Pride is more than adding a rainbow flag to your avatar. At Equinix, we’re fortunate to be part of a company that walks the walk, one that truly believes it necessary to build a culture where people can say, “I’m safe. I belong. I matter.”
As powerful as those words are, it takes a lot of hard work to make their power feel real for our entire team. This Pride Month, Ty Gibbons, our Creative Producer, takes a close look at what that work is like by sitting down with four people from across the company to understand their experiences and learn about what they do to put these powerful words into practice, to cultivate a safe and inclusive environment for everyone.
In this Pride Day installment, Ada Ho, Director, Global Customer Advocacy, and a leader of PrideConnect, the Equinix LGBTQ+ employee network, shares her perspective.
Ty Gibbons: Equinix’s stance is “I’m safe, I belong, I matter.” What has been your personal experience with it?
Ada Ho: Over the past 10 years at Equinix, I have always brought my authentic self to work. But it was in 2019, when we launched PrideConnect, our LGBTQ+ employee network, that I truly felt a sense of safety and belonging. I know my colleague-friends accept me for who I am, and having the stance “I’m safe, I belong, I matter” empowered all of us to stand up and speak out for what’s important to us. Our focus on diversity and inclusion has given me a judgment-free space to share my story and perspective and to support other employees in bringing their authentic selves to work.
Ty: Why did you get involved with PrideConnect, and how would you describe your leadership role in the organization?
Ada: My diversity and inclusion (D&I) journey began in 2016 when my colleague and I brought our women’s network to APAC. I’ve remained involved in D&I since then and began leading PrideConnect in 2019. I can honestly say that Equinix is the first workplace where I have openly talked about my sexuality. I now understand that it’s because I never felt safe to do so at my other companies.
And this is one of the reasons I am speaking out and representing the community. I’ve experienced firsthand how incomplete one feels not being able to bring their true self to work, especially living in a relatively more conservative Asian society, where LGBTQ is still a sensitive taboo topic. I want to use my privileged position to help our employees and raise awareness in APAC. I’m extremely lucky that Equinix is so focused on D&I, and I feel empowered to lead this effort. I also have an awesome support system that enables me to do what I think is right. So, all this is extremely personal to me, and I want to do what I can by sharing experiences, educating, and helping create that safe space for the long term.
My role as the APAC lead is being the voice for the region and challenging the status quo, because I think it’s important to remember that one size does not fit across all regions. We focus on building awareness and understanding through internal engagement opportunities, external partnerships with other like-minded companies and organizations, and participating in social campaigns to publicly show our support where we can do so safely. We also look at opportunities for greater inclusion within our current work environment, such as updating internal work policies across APAC and finding ways to raise awareness and promote respect in different countries.
One of my personal goals is to create a safe space for everyone, and some of the proudest moments come when I am able to see the impact of that work. A dear friend and colleague who had been hiding his sexuality for nine years at Equinix was able to come out at work, and be true to himself. I just spoke at their wedding this June! He told me that PrideConnect helped him on his journey and that he now feels much freer. This was one of those moments when I knew my work had improved someone else’s well being, which gives me the motivation to continue.
With the support of our leadership, we have made huge progress in APAC. We hosted 15 events in 2021, with more than 550 attendees participating. We also expanded our Pride Ambassador program by 60% to help drive employee engagement in all markets across the region. We could not deliver the events and programs we deliver without the unwavering commitment of our ambassadors.
In 2021 I co-founded Pride in Tech in APAC with more than a dozen likeminded multinational companies (all of which are our customers and/or partners) to raise awareness, share best practices and resources, and lobby for LGBTQ+ rights and protection collectively in the region.
We have also increased our focus on driving impact in our communities by sponsoring PinkDot Hong Kong, PinkFest Singapore, and the Equal Love Campaign. And we are not done! We are currently focused on establishing stronger relationships with NGOs, such as Minus18 in Australia, and RebitLGBT in Japan.
Ada (left) and her partner
Ty: This year you won a Community Business LGBT+ Inclusion Champion in Asia award. Congratulations! What does winning the award mean to you, and how can it further help your mission and work with PrideConnect and beyond?
Ada: It was an absolute honor to be recognized alongside two other great champions in Asia. The award is a testament to our efforts to advance LGBTQ+ awareness and education in hopes of influencing change and shifting mindsets.
These awards demonstrate a focus on inclusion across the region by sharing case studies of individuals and companies executing their D&I initiatives. I believe we are all on a self-learning journey, and the award helps open many doors for conversations and opportunities to learn to do things differently and more effectively. Because many Asian countries do not recognize same-sex relationships, I believe we need to take an optimistic and pragmatic approach to support the community in the ways available.
Although this is an individual recognition, I could not have done this alone, and I am truly grateful for the wonderful LGBTQ allies and supporters who I’ve had the privilege to work with.
This is a work in progress, and I strongly believe in creating understanding through authenticity. Through these awards, I hope more people will be encouraged to step up and speak out on issues that matter to them. I welcome anyone who wants to join the conversation and share their voice.
Ty: Members of the PrideConnect organization live all over the globe. How does PrideConnect bring colleagues from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and experiences together?
Ada: I always believe that as long as there’s a will, there’s a way! Video conferencing technology like Zoom has become a trusted enabler for us by allowing us to connect with others all over the world. We adapt to timezones by running events multiple times, use interpreters to offer live translations in different languages, and leverage other tools like Yammer, chats, and social media to share ideas and discuss topics with one another.
Storytelling is so powerful. And having a diverse membership is very important in ensuring that we are not blind to situations outside of where we live. Things in the US, UK, Mexico, Australia, Hong Kong, and Japan are all different. We invite anybody to share their experience or point of view to encourage empathy and dialogue. Our cultures and upbringing create many biases and sometimes “tunnel vision.” Exposing each other to things that are different from what we know helps strengthen these connections and often create friendships.
Ty: How do you encourage people to honor and celebrate the uniqueness of each individual?
Ada: Inclusion of any kind starts with self-learning. It does not belong to one company, brand, or group. Find a way that works for you. Talk to people who are different from you, ask questions, read books, read articles, watch Youtube. I promise that as you learn more, you will form your own authentic way of showing up for the people around you. I know I have!
Remember to listen to learn, not to react. It is important to accept that there are many ways to define one thing, such as sexuality and gender. Encourage those around you to keep learning, and if safe to do so, speak up when you are exposed to unfairness or injustice. Being a great ally means being present for the big things (supporting a LGBTQ+ event) and the little things (calling out homophobic jokes among a group of friends).
The bottom line is everyone wants to feel respected and heard.
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