Environmental, Social & Governance4 min read

PRIDE@VMware: From Transgender Day of Remembrance to Fostering LGBTQIA+ Equality

Today VMware pauses to commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), a global observance honoring people lost to anti-transgender violence. Now approaching its 25th year, TDOR serves to raise awareness of this devastating issue with public vigils and readings of the names of those killed. Our observance of this solemn date is one of the most important ways VMware recognizes and supports LGBTQIA+ employees through our Power of Difference employee resource groups, affectionately known as PODs.

Throughout the year, the PRIDE@VMware POD provides a spectrum of programs to support and expand LGBTQIA+ awareness. These local, regional and global initiatives serve a broad geographic and demographic audience. Each year’s efforts are anchored with June celebrations of Pride Month, a time dedicated to uplifting all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. This year’s theme—Strength in Solidarity—exemplifies the community’s cultural significance, each person’s individuality, the power of allyship, and how we can wield greater power when we unite to promote equality.

Inclusion Through Advocacy

VMware provides LGBTQIA+ employees a set of comprehensive benefits that often don’t exist at many companies and in many countries. “These benefits encourage LGBTQIA+ employees to show up authentically at work,” says Vincent McNeeley, Global Co-Lead for PRIDE@VMware. “Some of our benefits for trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming folks aren’t wholly inclusive worldwide. We want to change that through advocacy. It’s an opportunity for all of us to lean into what it means to be LGBTQIA+ and try to make the world more understanding of the terminology so we can roll out more inclusive healthcare in more places.”

VMware’s PRIDE PoD Co-Leads Natasha Zike and Vincent McNeeley share a spoken word poem at an all-employee meeting during PRIDE Month 2023.

Natasha Zike, Global Co-Lead of PRIDE@VMware and VMware Political Action Committee (PAC) Board member agrees there’s more work to be done. “We can’t solve every issue for every single person, but we can do our best to bring benefits to the greatest number of people.” She sees VMware advocacy in the United States as an example for other countries and values the company’s collaborative working model to support workplace rights and benefits beyond borders. “VMware is a company that understands the value of providing a psychologically safe place for people to thrive and do their best work,” she says.

Today at VMware, LGBTQIA+ advocacy is far-reaching, extending to the company’s lobbying efforts for equal rights in Washington, to the company’s global communities, and throughout the tech industry. “Our company is a leader in the LGBTQIA+ rights space, enabling us to provide a model for other companies,” McNeeley explains. “And we are effective in other ways. VMware employees are citizen philanthropists keen to support LGBTQIA+ businesses and nonprofits. Building allies and intersectional partnerships—that’s our next big step.”

Representation Through Authenticity

The PRIDE@VMware POD Slack channel community invites employees to “come as you are.” An employee space for listening and providing support, guidance and caring, the channel is also a learning platform. “I think the Slack channel is a good way for people at VMware to have a conversation about representation,” says McNeeley. “Showing up at VMware as your authentic self is important at all levels. Each person can show up with their unique lived experience, and their open expression benefits everyone.” Enabling the sharing of many viewpoints helps members become allies to “all the letters” and identities of the community.

VMware recognizes that collaboration is key. The company actively seeks to engage with allies within and outside the organization, fostering partnerships with more than 100 external organizations and raising funds for the PRIDE@VMware Community Fund. And this year’s introduction of a PRIDE logo for the first time in the company’s history may be a small symbol, but it signifies an ongoing promise to its employees and the wider community.

Education Through Conversation

While the Slack channel for the PRIDE@VMware POD offers education through conversation, McNeeley notes that education is extended to the non-LGBTQIA+ community, too. “We invite experts to speak about topics that expand everyone’s knowledge,” he says. “For example, we have conversations on what it means to be non-binary in the workplace, what inclusion looks like and how to model it. Our goal is to expand thought leadership around topics formerly taboo. We want to understand the daily lived experiences of all LGBTQIA+ people and how we can interact, so everyone feels welcome.”

These efforts have helped build an inclusive culture that has earned VMware wide recognition across the tech industry and the wider business world.

For the fifth consecutive year, the US-based Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has recognized VMware as “One of the Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.” This honor demonstrates the extraordinary dedication and collaboration of the PRIDE@VMware POD community, VMware leadership, and our global allies. Added to the HRC honor, VMware is a three-time gold recipient of India’s Workplace Equality Index for LGBTI+ Inclusion, and for a third consecutive year, VMware has won GOLD in the Annual PRIDE Index in Japan. The company was also a finalist for the 2023 Workplace Excellence Outie Award, which recognizes “an employer that demonstrates a historic and ongoing commitment to pursuing and implementing workplace equity for LGBTQ+ employees”. 

Strength Through Solidarity and Connection

For all our widely noted and public recognition, one of the most consequential victories of PRIDE@VMware goes almost without notice: Providing safe harbor for employees unable to come out to their families and communities. For many, the only place they can be their full selves is at work, and even there, sometimes only within the safe confines of virtual meetings. This quiet achievement speaks volumes about the effectiveness of PRIDE@VMware.

Among many programs sponsored in 2023, PRIDE@VMware launched Safe Spaces, a series of confidential sessions for employees encompassing the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ experience. These informal virtual meetings give individuals the freedom to express themselves freely without fear of prejudice or exposure. It is in these meetings where employees feel most free to be themselves.

VMware has always been at the forefront of co-innovation. “When it comes to DEI, we know we cannot reach our goals alone,” says Zike. “That’s why we partner with allies across the company, in the community and industry.” This spirit of collaboration and solidarity have made VMware an effective champion for its LGBTQIA+ employees, partners and community. “We’re together—with all the voices of those who are under attack and those who are not—and together, we are stronger.”