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PEOPLE PEOPLE index Bringing my whole self to work | Tristan Higgins (Director, Law Department, Sony Electronics Inc.)

Feeling welcome and connected to my office and workplace

I joined Sony in September of 2008. I was an entertainment attorney working at a video game company when I saw a position advertised at Sony in San Diego. Sony was looking for an attorney with entertainment and technology experience. I thought, that's me! The Sony name is legendary and so I knew it would be a great company to work for. I joined as the attorney handling the roll out of Sony's digital cinema program worldwide. That was a complex licensing and financing deal with the Hollywood studios, but it was limited in time. I was very happy to transition to be able to support business groups in the B2B field and engineering. Since then I have added many more clients, which has allowed me to constantly learn about new and emerging areas of the law.

Sony treats me well. I do not feel discriminated against and I feel included. I know that this is not true for everyone, however, and so I am honored to be interviewed for this Sony's Diversity and Inclusion site. Often people do not feel comfortable to bring their whole self to work.

There are many studies and statistics that establish employees are more productive, and companies post higher earnings when employees feel safe and included. For me personally, it means that I can develop relationships with my colleagues. It means that I do not have to censor myself when talking about my family, my weekend, or my holiday plans. I do not have to pretend to be single, or straight. I can mention my wife, our home, our life. It means that I can decorate my office with posters, pictures, and toys that make me happy to be in my office. I can display my wife's photo or the anniversary card that she gave me. I feel welcome and connected to my office and workplace. I would not work at a place where I could not bring my whole self to work.

Building awareness and advocating for LGBT employees everyday

Before I applied to work for Sony, I searched all the places I knew of to find out Sony's position on LGBT employees, how friendly the office was, and whether Sony supported its LGBT employees with a networking group. What I found out was that Sony was silent in all of these places. There was no statement from Sony in 2008 that diversity was important to it - at least not that included me as a lesbian. Though there were a number of networking groups for women, black, and Asian employees, there was none for Sony's LGBT community. I thought this presented an opportunity because I found Sony to be an open and accepting workplace and I thought we could do a better job of telling the world that we were so.
  • (Sony has issued the diversity statement in 2013 to promote and respect diversity in area such as ethnicity and nationality, religion and beliefs, disabilities, gender, age, birthplace, sexual orientation and values, and work styles.)

I work every day to increase the understanding of our employees and leaders. I speak out whenever I see things that I believe are prejudiced, sexist, or not conducive to an open and supporting workplace - hopefully always in a supportive way. I help to advise the Equality ALLiance (Sony Electronics' Employee Business Resources Group for LGBT), and I serve on the board of the Tom Homann Law Association Foundation (the LGBT professional lawyers association in San Diego). I recently shared my story about breaking barriers and instituting meaningful corporate change at San Diego Women's Week. I believe that it is important to tell the world of the great strides Sony has made. Doing so helps other people to have the courage to make similar strides within their companies. Of course, I act as a resource for our Human Resources team, and for some of the other Sony entities' groups.

The simple change makes room for other people

In my world - in San Diego, as an attorney, and a very experienced professional - I cannot imagine being closeted (meaning, keeping my orientation a secret). But I know this is not everyone's world. I encourage all Sony employees to feel comfortable being their whole selves at work. If you do not trust us, your coworkers, to know who you are, then you are not really sharing your whole being. You leave much of your passion, strength, innovation, and creativity at home if you do not come out at work. Sony, more than ever, needs all of those amazing skills from all of our employees. Please consider coming out to one coworker. Maybe to one friend. When that goes well, you might consider sharing with another coworker. Eventually, you will find that it is not that big of an issue to most people. People are involved in their own lives. You may be surprised with how little of an issue it will be when you come out at work. Remember, if no one came out, no one would know that LGBT employees are important contributors at Sony.

It is important to show your support for all of your employees and coworkers. One of the ways that a manager can do this is to start using non-gender specific pronouns when talking and in meetings. Instead of a male manager saying, "I am going out to dinner with my wife this weekend," try saying, "I am going out to dinner this weekend with my spouse, or my partner." This simple change makes room for other people to use similar language without people assuming they are LGBT. Do not assume that everyone on your team is straight, or that everyone has straight parents, kids, or relatives. Make room in your world for people that are not like you. Use more gender-neutral language - firefighter instead of fireman, person hours instead of man hours, team instead of guys. Start an Ally Program! This is a program where employees sign up to be an Ally and display a card or sticker at their desk. The Ally sign let's all employees know that they are safe - especially the LGBT employees - to talk about their lives, to bring their whole selves to work. It is most important for the straight employees to participate in an Ally Program because our LGBT employees do not know who will be supportive of them if they come out. Having that sticker or sign can open the door to letting an LGBT employee feel safe to contribute and be fully present at work.

Moving forward: For LGBT equality and inclusion and personally

As a member of Sony, I believe every Sony office in each country should take a stand for LGBT equality and fairness. Sony can differentiate itself as a company that truly values and promotes diversity by being among the first companies in many countries to do so. We will be a more powerful draw to talent, and better able to keep our talent that is LGBT or LGBT-friendly.

I would like to see Sony recognized as an industry leader in the area of diversity and inclusion. I want Sony to be known as THE place to work if you are LGBT. For me personally, I would like to be a recognized speaker in the area of diversity and changing corporate culture. I would very much like to do this all over the world. I would also like to continue working on the area of Artificial Intelligence and Ethics to make sure all view points are considered. This is such an important topic and I would like to see Sony very engaged to help set standards and participate in the discussion and policy making that will happen in the next few years.

  • Kazuo Hirai(President and CEO, Sony Corporation)holding the Sony Electronics 2017 HRC Corporate equality Index 100% award with Mike Fasulo (President, C.O.O., Sony Electronics Inc.), Tsuyoshi Kodera (Deputy President, Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC.), Tristan Higgins (founder, Equality Alliance), and Equality Alliance members.
    *Equality Alliance is an employee resources group for LGBT at Sony Electronics Inc.
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