Dominique DeGuzman is a software engineer with Twilio and co-founder of the the Diversity & Inclusion program at Twilio. She also helps serve as the San Francisco City Director for Lesbians Who Tech. On top of that, she co-organizes a few groups that bring together the LGBTQA groups and ERGs in the area to unify goals, give back to communities and serve as a general learning space. After hearing Dom speak at a variety of events, including the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, I was stoked to be able to interview her for this event. As a San Francisco native, a passionate LGBTQA person, and a member of the wider technology scene, she hits the sweet spot for our event in terms of giving feedback and insights about what the wider community can do to rally behind LGBT nonprofits and small businesses to grow their online presence.
What are the biggest obstacles facing LGBT employers in today’s world? In San Francisco specifically? I know in my mind it must be hard to stand out in a place where startups and large tech companies dominate the limelight.
The biggest obstacle of LGBTQA employers? They range. For example, we want to create the an environment and workplace that everyone should feel authentic and safe in. This would include things such having gender neutral bathrooms, family planning policies, domestic partnership and transition policies but the other end of that is being conscious of where / who you do business with. For example, would an LGBTQA employer knowingly send an out LGBTQA employee to Russia knowing their stance towards the LGBTQA community?
San Francisco LGBTQA employers do their best to keep their employees safe and more often than not they are supported by the rest of the community in the San Francisco Bay Area, but what about the remote employees? How are remote employees given the same security when they are not surrounded by love and allies?
But we need to understand that LGBTQA employers don’t always have the resources that the tech giants in the area have. There are a lot of LGBTQA employers that are not tech related / focused and there are ways that they can support their employees as well. Focusing on inclusive policies (like the ones I listed above) is a great way to start and ensuring that your employees never feel alienated is another. The HRC provides an extensive list on how to be inclusive for all and the closer you are to being 100% on that list or on Stonewall’s list, the more inclusive your company will be. Making sure you are in the right spaces to recruit / attract talent for serves all communities, this means going to outside events or group related events (O4UTech and O4UBusiness are great places to meet out graduating students with MBAs).
What can the community in San Francisco do to raise up LGBTQA organizations?
The San Francisco community can do a lot to raise up LGBT organizations. For one, supporting events other than just SF Pride. SF Pride is a wonderful event that celebrates LGBTQ people and the hardships that have been overcome, however it is once a year. LGBTQA organizations exist year round. AHP, an organization that provides medical assistance for people with HIV/Aids, mental health and substance abuse, hosts an Art for Aids event every year, LGBT Center of San Francisco hosts events year round, NCLR, the national center for lesbian rights, host events such as their annual gala and many many more organizations that fight for and serve on the forefront of LGBTQ communities. For San Francisco to support the LGBTQA, we need to do more than just SF Pride or couple tweets by city officials. We need to support the LGBTQA community by funding the organizations that help, having government resources for the LGBTQA communities when others have turned them away and having a united stance against discrimination for sexual and gender identities.
How has the LGBT community in San Francisco impacted you? How would you like to impact it?
I have been born and raised in the Bay Area and I believe that I have reaped the benefits of all the work that these organizations have done. I have never felt that my life or livelihood has been threatened because of my sexual identity. I have always been encouraged to be my authentic self and I dont think that would have been possible without the work done by the LGBTQA organizations and the community that was built here. LGBTQA community in San Francisco has always had a special place in my heart. I have stood at protests along side hundreds of other LGBTQA people against Prop 8. I have volunteered and financially contributed to a few organizations such as NCLR, Lesbians Who Tech, StartOut, SF Pride and other organizations.
I want to continue to impact the community by being a leader in it. I speak openly and honestly about my experiences being out at a young age and talk a lot about how the tech industry can give back and support their LGBTQA employees.
Why are you passionate about this event?
I have been a fan of Automattic for a while and the Lesbians Who Tech site is run off of WordPress. I jump at any chance to be a part of an event that brings together and celebrates LGBTQA people, especially ones that try to elevate, educate and serve the community.
How can technology companies do a better job of reaching out to these organizations to get online? What has been your role in doing this?
There is often a disconnect when it comes to LGBTQA community and the tech community. There are only so many (but it’s growing) numbers of people who are at the intersection of both communities. Technology companies need to always remember that San Francisco is not a playground for your newest venture, but it is a home and community to those who lived here prior to the first and second tech bubbles. San Francisco served as a safe place to go to when you felt alone in the midwest or if you were ostracized from your family, San Francisco offered a new gay family to love you.
There are definitely organizations that need help getting up to date with technology and the tech community is here to help. Many companies have sections of their companies that focus on giving back to the communities such as Twilio.org or Salesforce Foundation. These parts of tech companies want to help nonprofits by donating resources and employee time to help. I have been able to be a part of this at both Salesforce and Twilio and it’s an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience to be able to help a community that helped me so much.
What do you think of LGBTQA representation in STEM fields?
Underrepresented. There are two big things that come to mind.
1) LGBTQA is not a visible minority. This means that you have to be consciously out and it’s not always safe to do so. There are some great schools (think Purdue University in Indiana for example) that may not be as open and safe to be public about your sexuality.
2) Lack of support is the second thing. The lack of support can come from funding in colleges or funding from VCs for LGBTQA related apps. There are have been numerous occasions where I have had friends turned down from VCs because they weren’t in line with their companies “roots in religion”.
We need to break these barriers and bring more LGBTQA people into STEM related fields and have more Megan Smith’s!