With everything going on in the world, we’re reminded how important it is to celebrate Pride. This month some of our SmartBear family members have bravely opened up to give us their insights, which we’re releasing as a series of blogs throughout June. It centers around what this month signifies, what has and hasn’t changed, and what being out at work means for them.
Name, preferred pronouns, role at SmartBear:
Alianna Inzana, (she/her)
Senior Director, API Testing & Virtualization
What does Pride mean to you?
Pride is the essence of Hope that illuminates the queer community.
What does it mean to you to be out at work? How does it relate Queer History?
Being out at work is complex for me. Over my career, which spans institutional finance, the energy industry, and now tech, it has not always been easy to be out and safe. When I first started at Morgan Stanley, it was still legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation in New York; the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act didn’t get signed into law until 2003. Such discrimination was illegal in Massachusetts (1998), but it was difficult to ‘prove’ bias. Especially in most professional situations where, as an employee-at-will, you really could be fired for anything...or nothing.
It’s hard to fathom just how often one self-identifies in the course of an average day at the office. Think about when you talk about your weekend plans, or discuss a funny thing your partner said, or talk about your children, or your family. These are all moments where, for some portion of my working life, I had to carefully consider whether to disclose – and what the consequences would be. Am I talking to someone who is accepting of gays? Does this person have the ability to impact my career or opportunities here or at another company? Most people don’t have to perform this kind of calculus every time they mention a bar they visited, or a TV show they watch, but queer people did then – and some still do.
That said, I’ve always been ‘out’ since I joined the workforce. In the early days, it was to a small, select group of co-workers whom I could trust, or with whom I worked so frequently that censorship would have been impossible. After I had settled down with a steady partner, I outed myself more vocally. It was especially important to me as we all worked towards the legalization of gay marriage in MA.
Side note: The people I worked with were largely cis, straight, white, and male. It was a challenge to put the problems of marginalized groups into perspective for them that let them quantify the real-person impact of bias. So while they knew statistically that women are paid less than men, that’s an uncomfortable thing to discuss at work. It’s far easier to believe that surely none of the women here were paid less, and if they were, it was for a non-biased reason. What I did find impactful was illuminating institutionalized bias in things that were viewed as separate-but-equal. For example, they were more shocked that the unequal status of civil partnerships made my partner’s insurance taxable as income to me. Or how if later I married in MA and filed state taxes as “married,” we would still have to file our federal taxes as “single” – which is a known trigger for IRS audits. I got through to them with the utterly empirical nature of the inequity. No lens to view it through, my tax bill for the same salary was larger, just as it would be for every single gay person who insured their partner.
So, being out at work is essential. I’m fortunate that my circumstances, my privilege, and my convoluted career path never precluded me from being out, if not always entirely open, at work. But it’s also exhausting sometimes. After working in institutional asset management in the late 90’s, I will never, ever be surprised if I’m the only woman in a meeting and the only queer for a mile. And while it’s my privilege to represent the interests and POVs of queer employees to my peers in leadership – at SmartBear and in my previous organizations – it’s also a burden I would gladly share if we saw more diversity in those who we promote as leaders.
You covered all the other questions, so we only have one more: what’s your favorite Pride song or queer anthem?
I don’t suppose it’s technically a queer anthem – other than its utter ubiquity the summer it dropped – but when I think of T-Dance at the Boatslip, or the block parties at Pride, I always hear the Hex Hector remix of Deborah Cox’s “Absolutely Not.”