Sarah Cronk, Software engineer and Diversity & Inclusion lead at CACI, shares details of the PRIDE event which led to CACI's nomination in the Diversity & Inclusion initiative of the year category at this years' Women in Technology Excellence Awards.
In June, CACI held our "50th Anniversary of Pride," panel session where we were introduced to the wonderful Jake and Hannah Graf, a transgender couple redefining the meaning of family by becoming the UK's first transgender parents. They both took some time at the start to discuss their struggles growing up knowing they were transgender without being able to show it. While they had their fair share of difficulty, they both noted that the first moment coming out to someone as transgender was a weight lifted from their shoulders. Years on from that moment they found each other on a first date lasting hours and they now both live in London with two beautiful daughters and successful careers.
For this panel we were keen to ensure we were raising the voices of the LGBTQ+ community rather than speaking for them. It is crucial to us that transgender colleagues, especially transgender women, feel included, respected and celebrated for who they are. Transgender women in tech are women in tech.
Their introduction was followed by a series of questions posed to five panellists formed from CACI employees from all areas of the business. Topics included the commercialisation of Pride, with arguments both for and against, and the need for more support in schools for LGBTQ+ students, with one of the panellists sharing her experiences working in a school. Jake and Hannah were also keen to emphasise the sheer amount of misinformation in the media about transgender people and how we should all be critical of the material that we are consuming.
In and amongst all these conversations was the constant message that for people across the world Pride is joyful, enlightening and necessary. This message was highlighted for me when a few individuals decided to share their stories with myself and the rest of the attendees.
Firstly, a colleague felt comfortable enough to share that he has a transgender son and wanted to hear Jake and Hannah's advice about physical transitioning and the differences between the NHS and private sector.
Secondly, a colleague whom I was later speaking to revealed that she was new to the company and had yet to come out to anyone as in previous workplaces they had made her feel uncomfortable for discussing it. I was the first person she had come out to here as at CACI she felt braver and more welcomed than she ever had before.
I realise that the world keeps turning and, compared to the global struggles that the LGBTQ+ community faces, these are small stories. But these experiences are chapters, if not novels, in the lives of my colleagues and I am honoured that our event has helped them.
Sarah Cronk is a Software Engineer at CACI Ltd. Shortly after joining the company she volunteered to take on some of the diversity and inclusion efforts and has been trying to educate and raise awareness for various issues ever since. Supporting Women in Tech and the LGBTQ+ community are two topics that are particularly close to her heart.