we manage a book of business with large clients with really high potential or complex accounts. Basically, we ensure campaigns hit their targets help clients measure success and attain ROI and find the best candidates role. I know the work I do every day not only helps clients get the candidates, but it also helps the world around us and those applying to get jobs, especially in this economy environment. Our job is so, so important to help revitalize the reopening world.

- Fantastic. Well, we're going to spend quite a bit of time talking about pride month today and its importance globally. But let's start with a little more background on you. So you were born in London and you're now based in London but you spent many of your early years in the US. Can you talk a little bit about that experience?

- Yeah. So, I was born and raised here in London. I moved to Arizona at 10, almost 11. My mom's American, my dad's Dutch. They met in New York and they decided to move to London because it wasn't Amsterdam. My mom didn't want to be living by my parents, by my father's parents, to be honest. And, it was hard moving to the States at that age, I'd have to say. I had an accent, not any longer, but I did. And I was really bullied for being different. And, I wasn't just different because I had an accent. I'm neuro-diverse, so I have ADHD. And being gifted and different, it's hard, like kids are mean.

- So how did that experience of feeling othered affect you?

- So, feeling othered, I really felt like I had to change who I was to fit in whether it was changing my clothing or my hair but what I really forced myself to do was lose my accent. So I actively only listened to American books on tape and tried to pick up the accent of that and also of my peers to fit in. But being othered is hard, like I definitely have to say a big part of my social group was actually online. And the internet definitely helped me understand myself. And through that, I realized that I was actually bisexual at age 13. And being othered and having a hard time making friends in school, and then realizing that you're also different, again, with your sexuality, it was very hard to have a peer group. So due to that, I met my amazing community online and then also started really developing and understanding how being different and being othered is actually something that I can turn into something positive. And now I just, my goal and my passion in life is to fight for the little guy. And I'm a true, true advocate and activist for not only the LGBTQ+ community, but also everywhere else. Actually something that is, I hold dear to my heart is I was really good friends with some of the special ed kids, because I was also gifted. And I went to prom with, three times actually with the special education kids in my high school because everyone deserves a prom date. Let's have fun. Right?

- So what made you want to come back to the UK?

- So, Europe's always, always been home for me. My best friends are all here. Actually, my best friend of entire world Kimberly, she's exactly nine months older than me. And we had pictures of me coming home from the hospital as a newborn and her as a nine month old. And we've been friends ever since. And, between that and how Europe's just always felt, like I was always been longing to come back. It was pretty easy for me to make that decision. But with that, I understand like, I'm a cis straight presenting person and I didn't come out. And it was hard for me to come out as being queer or gay to new people in a new office. It was taking me time to do so, but I was involved in I pride in the States and I've been involved here and I'm the co-chair. And it's really helped me increasingly identify as a queer or gay woman. And I am really proud of that identity. And I'm really proud of the people that I'm able to surround myself with at Indeed, especially my I pride group here. But I am still finding myself and I am still working getting comfortable in my own skin. And I'm also finding other ways to deal with being othered. And I do stand up as a way of coping with some of those weird instances I seem to find myself in.

- So what role has pride played in your life?

- So I've been going to pride and being involved in pride festivals for probably, since I was 16. And oddly enough, pride is why I came up to my parents. I tried the first time when I was 13, which didn't go as well as planned. But then, I remember I was driving to Phoenix pride to volunteer, and my mom called me. Ans she goes, "Liv"? I'm like, yes mom? "Are you gay?" And I mean, I wasn't surprised she asked me that. I didn't have any boyfriends. And I had been working or volunteering for pride for numerous years. And I'm like, mom, I don't, I'm not gay. And she goes, "Well, do you like women?" I go, I do like women. "Do you like men?" I do like men. "Do you like other people?" I'm like, I like, I like everyone. She goes, "Okay, have fun at Pride." And that was kind of it. So, it was really nice to have that immediate acceptance. And it's something that I actually still have to this day. My parents will tell me every time I meet someone new, "As long as you're happy and they make you happy then that's all that matters at the end of the day." and are fully fully welcoming to all the partners I've had in the past. And what pride has kind of done is allow my parents and also others to have more visibility into the community. And I don't think I would've ever been able to have that sort of conversation with my parents openly and continue to as an adult, if it wasn't for Pride. I actually, oddly enough, I was coming back from pride and I had a really good friend who was helping me work on some stuff at home, that I met at pride a few years prior and they were helping me work on some stuff in the garage. And my grandfather is a very conservative Catholic Republican. And my mom would never, my parents refused to let me tell him anything. And I think I was in my mid twenties and he goes, "Hey, Liv, is this your girlfriend?" I'm like, like, are you asking if she's a friend, who's a girl? He goes, "No no no, like your partner." I'm like, no not my partner, but who told you? And he was just so incredibly accepting and supportive of that. And my last partner that I had when I was back in the States was a, a trans man. And he was so open and wanting to learn more and play sports with him and things like that. It was an incredible eyeopening experience, especially because he has grown up in an environmentalist which wasn't as accepting as before. So that was really, really special. But at least here in London, I've only been to pride once. And that has been, that was the first year that I moved here in 2019. And I can't wait for pride here. It's all I can say.

- That's really an incredible story. Thank you for sharing that. In light of that given the year that we've all been through, how do you think pride will be different this year?

- Gosh, I mean, how isn't pride different this year? We're, as you know, we're all doing our events online. We had a really cool terror reading class last week that we did for pride at Mia. But at least here in London, we actually have Pride and I'm really excited for it. It'll be September 11th. I'm so excited to really celebrate with new friends in my community that I haven't been able to do so before. And like, at least at Indeed, we have incredible events that we're doing during, during June so during this month. So to celebrate pride has been great. And when it comes to London, the world is kind of open. But we're able to go to Soho and grab drinks and have drag brunches and go to upper celebrations of up to 30 people. So we're doing our best, but we're, it's definitely allowed. At least the LGBTQ+ community are seen to be able to socialize and make new friends. It's been great.

- Can you tell us a little bit about trans pride on the 26th of June?

- Yeah. So here in London, we have trans pride on the 26th of June, which I've actually been helping do some work with. And really it is to, it's for identity and to protest. It's to make sure that those who are trans or non-binary have a voice as most of my partners have been either trans men or non-binary folks. I'm pretty close and very, very passionate about the community. And the goal there is really to unite our voices against the continued and increasing disregard for trans safety, healthcare and wellbeing in the UK. This is a massive, massive issue. And it needs to be not only addressed through the governments and the NHS, but we also need companies like ourselves to stand with and support the community because it doesn't, it takes, it takes one, but it takes a community to be able to move forward to make change. Actually, Indeed is certainly a front runner in standing with this community. And here's an ad showing our support.

- Hi. Nope. Hi, I'm Taylor. Hi, I'm here for my interview.

- I'm Dorian and I use the pronouns he/him. Are you comfortable sharing how you would like to be addressed?

- Thank you for asking. I use they/them pronouns.

- Great. Oh, I'd love to hear more about your skill sets.

- Sure.

- I don't know about you Chris, but I think I probably cried or tear up every time I've seen that ad. I'm really proud of the work that we're doing now. I'm excited to see what the future will bring. And knowing that we're here to change opinions and make change for a community that does need support is just, it's emotional, it's emotional. I think it's the best way to put it. What do you feel about the ad? I have to ask.

- I'll be honest. I cried when I read the script for the ad. The team behind it has done just a truly amazing job. And since we shared it, I have quite a number of good friends who are parents of trans kids. And I've heard from so many people how much it means to them and to imagine a world that might be different for their kids as they grow up. So, yeah, I still cry every time I see it. But I'm really glad to share it with folks today. I would love to hear a little bit about your thoughts on the role that I pride plays in helping people celebrate pride at Indeed.

- So, as I said before, we're really, really, really inclusive and we're a family. I have talks with people who are in I pride in the States. Actually, I'm going to go back to Scottsdale next week and I have someone who's part of I pride there and I'm going to go and see them. And I'm really, really excited. But it's nice to have a community that no matter where I am and that I'm able to find someone that I can chat with and have some of these really intense conversations. And maybe it's just support, like just general day to day support, but it's incredible. Like people at Indeed, we stay at work for the people and for mission, but what I pride, what these RIG groups do is it helps find a community where you have something in common with someone else and just starting there and developing a relationship even further. Actually, my best friend is David. He's the regional co-chair, the other co-chair for I pride and Mia. And David and I met once in person, that's it. And I can't imagine my life without him, to be honest. And I wouldn't have had that community if it wasn't for I pride and how we all celebrate together. We actually have a picture together, oddly enough for my first pride event in Dublin a few years ago. And I'm looking forward to celebrating many more I pride events here at Indeed and also pride events in general with him.

- So can you talk a little bit about how belonging helps people in the workplace and some of the changes that you are fighting for?

- So in the workplace, my big fight is we need more inclusive benefits. NHS here in the UK versus private insurance. I know people who are through the NHS and they are on their fifth year waiting for hormones to transition. And our insurance that we have here currently at Indeed, if someone is transitioning, we don't have it in place. To my knowledge right now, we do not have any out trans and non-binary employees in a Mia. But if we are providing a sense of belonging, we need to provide that sense of belonging before employees even arrive. We need to make sure we have that set in place so that when someone's applying for Indeed they're like, okay, Indeed already has this in place. I don't need to wait seven years to start. I don't need to wait five years to start. It's there and we have that in the States. We just need to make sure that it's not just in the States. We also offer it over here. My goal honestly, is that we would become a top 10 LGBTQIA+ company and a first choice for those who are based not only just based on the fact that we have such a great sense of belonging but also because we have all of the benefits in place to make people feel welcome. I know that we support them from day one.

- Can you talk a bit about why it's important for us to tell and share our stories like we do?

- Well, it takes one voice, like I said before, or one person to make an impact. You can change other people's opinions. And even if they don't change their opinion, you can at least enlighten them on new perspectives. We need more allies in general or co-conspirators, like we've said before. But not just for pride, but for all IRT groups. And stories are how we connect with others. We see that, I mean, I'm, neuro-diverse, so I'm part of Access. I'm a woman, so I'm part of Women Act. I mean, I'm international and American in the UK. So I'm internationally. And then I'm also part of pride. So, I mean, I have a whole bunch of IRGs that I'm part of at Indeed. And because of that, I also want to be able to show my ally ship for other IRGs and then make sure everyone else feels included as a whole. My big three really are educate, empower and enlighten because they're all areas that make one person very comfortable, but also allow others to understand.

- If you could change one thing about how people are welcome into the workplace, what would that be?

- So for me, I remember walking into the London office and I was just here for my friend's wedding. And I knew immediately this is where I wanted to be. It was this incredible sense of welcoming and belonging. Actually, I specifically remember Liz. I messaged her on Google and I was like, Hey I'm going to be in the London office. Could you give me a tour? And she did. And she made me feel really, really welcome. And that was kind of the deciding factor for me. But for me, othered as a kid, I wouldn't change any of that because it's given me the strength to fight for others. And I think at least in the workplace, we want to make sure that everyone feels welcome and that they have allies or co-conspirators. A big one is to make someone feel welcome. Don't be afraid of asking questions. It takes, for people like me who... I've actually loved working from home, oddly enough. I've actually made some really great friendships because of Slack. I get a little uncomfortable in the office. And it's not because people aren't welcoming but it takes a lot longer for me to want to be vulnerable around others. So sometimes asking questions or having like quite one-to-ones or grabbing coffees, what would get me to open up to you? Or I'm sure there's plenty of others who feel the same way, because even though it may not be intentional sometimes it can give that someone can feel othered in a workplace and it causes fear to want to move into a new role or want to move to a new location. I think my, the piece or leave is, sometimes you go out of your way to say hi, as it takes one person to give a person a sense of community or safety.

- So as we bring things to a close here, I'd love to hear your thoughts on looking back over the course of the pandemic. What has happened that has left you optimistic for the future?

- A big one is actually owning my identity and taking time to reflect on where I want to be. I've had a really hard time coming out not to others, but myself. And because of the pandemic, I finally decided to vocalize that I'm coming out like as a final, like last time as queer a gay woman. And I'm able to date, feeling like myself fully. And I don't believe I would have been able to do that if it wasn't for the pandemic because I had so much time to self reflect. Not only that but I've been able to focus on my mental wellbeing and focus on my mental health. Support Linc has been wonderful for me. I'm a big avid user of that. But what's also allowed me to do is have an amazing sense of community and family that I've created here that I didn't know was actually here, because my immediate family is 5,000 miles away. So they're really far away. I actually have a great new couple. I've got a queer couple as my flatmates and we have the best little bubble and we're fully supportive of one another and we go out together and it's just, I don't think, if it wasn't for my friends and my community, I don't think I would have, I would be in this happy place I am today, to be honest.

- Well, Olivia, thank you so much for joining me today. That was really a beautiful and inspiring conversation. And thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope us today. And thank you for everything that you do to help people get jobs.

- Thank you, Chris. Appreciate it.