Gabriel Pirona, Chief Financial Officer at Agilisys, discusses why the people culture at Agilisys is well set up to drive diversity and treat everybody as equal.
A topic that is important to me – and one of the key themes of this year’s Pride in London activity – is acceptance and authenticity.
Accepting myself as I am and being confident that I would be accepted for what I am, is an issue I faced at some stage in my life. I used to work for Agilisys about 17 years ago and, at the time, I was married to a woman. I divorced a few years ago, met a man and, subsequently, have shared my life with a few male partners. While this background isn’t actually uncommon in the LGBTQ+ community, it does mean I’m not a product of the usual gay upbringing and haven’t experienced the usual learning curve, where you question yourself, wonder what the world is going to be like, and start to want to do things differently etc.
I was 45 when I switched my relationships to men, and I was confident about what I was experiencing and what I was doing. It’s not something that took me a long time to accept, I just thought well, okay, if this is my orientation now, this is who I am.
It still took me about a year to talk to people, however. I don’t really like the term coming out, because if we’re to drive acceptance and authenticity, you simply shouldn’t have to explain who you are. You should just be.
One of the great things about Agilisys is that you don’t have to come out. I’ve worked within organisations where I was asked to come out which I found rather unnatural and painful; it should be your choice, not the organisation’s. At Agilisys you don’t have to because our culture is very diverse.
Acceptance and being able to be who you are is critically important, because you go through this journey, you decide to be who you are, but you’re no different to what you used to be, when people knew you as a straight person. Being out completely enables you to be just you, without wasting any energy trying to hide or pretend. Agilisys is the first workplace where I’m totally and freely out. This contrasts with my previous roles.
This all comes down to culture and people, which starts with the people at the very top of the organisation like Charles, Manoj, Andrew, Sean… For example, when I met Manoj Badale in January, it was the first time I mentioned my orientation, although we’ve kept in touch throughout the years.
We were talking and said, “Well, I don’t know if you know, but for a few years now, after I divorced, I’ve been sharing my life with a man”. His response was simply, “Oh, great, that’s fantastic”. To me, it was my way of subtly coming out, picking from a large array of experienced coming out scenes – and I think I’m an Olympic champion at coming out, having come out to my direct family, to my ex-wife, to my son, to my best macho friends, to the board at my former organisation, to the world! At first, I thought, why is he saying, fantastic to the fact that I’m telling him I’m gay, but I realised he was just very happy that I had found love. There were no caveats. And that’s how Agilisys is. I work closely with Andrew Mindenhall. Our CEO/CFO tandem is functioning very well as we trust each other not only professionally but also on more personable level – because we can freely talk about our lives and with genuine interest.
That makes a real difference. When the leadership is genuinely interested in people, truly diverse, it gives a signal to the rest of the organisation. It shows that we are totally accepting of diversity – in whatever shape – to the point that we are all accepted for who we are. There’s no complication.
Take that to the next level and I firmly believe it’s good for the business, both from a sense of harmony and from a talent attraction perspective. For me personally, when I was deciding whether to join Agilisys or not, one of the reasons I did decide to join was because I knew that I would not have any issues with the company, I would receive support from my peers, and nobody would use that aspect of me against me, and therefore I would not have to pretend that I’m someone else.
I firmly believe that Agilisys provides a safe environment for all, where everyone is equal. And that’s certainly what I’m looking for. I don’t want to be any more or any less and I don’t want to be treated differently because of who I am. I just want to be myself, respected for everything I am. Getting that balance right will automatically drive acceptance and authenticity.
Read more thoughts from across Agilisys in another of our series of interviews to celebrate Pride.
We stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Read the first in our blog series where Louise Ah-Wong, Senior Partner – Digital Transformation, details how Agilisys is committing to support staff and fight racism.