LGBT+ as an important part of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Vega IT
Diversity. Equity. Inclusion. Three simple words with a loud impact.
A psychologically safe environment for all of our employees. Irrespective of their gender, religion, ethnicity, race, or sexual orientation. That is one of the core values of our organization. Something we have been tirelessly working on for years.
One of my favorite practices at the company is inviting our colleagues to freely express their opinions. We welcome their suggestions basically on any topic of concern. They can provide feedback anonymously or reach out directly to one of our co-founders.
Today, we sat down with our CEO Saša Popović and discussed Vega IT’s future initiatives to create an even more inclusive and safer environment for everyone.
Marija: Saša, we have been striving for years to make sure that the environment in which we work is as psychologically safe as possible. However, the interpretations of psychological safety may vary. As one of the founders of the company, what does this term mean to you?
Saša: Fifteen years ago, Vladan and I decided to start a company and make it a happy workplace. You could say we did it for selfish reasons - we wanted to feel great at work. And I believe you can’t feel great if people around you feel miserable. So, from day one, we did our best to make our colleagues happy at work.
There are a number of things that need to be in place for people to feel good in an organization. I believe psychological safety is the most important one. For me, psychological safety means that you are free to say what you mean, to ask (tough) questions, and to be accepted as you are. This last part means that our colleagues should not be afraid to show us who they are. They should feel safe to say what their nationalities, religions, gender, social statuses, and sexual orientations are. And, in doing so, they should never be discriminated or humiliated.
Marija: Why do you think it's important to discuss the status of the LGBT+ community?
Saša: We are a growing organization. New employees join Vega IT every month. I notice that people outside our company don’t always feel safe expressing their identity. I also see that they get into unpleasant situations caused by those who don’t respect and don’t support what makes them different - their gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and nationality. I want our new colleagues to understand what our standing on the subject of diversity and inclusion is. We want them to know that members of the LGBT+ community must be respected and feel safe at Vega IT - same as anyone else.
In addition, I believe we need to talk about the benefits of proper diversity and inclusion practices for other businesses to understand and start implementing them. We want to spread the word and make a small contribution to the wider community. Our hope is that the LGBT+ community will soon feel safe in our country, whatever they do and wherever they work - same as our colleagues feel when working at Vega IT.
Marija: How did you react when we first came up with the proposal to publicly support the LGBT+ community?
Saša: To be honest, I was surprised when you came to talk with me about that subject. My feeling was that it had already been crystal clear that Vega IT supported the LGBT+ community. I probably thought that because we were LGBT+ friendly since the day we founded our company. And, we always did our best for our colleagues to feel good at work, regardless of their sexual orientation.
But I was wrong. Reflecting on what we did and what we (didn’t) publicly say about the topic, I figured out that we did so little and could have done so much more. I remembered friends outside our company who hide who they truly are. Of those who work in organizations where they are afraid to show their sexual orientation. And let's be honest here and leave the work aside; I realize that some of them never come out to their parents and families and spend their life hiding who they are. I can’t even imagine how hard that might be. So, I knew we had to act more publicly for all these reasons.
Marija: We can notice that foreign companies are the ones who loudly express their support for this issue. As a CEO, do you think it is important for domestic companies to be brave and publicly express their views?
Saša: I believe it is important that as many companies and individuals as possible support the right views and help improve the status of the LGBT+ community in our country. It doesn’t matter if it is a domestic or foreign company. The number of organizations is what really matters.
I don't perceive this as a courageous move that we should dare to take. It is completely logical for all of us to support the creation of a better society where differences are respected and people feel better.
Marija: And when we talk about ourselves as individuals?
Saša: Within our company, it is definitely unacceptable to take any actions that would make our colleagues feel bad because they are different in any way.
As individuals, we should not tolerate any harassment of this kind and we should speak up if such issues occur. Likewise, if we notice that any of our colleagues are experiencing any of that, we should seek help from the people who can assist in such situations (such as our People Experience and Support team).
I believe that it would be more pleasant working with people around us if we accept them for who they are, regardless of their nationality, religious and sexual orientation, social status, and so on. In my mind, it's very simple: we just need to observe and treat our colleagues as human beings and professionals, without judging or criticizing them.
What we can do as individuals is try to understand and accept the diversity of the people around us.
Marija: What are the next steps in our DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) journey?
Saša: We will continue to work towards ensuring that each of us feels well, accepted, and fulfilled within our company. Additionally, we are devoted to taking action beyond the confines of our company, both independently and with the help of other organizations, to improve the status of marginalized groups we have discussed here.
For starters, our colleagues responsible for career management will undergo certain programs and training on discrimination prevention, awareness, and destigmatization of certain topics. Later on, all colleagues in the company will have the opportunity to attend these educational sessions.
We also intend to address issues such as age and gender discrimination and also emphasize the importance of mental health for all of us. Therefore, we will delve into each of these subject issues on a monthly basis, and colleagues will be able to participate in these events as both participants and audience members.
We strongly believe that it's not that difficult to, at least, try to understand and accept the differences of people around us. As an organization, Vega IT will continue to be a strong support for all of our colleagues, including those of different sexual orientations and gender identities. Both on their personal and professional journeys.
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