Embracing Authenticity, Education, and Allyship With Wunderkind's Wunderqueers

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This is a podcast episode titled, Embracing Authenticity, Education, and Allyship With Wunderkind's Wunderqueers. The summary for this episode is: <p>Ready to fully embrace the significance of Pride Month and its role in the corporate world? You’re in luck! Join Carol Ann Peterson, Heather Hartel, and Bradley Showalter of the Wunderqueers Impact Identity Group at Wunderkind as they discuss the broader implications of Pride Month, how companies can stand authentically by their initiatives, and give you a glimpse into Wunderkind's safe and inclusive environment.</p><p><br></p><p>Subscribe to Wunderkind's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@bewunderkind</p><p><br></p><p>Follow Wunderkind:</p><p>LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/bewunderkind/</p><p>Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bewunderkind</p><p>Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeWunderkind/</p><p>Twitter: https://twitter.com/wunderkind</p><p><br></p><p>More from Wunderkind: https://www.wunderkind.co/resources/</p><p><br></p><p>Wunderkind is a performance marketing channel that delivers one-to-one messages across email and text at an unmatched scale.</p>
01:04 MIN
What Is Wunderqueers?
03:28 MIN
Wunderqueers Approach to Pride Programming
02:13 MIN
How Does Wunderqueers Create a Safe Space Not Only for the People in NYC but Employees Across the Globe?
03:37 MIN
How Do Brands Authentically Celebrate Pride Without Rainbow Washing?
06:04 MIN
How Does Wunderqueers Engage the Community Throughout the Year?
01:49 MIN
What Pride Activations Have You Loved or Hated?
03:54 MIN

Carolyn Peterson: All right. Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of Individuality Unleashed. I'm Carolyn Peterson and I'll be our host for today. I am the AVP of Implementation and Technical Solutions here at Wunderkind and I am also the executive sponsor of our Wunderqueer's Impact and Identity Group. That's right, it's Pride Month. So I'm here with Heather and Bradley, who are our co- leads of the Wunderqueer's Group, so I'll let them introduce themselves.

Heather Hartel: Hi everyone, my name's Heather Hartel. My pronouns are she/ her/ hers. At Wunderkind, I'm a Senior Customer Success Manager, and I also have been leading Wunderqueers for the past two or so years, joined by Bradley.

Bradley Showalter: Hi, I'm Bradley Showalter and I'm a software engineer and my pronouns are he/ him/ his, I've been leading Wunderqueers with Heather for about a year and a half now, and I think that's it.

Heather Hartel: Excited to kick off Pride Month.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Carolyn Peterson: Let's do it. So yeah, let's start with some background on Wunderqueers. Can you tell me a little bit about it?

Heather Hartel: Definitely. So we're one of many identity and impact groups here at Wunderkind, Wunderqueer specifically is our LGBTQIA + employee resource group. Our mission statement is that we're committed to fostering community through education, advocacy and joy amongst our LGBTQIA + employees and allies, and creating a safe space in which every Wunderkind can feel empowered and included.

Bradley Showalter: And we hold monthly meetings throughout the year. Our biggest time of the year is obviously Pride Month, where we have events going on all year long, but we also like to do events sprinkled throughout the rest of the year too, just to keep our community engaged.

Carolyn Peterson: Yes, we are gay all year round. So what drove the two of you to become co- leads?

Bradley Showalter: At the beginning of last year, Trey, who was awesome as a co- lead, decided to step down and I saw an opportunity to really help out and help lead this community and really push for a larger LGBTQI community in Wunderkind. And yeah, that's what really drove me to step up.

Heather Hartel: Yeah, I chose to become a co- lead for a pretty similar reason. When I first joined Wunderkind, it was the first company that I'd ever been a part of professionally where I saw other queer people who were living openly and honestly to their identities, which was really inspiring as a recently out person myself. So when I joined the company almost three years ago now, I was inspired by all of the queer people around me. So decided to become involved with Wunderqueers just as a member. And then when a leadership opportunity opened up, I was really excited to become a part of the leadership team. And it's been a really awesome experience so far being able to build community, both for myself, making other queer friends in the workplace who are living authentically to themselves and their own truths, and also just getting to be that leader that I used to look up to.

Carolyn Peterson: Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, and speaking for myself, I've been at Wunderkind for over eight years now, and when I started I was one of just a handful of out gay people and was kind of part of the early days of informal gay hangs inside the office and outside. And my participation in Wunderqueer has kind of ebbed and flowed over my time at Wunderkind. But then when the opportunity arose with an executive sponsor spot earlier this year, I thought it was a great opportunity to jump on and I really wanted to... I had regretted not being more involved prior to that, and I saw that and I was like, okay, this is my chance. I need to step in here and just be the visible leader that I once looked up to in an early job that I had. So that's been...

Heather Hartel: You're doing it.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Carolyn Peterson: Thank you. It's cool. Yeah, hosting my first podcast too.

Heather Hartel: And you're still gay.

Carolyn Peterson: All right. So let's talk about Pride Month. How did you all approach the Wunderqueer's programming for Pride Month this year?

Bradley Showalter: So our programming this year was largely based on the two pillars of celebration and education. We started off with those two topics and expanded outward from there. For example, tonight we have our third annual now comedy show. And then towards the end of the month, we have Ben Green coming in and giving a panel talk on pronoun usage, on gender identity, we'll take that.

Heather Hartel: Yes. So to touch on Pride Month a little bit more specifically, our programming, like Bradley mentioned, is working to both celebrate who we are as queer people, how far we all have come, both professionally and personally and where our community is today, while also remaining educated both for ourselves and for the allies that we work with about a lot of the outstanding issues that we still face as a large community. So primarily this year we're up against anti- trans legislation, a lot of corporate pride events that have been canceled while there's still simultaneously rainbow washing. So while we're celebrating ourselves through a lot of our programming like karaoke, like parties, like comedy shows, we're also working to have events that will educate ourselves around some of the legislation that is being passed. And throughout the month, we also are fundraising and are educating everyone within the company about some of the topics that are top of mind this year for our community. Other feedback that we've gotten, that we implemented this year was making all of the events more accessible to some of our remote and hybrid employees. So in the past, New York as the headquarters has been where a lot of the events have taken place. So this year we were working to do events in our London office, in our Indy office, and then also events that can be accessed fully remote. So that's some of the lessons that we've learned over the past years that we're implementing this year, and we're excited to see how the month turns out.

Carolyn Peterson: I know a big focus of our educational content this year does relate to the onslaught of anti- gay and specifically anti- trans legislation that is sweeping the country. All three of us are based here in New York City in our office, but we also have a sizeable remote population as well as an office in Indiana, a state that is notoriously unfriendly to gay people. How have y'all thought about that? How have we addressed that within Wunderqueers throughout the year, but also specifically in Pride Month to make sure that the queers across the country at Wunderkind can feel supported?

Bradley Showalter: So our charity that we're donating to this year is Lambda Legal, and we are very hopeful that we'll raise money to help support them in their fight against all this anti- trans, anti- LGBT legislation happening across the country. And so that's one of our more primary and measurable ways that we can fight back against all of this. Another way is just simply having these events and being out and proud in the office and making sure that allies in our office know that we're here and we're not going anywhere. This is who we are. It's not a compromise.

Heather Hartel: Yeah, that's awesome. And to expand on what Bradley mentioned, a little bit more about why we chose Lambda Legal, historically, they've been an organization that's at the front lines of supporting legal fights for queer rights. So for example, they've worked on Lawrenceville, the Supreme Court case that overturned sodomy being illegal. They also provided legal support for Obergefell, which made gay marriage legal, and they'll just continue to serve in their own words as a firewall against escalating attacks on the LGBTQ + community and people living with HIV. So specifically what that looks like now and today is anti- trans legislation. So that's how we chose that organization to donate to. But also within Wunderkind more specifically beyond just philanthropic support throughout Pride Month, like Bradley also mentioned, we just work to create space and be visibly who we are. I know it's a lot harder for remote and office based employees that aren't in New York City. So we worked to have events in queer friendly spaces in those places. And other ways that companies can support queer individuals in states with anti- trans legislation is to stay up to date on specific topics that impact those communities. What comes to mind is healthcare. So if there are certain healthcare measures that aren't included in benefits, companies can remain up to date on what those may be specifically for trans or queer people. I've also heard of other companies that will support relocation to places that are more safe. So for example, moving an employee out of a certain state and supporting them in a move to a state that's more safe for them to live in as an openly queer person. So that's more broadly beyond just Wunderkind, but it is something that was definitely top of mind as we planned our programming this year, because it doesn't necessarily feel like a year of celebration, I think as Pride has in the past few years just because it's very clear that our country is taking multiple steps back.

Carolyn Peterson: All right. Well, let's switch gears now to a topic that I think, Heather, you touched on earlier, how Pride celebrations can align with the company's marketing strategy, but also how do brands do that in an authentic way and not simple rainbow washing?

Heather Hartel: Yeah, I think to me, I work on the client side. So I work with a lot of e- commerce brands and brands who have in- person focuses as well. And what I have observed both as a consumer and as in someone who works in digital marketing, is it's very clear when a company is authentic in their Pride Month or other heritage month, Black history month, Asian Pacific Islander month, when they're authentic or when they're just doing something for the purpose of doing something. So how authenticity comes into play there is, I'll speak to Pride Month specifically just because I am a queer person. If a company does things outside of Pride Month, if I know that they donate proceeds of their annual profits to X organization or if they have events that support the queer community or queer artists throughout the year, but if it is very clear to me that it's a company that is just looking to profit off of queer people, then that raises a flag in my head. So Pride activations to me that look like rainbow washing are when they're just trying to take money out of people's pockets. We have a lot of money collectively to spend and don't give back to us. So there's specific campaigns that you know are empowering the community that are giving back to the community and that are actually enriching our lives. And then there's other ones where you're just going to throw a rainbow on a product and expect to make money off of it and hope they gay people buy it, which is actually the opposite of what you're hoping to achieve during Pride. So that's kind of what I've observed and what I would advise to a brand if they're thinking about if they should do a pride activation, if it's authentic, if it's not, it's almost better to do nothing.

Carolyn Peterson: Yeah, and we're seeing that a lot this year with brands not standing by what they claim to be supporting with their pride activations and all know Target taking down their Pride collections due to bomb threats, et cetera. And yeah, that definitely hurts too. And you see a brand doing something and saying like, " Hey, gays come buy from us." But then if they get a little bit of pushback, they roll over pretty easily.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Heather Hartel: And Starbucks just did it this week. It's the same thing. So to me, that shows that all along, they were only hoping to profit off of marginalized people rather than actually serve our community in a meaningful way.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah, I think a big thing for me is, love Pride month obviously, but being gay, we're gay year round. So I think it's important to see companies do these types of things year round as well, it's not just something like you can throw on a rainbow for Pride month. It's something where you're actively giving back to the community year round. There's demonstrable feedback, evidence that you're doing this, you are helping this community throughout the entire year, not just when it's profitable to you. A good example of companies claiming to be allies or on our side, but not quite getting it. One company that I've worked at, very lot of gay people, LGBT people in the company. And then for Pride, one year they decided that they would get us all brunch. And it's really hard to say that they bought us all Chick- fil- A.

Carolyn Peterson: No.

Bradley Showalter: And it was the height of all the Chick- fil- A scandals too. And I was like, " How do you not know what's going on with all of that? How do you have so many queer people in this company and yet you don't know what's going on?" And to me, that speaks to how far ahead especially Wunderkind is, because they're very on top of ethically buying lunches for us when doing pizza for parties or something. They're very on top of what are some small brands? What are gay brands, for the snack of the week? It's incredible how night and day it is with some companies where at least Wunderkind walks the walk, their actions really do speak for them.

Carolyn Peterson: And that takes work across the entire company.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Carolyn Peterson: It's not just up to the specific Wunderqueer's Impact Group or other specific groups to make those things happen. It's imbued into the culture and the processes year round. So that's great to hear. And on the Chick- fil- A example, it's also just Google it, Google Chick- fil- A when you're buying from them, and then you'll see all the news articles about it. And I think that's such a common trend that we see where companies or other groups rely on the marginalized group to do the education and to educate them when they can easily do that themselves.

Heather Hartel: That's crazy.

Bradley Showalter: Oh yeah. It was a lot. They also had no vegetarian options.

Heather Hartel: And have you ever met gay people?

Bradley Showalter: I know. It's like they're at least vegetarian.

Carolyn Peterson: All right. So we've talked a lot today about how we're gay all year round, and it's really important for companies to show their support for the community outside of just Pride month. What is Wunderqueers specifically do throughout the year to engage the community?

Bradley Showalter: Yeah, so as we mentioned earlier, we have general body meetings once a month. We encourage both queer people and allies to join those, share their experiences, just come and chat. At the end of each meeting generally to have a just how are you feeling moment where people, if they're feeling weary or excited about something, can have that chance to share that. And because it's important for our community to share how we're feeling and make those connections. Other than those, we do activations for Trans Day of Visibility and National Coming Out Day. We volunteer throughout the year. We pick different places, pick different groups throughout New York City or Indianapolis or London and volunteer there. And then on top of that, we really are hoping this year to work with other wigs in the company because they are our allies and we are their allies too. And I think that's really important to be there for them as well.

Carolyn Peterson: Have there been any Pride Month marketing activations that you've particularly loved or hated this year or in past years?

Bradley Showalter: Yeah. This year particularly, I think it was last week, I saw a shower curtain that I had a rainbow that looked like it was just clip art, to be honest, but still looked pretty good. And it said something like, " Live, laugh, lesbian" on it.

Heather Hartel: Honestly, drop the link because...

Bradley Showalter: Yeah, I'm not a lesbian, but I'd purchase that. So I think they know their audience at least.

Heather Hartel: I feel like a gay person made that.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah, they were told by management to come up with 30 designs in some short amount of time, and they were just, " Fine, whatever." And they're like, " No, this is the one."

Heather Hartel: That's funny. Yeah. I feel like usually the difference between what companies think gay people want and what we actually want is so different.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Heather Hartel: Because usually it's not that serious in terms of what we're looking for.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Carolyn Peterson: We just want funny shower curtains.

Bradley Showalter: Yeah.

Heather Hartel: Yeah. For Pride, I'm wearing a shirt that says, " I heart my girlfriend" with a picture of her face on it.

Carolyn Peterson: You got that custom made?

Heather Hartel: Custom made. Yeah.

Carolyn Peterson: That's great.

Heather Hartel: So that's what I want. I'm not looking for all of these rainbow campaigns, but I don't speak for the whole community.

Carolyn Peterson: To wrap up, why don't you tell me a bit about what Wunderqueers has on the docket for Pride Month?

Yeah, so we're about halfway through the month right now. We've already had kickoff parties in London and in Indy. London one was in the office, the Indy one was at a queer bar in Indianapolis. We had our general body meeting for the month of June. It was pride focused. So we had an open discussion with all of our queer employees about what pride means to you, ways that you're celebrating or ways that you're protesting this year. And then we have our queer comedy show this evening, so we'll go get some laughs in. We've been partnering with the same queer comedians for the past three years where we have LGBTQIA + comedians based in New York City come to the office to tell some jokes, make us laugh. We'll have a happy hour in the office after, and we'll live stream that to all of our remote and IndIndyie employees. And then for the rest of the month, we have in the London office a drag bingo event at the office. We will have a New York City Pride party next week. We're singing karaoke together in Brooklyn. And then one of our main events, like we've already touched on for the month, is an educational event. Our main goal with this is around activism and allyship for the trans community. So we have a trans activist and public speaker coming in to educate the company around anti- trans legislation, disinformation that's charging around the country, and ways to combat that and really show up to support the trans community here and going forward. So we wanted that at the end of the month so that we could get all of the celebrations and queer joy focuses throughout the month. And then also close it out with next steps for how to approach the rest of the year in support for our trans siblings in our community. And then after that, we'll wrap up the month with in- office celebrations in New York City and in Indy. And then the London office has a pride parade to close out the month. So we have a stacked month of course, and based on education and celebration like we've already mentioned. So a lot of things to look forward to and a lot of things that we've already celebrated.

Carolyn Peterson: Love it. Pride is always a busy, fun, sometimes exhausting month for us all. Great. Well thank you both so much and thank you everyone for another great episode of Individuality Unleashed.


Ready to fully embrace the significance of Pride Month and its role in the corporate world? You’re in luck! Join Carol Ann Peterson, Heather Hartel, and Bradley Showalter of the Wunderqueers Impact Identity Group at Wunderkind as they discuss the broader implications of Pride Month, how companies can stand authentically by their initiatives, and give you a glimpse into Wunderkind's safe and inclusive environment.

Subscribe to Wunderkind's YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@bewunderkind

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More from Wunderkind: https://www.wunderkind.co/resources/

Wunderkind is a performance marketing channel that delivers one-to-one messages across email and text at an unmatched scale.