The future and you

Jim Misener, principal/president, 50,000feet
Jim Misener, principal/president, 50,000feet

As we re-imagine our lives after the pandemic, there’s no better time to reflect on our role in building environments where everyone can thrive.

Last year, as Pride turned 50, so did I. 

With a half-century of perspective as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I stand in awe of the progress we have achieved since the start of my career. 

Pride reminds us of the great power of sharing your own story. Stories help us understand and relate to human experiences. But this simple yet powerful act can be difficult — even for those of us who tell stories for a living.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have had supportive colleagues and peers in my earliest professional roles, and to have worked in organizations that helped advance LGBTQ+ rights. Still, I have experienced moments of hesitation, a lack of confidence and a sense of not belonging. I felt I always needed to fit my experience and identity within someone else’s expectations. 

With that vantage, today, I feel not only aware of the increased recognition and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, but a responsibility to contribute. Because although we have made tremendous strides, there is still work to do. 

Nearly a quarter (24%) of surveyed professionals are not open about their identity in their workplace, with 26% of respondents worried that doing so would cause coworkers to treat them differently, according to a survey conducted between April 30 and May 12 for LinkedIn by YouGov. The responses reflected the experiences of 2,001 LBGTQ+ professionals in the U.S. between ages 18 and 69.

One in six members of Gen Z identify as LGBTQ+, according to P&G. This generational and seismic shift has a huge impact for advertisers and the work that our industry creates. But what do these statistics mean in our own workplaces? 

Every company developing a DE&I program should recognize the significant differences in perspective and identification among their employees. Discussing and promoting equity and inclusion is especially important in creative cultures, where the conversation is relevant not only to the workplace, but to the work itself.  

As we re-imagine our lives after the pandemic, there’s no better time to reflect on our role in building environments where everyone can thrive. People, like business and brands, excel where there is openness and belonging, freedom of expression, transparency and a commitment to equal opportunity.

While everyone has a role to play, leadership’s attitudes and behaviors have a profound impact on their team’s wellbeing. Senior-level support is directly linked to fostering a safe and comfortable environment where people are free to be themselves. We must initiate and guide conversations about inclusiveness and equity to shine a light on discriminatory perspectives, habits and behaviors. Leading by example means being openly supportive in words and actions, and being mentors and role models.

Great leadership begins with listening. We should strive to understand all perspectives when designing workplace policies. We should gather these learnings through an inclusive lense and translate the findings into programs that are open for discussion and improvement. Ultimately, we will build stronger teams and more supportive cultures.

As a community advocating for more inclusivity, diversity and equality, we have helped change the course of history, and with it, transformed many lives. Let's celebrate what we have accomplished and marvel at how much further we can go by embracing what makes us uniquely us.  

Jim Misener is principal and president of 50,000 feet.

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