The Future is Inclusive: Meet The Queer Collective, MongoDB's Affinity Group for the LGBTQIA+ Community & Allies
MongoDB affinity groups are employee-led resource groups that bring together employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals. They play an important role in our company and culture. Our affinity groups build community and connections, help us raise awareness of issues unique to members’ experiences, and offer networking and professional development opportunities. I sat down with some of the leaders of The Queer Collective to learn more about their initiatives, impact, and plans for the future. What is The Queer Collective? The Queer Collective is a member-based group working towards equality in the workplace and beyond. We envision a workplace atmosphere in which everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work, regardless of gender identity, gender expression, race, religion, age, or sexual preference. We aim to champion LGBTQIA+ rights in the workplace, provide a space for queer people and allies to meet, encourage an open exchange of thoughts, organize impactful events, and provide education and networking opportunities to individuals who would like to learn more. The Queer Collective is open to LGBTQIA+ and allies and complements our closed employee affinity group, Queeries, which provides a safe space for queer-identifying employees. The Queer Collective is open to all MongoDB employees who would like to join. How did The Queer Collective get started, and how has the group grown? In early 2020, the Dublin Workplace team decided to organize activities for a virtual Pride celebration throughout the month of June. This was an ambitious idea that required a collective of people, so a call for volunteers was sent out. By the end of May of 2020, seven people offered help, and in the end, it became a huge success. The same seven volunteers decided to keep working on evolving these initiatives, and that's when The Queer Collective was officially born. We realized that raising awareness and sharing knowledge with the community (both the LGBTQIA+ and ally communities) couldn’t be accomplished in just one month, and so The Queer Collective formed into an ongoing initiative. The most fun part of forming any group is naming it. There were multiple ideas, but the one that stuck the most was a pun of sorts. It combines both the collection of documents in a database and the LGBTQIA + community: The Queer Collective. We are now almost 200 members globally and can't believe how much we've grown in just a year. As we continue to grow, we hope to start regional chapters so that our planning and programming can evolve on a global scale. What types of initiatives does The Queer Collective organize? We organize a range of social, educational, and awareness events. Over the past year, these have included (Inter)national Coming Out Day , Transgender Awareness Week, Pride Month programming, Zero-Discrimination Day in partnership with MDBWomen, and smaller events such as happy hours and Drag Bingo. This year and for the first time ever, we are a top-tier sponsor for the Lesbians Who Tech Summit, the largest & most diverse tech event in the world! As we continue to grow and diversify, we have partnered with MongoDB’s Learning and Development team to develop training on managing and supporting LGBTQIA+ employees and colleagues. We’ve also begun developing programs on intersectional thinking to help leaders, managers, and other colleagues understand the importance of intersectionality in the workplace. How has participating in The Queer Collective impacted some of our employees? The Queer Collective has provided visibility to members of the LGBTQIA+ community and the amazing allies that support us. Some of The Queer Collective’s leads have been approached for advice and support by members of the LGBTQIA+ community who are coming to terms with their own sexuality or gender expression, as well as colleagues looking for a supportive corporate structure in which to be themselves. Awareness initiatives have impacted how many people view the LGBTQIA+ community, providing an opportunity for people from different backgrounds and cultures to learn about the lived experiences of LGBTQIA+ individuals by listening to their stories. Hear from one of our members to learn more about the impact The Queer Collective has had on our allies. The Joy of Being an Ally in The Queer Collective Community Diana Balaci (She/Her), Workplace Manager, Paris “I am the Workplace Manager for MongoDB’s Southern European offices and a very proud ally of the LQBTQIA+ community. Allies help to support, uplift, and amplify the voices of others, and I humbly feel that I learn something new every day alongside the wonderful humans that are part of The Queer Collective.” “To understand my activism is to know my story. I come from Romania, an ex-communist country. I was born in Bucharest and lived in a big industrial and university city in the southwest of the country until I was 24 years old. In my family, I was taught values like tolerance and supporting differences early on. All the while we were still living under very conservative, traditional society patterns. My upbringing, combined with my choice of attire and value for art, culture, and universality made me pivot towards the extremely few and timid queer people in my hometown. In a time when the word ‘gay’ was not even spoken publicly, I witnessed the bullying and ignorant labeling of my best friend. Defending him started a wave of questions and pointing of fingers, questions that I am honest to say I did not know how to respond to. I promised myself then and there that I would continuously do my best in growing and learning more about the LQBTQIA+ community. Fast forward to now, my friend is happily engaged and in a loving, fulfilling relationship with the man of his dreams in a more open-minded Bucharest. As for me, I’m still educating myself and those around me.” “I am thankful for the opportunity to meet amazing people through The Queer Collective who have such complex personalities that truly value inclusivity and diversity. They embraced the weird, loud, outspoken person that I am. I am in awe when I see the efforts they make to give a voice to everyone, and I am humbled and touched when I see them sparing their time to make sure that events are safe, accessible, and welcoming to every identity. I am honored to be in this community.” What has been The Queer Collective's biggest highlight so far? We launched an incredibly ambitious program for Pride 2021, including both fun and educational events organized by our members all across the world. The schedule included educational training, voguing workshops, drag events, a trans experience fireside chat, a U.S. benefits webinar discussing fertility and family-forming, virtual happy hours, and more. Pride 2021 kick-off drag event with Cissy Walken Our biggest hope is that our Pride programming advocates for inclusivity, educates about respect, and celebrates the wonderful complexity of the human experience. We believe this is the best spotlight so far as it includes multiple events over the month of June. Some past events that have also been impactful are (Inter)national Coming Out Day 2020 and the Trans Awareness Panels hosted the same year. The first emphasized the life experiences of LGBTQIA+ members in The Queer Collective, and the latter focused on the trans color in the LGBTQIA+ rainbow: educating participants to see the transgender identity, to understand it and, most importantly, to respect it. Respect is highly cherished by all members of The Queer Collective and is the foundation of all our actions. From gender pronoun forums, to book club discussions, to learning and development training, our goal is to support and educate others about all identities. “I see you and I respect who you are” may be easily said on paper, but it takes real effort to turn it into actions in your everyday life. What are Queer Collective's goals and plans for the future? We are delighted to announce that we have partnered with Ryan Francis , Vice President of Worldwide Demand Generation & Field Marketing, to be our executive sponsor. Ryan’s support will help us grow, amplify our message, and enable our voices to be heard in spaces we don’t have access to. While it is a commitment, we are excited to see where this partnership will take us. Ryan had this to say: “I accepted the invitation to be the executive sponsor for The Queer Collective to do more for my community here at MongoDB. It's easy to forget in the rush of Zoom calls, deadlines, and fire drills that I'm incredibly lucky to be in the position I'm in, and it's because of the people who have done the work before me that I am. It's the least I can do to create visibility for my community and support them to the fullest extent.” The next step for us is to foster intersectional cooperation with other MongoDB affinity groups. We have worked quite closely with Queeries, the closed group for queer folks at MongoDB. We admire the work of MDBWomen , The Underrepresented People of Color Network, MongoDB Veterans, and Underrepresented Genders in Tech, and we recognize that true inclusion, equality, and equity is only achieved through intersectionality. We intend to partner closely with these groups and any emerging affinity groups. Everyone exists at the intersection of multiple identities and labels, and we need to be mindful that The Queer Collective member identities are multi-faceted and complex. We also hope to collaborate with other teams and departments at MongoDB with a focus on working together to solve for equity across the business. What do we mean by that? There are nuances in ways of working across teams. The Sales team works in a very different way and has a different set of priorities than, for example, the Product or Engineering teams. We want everyone at MongoDB to benefit from an inclusive culture and welcoming environment. No matter your role, you should feel safe, welcome, and supported in bringing your full self to work at MongoDB. Finally, we’re working on developing partnerships externally so that the work we do extends beyond MongoDB. This began with our sponsorship of the 2021 Lesbians Who Tech Summit and we also have an upcoming talk at MongoDB .Live on allyship which will be given by two of our leads. We hope to continue sponsoring more conferences, speaking at more events, and lending our knowledge to other groups. Meet our current Queer Collective leads Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB and joining The Queer Collective? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
MDBWomen: A Look into MongoDB’s Affinity Group for Women-Identifying Employees
MongoDB affinity groups are employee-led resource groups that bring together employees with similar backgrounds, interests, or goals. They play an important role in our company and culture. Our affinity groups build community and connections, help us raise awareness of issues unique to their members’ experiences, and offer networking and professional development opportunities. I sat down with some of the leaders of MDBWomen to learn more about their initiatives, impact, and plans for the future. What is MDBWomen? MDBWomen is a community of MongoDB employees identifying as women. We acknowledge that working women face many challenges and that not everyone experiences them in the same way. Our purpose is to connect and amplify the voices of working women at MongoDB by providing a space for support and advocacy. We understand that both work and nonwork conversations are important and use our time together to share experiences and build connections. We are women from all walks of life who want to create a safe space for discussing important topics. How did MDBWomen get started, and how has the group grown? MDBWomen began as a cohort of women within our North American recruiting organization. Although it was informal, it quickly became a recognized affinity group, but there was no group page within our intranet, no mission statement, and no globally friendly meetings outside of U.S. time zones. After a few years, an opportunity arose to reimagine the group, work on a mission statement, and expand from being just a social club to having a strategic plan for supporting women and impacting the business. Since its inception, MDBWomen has grown to just shy of 500 members globally, with chapters in India, Australia, and Ireland in addition to U.S. chapters in Palo Alto, California; Austin , Texas; and New York City. Wherever women are, MDBWomen helps activate them! What types of initiatives does MDBWomen organize? Our biggest initiatives typically take place during Women’s History Month. Every International Women’s Day (March 8), we host a companywide Purple Shirt Day to show support for women’s rights and raise awareness about the challenges working women still face around the world. In previous years, we’ve brought in spotlight speakers from outside the organization to discuss their personal experiences with being a woman leader in the tech industry. This year, MDBWomen organized a handful of events for Women’s History Month, including professional development workshops, panel events featuring speakers in sales and engineering, an empowering yoga flow and meditation, a Bollywood dance class, and a Kudoboard to share tips, words of wisdom, or experiences about promoting equality for women and employees who identify as LGBTQIA+. We are also aware of the particular challenges working mothers face. In an effort to destigmatize pregnancy and motherhood at work, we’ve partnered with one of our benefits providers, Carrot , to host sessions that discuss pathways to parenthood and fertility. It can be difficult to coordinate global events that all of our members are able to participate in, and we recognize that women face different challenges in different regions and cultures. Although many of our MDBWomen events are global, we also rely on the chapter leaders to coordinate initiatives in their region. Many chapters hold casual meetups along with networking events and other workshops throughout the year that allow women-identifying employees to connect with one another, find mentors, and upskill. 2019 International Women's Day Celebration in NYC How has participating in MDBWomen impacted some of our employees? We’ve had a lot of impactful follow up conversations after MDBWomen events. Our CIO Lena Smart gave a talk about imposter syndrome last year, and we had a great discussion afterwards. Knowing that you’re not alone, your voice is heard, and your feelings are valid is a big part of the support we give to our members. Our Carrot fertility sessions have allowed women to speak about things they normally wouldn’t talk about in a traditional work setting, and we were able to hear stories from women who had similar struggles and provide them with resources. It’s not just the events and speakers that have made an impact, but our individual members as well. Many of our members have found mentors within the group or connected with other women who have gone through similar experiences, and we love that we’re able to introduce women to one another across the company and across the globe. So many women have told their chapter leaders that they wouldn’t have received such a high level of support if it weren’t for MDBWomen. Read Jane Zirinsky’s story below to learn more about how MDBWomen has impacted her. Jane Zirinsky: In her Words One of the challenges many women face when planning their careers is building out space to also plan for a family. As soon as I hit my mid-twenties, I couldn’t help but notice all the studies, articles, and thought pieces on the so-called motherhood penalty that can affect women as they attempt to progress in their careers. I knew that I would have to be proactive in my career planning to avoid the dreaded plateau motherhood can unfortunately result in. However, one thing I didn’t know I needed to plan for was how to communicate to my boss and colleagues when I had a miscarriage. There really is no Emily Post guide for that! When I lost my pregnancy in the summer of 2020, I knew I couldn't hide it and that I would need support and understanding. However, I didn't know how to share this news with the people I worked with. Embarrassingly, my biggest concern was that I would make them uncomfortable. I felt vulnerable. Thankfully, my manager and I have built a strong relationship founded on trust and respect. She’s also a woman, and a friend, which made telling her much easier. My manager asked if I felt comfortable speaking to HR so that I could get access to the benefits available to me. Through our vendor, Cleo, U.S. employees can access grief counseling, support groups, and bereavement leave. I had no idea that this was an option for me and gratefully took advantage of the program. When they think of fertility benefits, many people think about hospital payments, parental leave, and childcare. It is so easy to forget that 25 percent of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage, and not a baby. I am a very outgoing, cheerful person, and there was a noticeable change in my energy levels after my miscarriage. I needed some time off to mourn, cry, breathe, heal, and process the complexities of all the emotions that come with losing a pregnancy. I learned that your body doesn’t care when you lose a pregnancy. It hits you with the full flood of postpartum hormones, which for many women (lucky me!) also includes the added onslaught of postpartum depression. I knew that these feelings were inevitable, and that people around me would notice something was off. Asking for help and being vulnerable is easier said than done. I always advise women and friends to reach out to their communities when they need support; so I did what I tell women to do all the time: I reached out to my community. I posted in our private, internal MDBWomen Slack channel about what I had gone through. Although it was challenging to be so vulnerable, it was the single best thing I could have done. I received an outpouring of support from MongoDB women across the world. They shared with me privately that I was not alone. I had more than twelve 1:1 conversations with other women who had lost a pregnancy. Some wanted to thank me for being brave and sharing my experience, some wanted to connect and cry, and some just wanted me to know them and to better know me. The single strongest tool I had to fight my depression was a feeling of connectedness and community. No matter how strong you are, nothing makes you feel more alone than depression. Add in the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that took my depression to another level. Had I not been brave, I would have missed the chance to connect with and support other women too. Now, I strive to be a resource for other women at MongoDB, whether it’s sharing information about access to benefits or proofreading emails that will alert leaders of the need for time off or additional support. I’m grateful that MDBWomen is a safe place to be open, share experiences, and receive the support and empowerment that every woman deserves. Hear from Some of Our Chapters North America Led by Jane Zirinsky , Melanie Kyono , Megan Blancato , Alexandra Hills , Gigi Neuenfeldt , and Libby Firer . The North America chapters have members in Palo Alto, Austin, New York, and many other remote locations across the U.S. and Canada. We’ve had women jump in and get involved during their first week at MongoDB alongside women who have been here for years. We believe strongly that empowered women empower women, and that you get what you give in communities like ours. Building a strong internal network provides support when facing challenges and gaining access to new opportunities. As part of this network, we’ve created an internal Propel-Her group aimed at elevating MongoDB women through mentorship and shared experiences. Propel-Her at MongoDB will be launching small, goal-driven peer mentor groups focused on specific professional development goals such as internal branding, negotiation, self-advocacy, and networking, where the emphasis is on peer mentoring and skill sharing. We are also launching a speaker pipeline in concert with our women in sales groups, which helps to connect our membership with women leaders in other companies and industries to inspire and teach us. With NYC and Palo Alto tech hubs being in our backyards, we strive to connect our members to the wider world of women in tech. Because MongoDB is headquartered in New York City, we have the advantage of access to the majority of our executive leadership team. One of our main goals has been to leverage that access to expand the connection our global members have with our C-suite. We do this via Q&A sessions with our executive team, sessions that spotlight women leaders and experts in their fields, and partnerships with our Recruiting and Diversity and Inclusion teams to ensure we can advocate for our members where the impact is greatest. Australia Led by Tammy Bailey and Jocelyn del Prado The Australian chapter of MDBWomen started just over a year ago, right before the COVID-19 pandemic. The women in Australia typically cannot participate in global MDBWomen events and meetings due to the time zone disparity, so we wanted to create a local community of women who could support one another. We brainstormed heaps of ideas and scheduled our kickoff event for International Women’s Day 2020, but the pandemic brought most of that to a halt. Despite this, we organized regular Zoom meetings that allowed us to connect, meet new hires, and generally get to know each other. We had a great lineup of events for Women’s History Month in 2021, and we plan to continue this momentum throughout the year. One of our goals moving forward is to engage women across various departments and roles within MongoDB. We plan to hold even more organized activities such as event sponsorships, welcoming and mentorship programs, ladies’ lunches, high teas, informal meetups, and yoga sessions. Another goal is to create opportunities for collaboration and friendships with women in other locations. The number of women employees in Australia has doubled over the past year, and we’re always working on ways to bring more extraordinary women into the organization. MDBWomen Australia is a place to have your voice heard and make a difference, and we are excited to continue growing our group of amazing women in Australia! MDBWomen Australia celebrating Purple Shirt Dat virtually in 2021 India Led by Palki Sood and Neha Mukherjee We joined MongoDB one month apart from each other and reached out separately to our office site leader, Amit Babbar, with our ideas and vision of forming an employee affinity group specifically for women in India. He connected the two of us with each other in August 2019, and the rest is history! India became the first established chapter of MDBWomen outside of North America. Our vision was to build a network of trust and a strong support system for all employees who identify as women in India . We believe that empowered women empower women. To add a local touch, we came up with the moniker “MongoWomaniya,” which is a fun way of representing our group and resonates with each member. We are proud that the logo we created for our group is now used as the logo for the global women’s group. We’ve been able to help foster new friendships by providing group members with a platform to get to know each other better and be sounding boards for common issues. We even started our own recognition program called “MongoDB India Superwoman of the Quarter,” which highlights women employees who are not only star performers but are also succeeding in balancing their work-life responsibilities and leading the way with their impact. Since the pandemic began, we have held multiple virtual engagement sessions addressing “taboo” topics such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). We also have held self-care sessions and collaborated with other affinity groups for activities such as Bollywood dancing. We have future plans to host more inspirational speakers, engage more “Womaniyas” to lead our regular meetings, and collaborate with recruiting to ensure we drive our diversity hiring goals. Our main goal is to ensure MongoDB India is a top employer for women, driven by our inclusive and equitable culture. MDBWomen India, AKA Womaniya, gather in the office prior to COVID-19 Ireland Led by Rita Martins Rodrigues , Avril Murphy , and Amy McKeon The Dublin chapter of MDBWomen provides a safe space for those identifying as women and allies to come together, share experiences, and help each other grow. Our goal is to support the women of our Dublin chapter with mentorship and upskilling programs, along with engaging our allies in open conversations in which we can help them demystify allyship and how it shows up at work. There is also an opportunity for the women of our chapter to connect with their peers in all of our major locations. We held our first event in April and are looking forward to establishing a community for the women of our Dublin team! Interested in pursuing a career at MongoDB and joining MDBWomen? We have several open roles on our teams across the globe and would love for you to transform your career with us!
Launching MongoDB Veterans, Our Newest Affinity Group
One of our core company values at MongoDB is “Embracing the Power of Differences.” Our employee affinity groups support our larger commitment to a diverse and inclusive community. It also empowers our employees to create an internal network that they are passionate about.