Stephanie DeGazon says she has always felt confident being an open member of the LGBTQI+ community at work. But with so many barriers for others in her community, she refuses to let herself — or her employers — get comfortable with the current workplace.
From keeping a close eye out for any lapses in Altice’s progressive culture to her leading role in one of the organization’s many diversity and inclusion groups, Stephanie is a relentless changemaker. And as she continues to work with Altice to meet the needs of LGBTQI+ employees, she also found the time to share her inspiring insights in an interview with WORK180.
Stephanie DeGazon, Associate Server Administrator, Digital Services Video Deployment & Operations – Altice
1. As someone from the LGBTQI+ community, what would make you feel more comfortable to be open in the workplace and what could your employer do to make you feel safe to do so?
Honestly, I am fortunate enough to have always felt comfortable being an open member of the LGBTQI+ community at work but I understand not everyone feels safe to do so. That is why I joined Altice USA’s Diversity & Inclusion LGBTQ+ affinity group Altice Together.
What I hope to accomplish through Altice Together is to keep a barometer of the culture of its employees on a granular level – helping to find gaps and lapses in the implementation of the inclusive and accepting environment Altice USA upholds.
“Education is key – it better equips employees to identify homophobia, transphobia and bias, and teaches them how to manage situations and become better allies.”
I believe Altice USA is on the right track with creating an inclusive culture but there is still work to be done. The company is about to roll out mandatory unconscious bias training for all employees and managers, which is a great step in furthering the conversation on inclusion in the workplace. What should come next are interactive workshops with LGBTQI+ experts to keep the conversations going – because checking biases is an ever-evolving process. These interventions are important because they help people become more aware of themselves, as well as have consideration and empathy towards others. It is how we ensure productive standards are being properly sustained.
Also, the company requiring employees, particularly managers, to participate sends the message that it is serious. Managers have to buy in and take this seriously or employees will remain hidden. And, inauthenticity hurts productivity.
2. Can you tell us about a time when you felt truly supported and/or included in your workplace?
In June of 2018, my wife and I welcomed our beautiful baby girl into the world. Just before I went out on bonding leave, my department manager organized a surprise office baby shower for us – he even included upper management. The shower was absolutely unexpected, especially since I was fairly new to the department and I wasn’t the one carrying our baby.
It was comforting to be able to openly discuss the joys and anxieties of first-time parenthood with my coworkers. They shared tips and advice, sentimental memories of when they first became parents.
3. When looking for a job, do you look at what companies are doing to support LGBTQI+ employees before you apply and if so, does this impact your decision to apply for a job?
I do take company policies and programs for the LGBTQ+ community into consideration when looking at prospective work. I want to feel safe, secure, valued and properly compensated for my time and efforts. I want to know I will have all the same advancement opportunities available to me as my heterosexual counterparts. A company’s LGBTQI+ support absolutely has an impact on whether I decide to pursue a job with them.
4. What does your employer have in place to support LGBTQI+ employees in the workplace?
In the short period of time since Altice USA’s inception, they have made significant strides towards supporting the distinct needs of their LGBTQI+ employees.
“As part of the diversity and inclusion program, Altice USA launched various affinity groups in 2018, one of which is the LGBTQ+ group Altice Together of which I am honored to be on the leadership board. Our mission is to promote acceptance, inclusion and interconnection of LGBTQ+ individuals at Altice USA through mentoring, career development and advocacy. One initiative Altice Together was able to spearhead was the effort for the company to publicly support the Human Rights Campaign Business Coalition’s support of the Equality Act.”
The Equality Act is a proposed amendment to existing civil rights laws which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, public accommodations, public education, federal funding, credit, and the jury system. The Equality Act passed in the United States House of Representatives on May 17, 2019 and is currently awaiting review by the United States Senate. In an effort to increase public pressure on and gain support by governing officials, citizens, companies and even celebrities have voiced their public support for the amendment. Members of the Altice Together leadership team stressed the importance for the company to support the initiative and in 2019, Altice USA proudly took a public stance in support of equal protections for LGBTQI+ people by signing the Equality Act.
Additionally, Altice USA expanded and instituted various programs and policies to be more inclusive of LGBTQI+ employees. They extended a Paid Parental Leave benefit to eligible employees regardless of the employee’s gender or whether they are birthing, adopting or having a child through surrogacy. The company also launched Surrogacy and Fertility Assistance Programs and Gender Reassignment Surgery Benefits, as well as established a Gender Transition Policy to address issues for transgender or non-binary employees who are considering or undergoing gender transition.