Over the past year, I’ve watched with pride as Hitachi Vantara’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), Rainbow Connection, has grown and flourished. With more than 60 members across the company globally, and growing, our mission is to champion creating a more inclusive workplace through education, communication, and mentorship.
Through this supportive environment, we celebrate the vibrant community of LGBTQ+ employees and their allies at Hitachi Vantara, empower members to be their authentic selves, and encourage diversity of thought.
As the executive champion of this ERG, it’s my honor to celebrate and support the progress being made towards building a more equitable future, and the ways in which Rainbow Connection is contributing to this growth.
What Our People Say
For Pride Month, I sat down with three of our global Rainbow Connection leaders to hear about their personal workplace experiences, what it means to be an LGBTQ+ ally, and how they see this ERG driving inclusivity at Hitachi Vantara. David Kolundzija is Head of Global Events & Rainbow Connection EMEA Lead; Ahmed Shalabi is Senior Campaign Optimization Manager & Rainbow Connection Allyship Lead; and Tyler Wright is Senior DevOps Engineer & Rainbow Connection AMER Lead. The following are excerpts:
Q1: What does celebrating Pride mean for you?
Each year, celebrating Pride feels like one step closer to equality and the freedom to be yourself. It still astounds me that simply loving someone and wanting to express that love can have severe consequences. But with more conversations, activism, awareness, celebration, openness, kindness and connection, we are slowly breaking down barriers and changing the world. Celebrating Pride gives me the opportunity to share in that proactive change in my own small way.
Q2: What would you want an LGBTQ+ candidate to know about working at Hitachi Vantara?
Hitachi Vantara is an open and accepting place for members of the LGBTQ+ community, where you can be free to be your authentic self. I’ve always been fortunate to work at organizations that are open-minded – Hitachi Vantara is very much that place.
The leadership team and company culture create an environment of complete inclusion and acceptance, and the company truly values diversity in all forms. I feel included, valued, and trusted working in an environment that is so supportive. This is a place where I can do my best work, because I can bring my authentic self to everything I do.
Q3: How does Rainbow Connection help cultivate a more inclusive workplace?
The ERG creates a safe and welcoming environment for our LGBTQ+ community, and it reminds members of the power of being their true selves at work. Our ERG leadership team is so passionate about LGBTQ+ visibility and cultivating an inclusive workplace. We meet regularly and are constantly brainstorming ways to drive more awareness and inclusion at Hitachi Vantara. We welcome all LGBTQ+ employees and allies to join the ERG and share in the joy and connection!
Q1. What does it mean to be an LGBTQ+ ally?
Being an ally means many things to many people. To me, it’s about joining a community within the world to help take care of one another and foster courage and authenticity.
As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I let my actions and impact be the voice of my allyship. If someone of a marginalized identity can say that a person is an ally, they see that this person has sacrificed something, spoken out, or challenged the status quo. As an ally, I hope to help end oppression and advance a culture of empowerment.
Q2. What advice would you give to those who want to become stronger LGBTQ+ allies?
My advice would be this: first seek out different perspectives to gain a better cultural competence. Learn about people’s experiences and see how you can potentially change someone’s situation for the better. Don’t just talk. Act.
Q3. How do you think businesses can actively cultivate more inclusive environments?
It starts from the top. An organization needs to build an inclusive culture. When upper management and executives speak out about inequities and injustices, it carries weight, influence, and most importantly, organizational change. Business leaders must be intentional. We know that committing to inclusivity is a process that won’t happen overnight, but with steady and firm commitment, it’s achievable for any business.
Q1. What has your experience been coming out in the workplace?
I started interning at Hitachi Vantara in 2014 and began working full-time in January 2016. During my 8 years here, I have been out to my manager, teammates, and anyone else who asks. For me, it’s very important to be able to be my true self in all aspects of life, including at work. I did plenty of hiding (acting straight) years ago, and I’m not interested in working at an organization that encourages or condones that. I am so thankful to work for a company that supports being your true self in the workplace.
Q2. How do you think we are #StrongerWithPride?
As we all know, different minds yield different results; new ways of resolving issues, new ideas of how to improve our products and solutions, etc. If everyone was the same and thought the same, our business and our portfolio would be limited. But together, we are strong and creative. And the best part is, just as we are proud of our employees, we are also proud of our products and solutions, and in turn, our business. We are #StrongerWithPride because we are more innovative and collaborative when we are our true selves.
Q3. What’s next for the Rainbow Connection?
I’m happy to share that we have lots of awesome stuff coming up for the ERG! We’ve begun hosting monthly happy hours where folks can come and get to know one another, ask for support, as well as ask questions that they wish us to raise to leadership. Here’s a picture of the team at a recent virtual happy hour 🙂
I’m also excited about our new partnership in the U.S. with Included Health, which helps LGBTQ+ employees and their families find affirmative, accepting healthcare. Finally, we’re working on a few new initiatives this year, including internal allyship training, developing partnerships with LGBTQ+ charities, and making it easier for our transgender employees to complete name changes.
Unlocking the Energy
The power of inclusivity shines through these conversations and shared thoughts. If the organization you run, support, or partner with lacks such an Employee Resource Group, I encourage you to do what you can to get involved and make it happen. The energy that springs forth will be immeasurable and long-lasting.
Jeb Horton is Senior Vice President of Global Services and Executive Sponsor of the Rainbow Connection Employee Resource Group at Hitachi Vantara.
Related: Hitachi Vantara Earns “2022 Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” Recognition
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