Edwin Aoki, Technology Fellow and CTO for Blockchain, Crypto & Digital Currencies
June marks the celebration of Pride Month for many communities around the world, including in the US, where we commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The raid on the Stonewall Inn in New York, and the protests and marches that followed, are widely recognized as the catalyst of the equality and civil rights movement for the LGBTQ+ community.
Looking back on the past 50-plus years, we’ve certainly come a long way. Pride marches and celebrations now take place in dozens of major cities around the world. Prominent athletes, politicians, celebrities, and professionals have come out and added their voices and influence to the cause of LGBTQ+ rights. And thanks to both the early trailblazers and modern-day activists, many of us can live as we are and love whom we choose, with many countries guaranteeing civil liberties and legalizing same-sex marriage and/or civil unions.
But while we should celebrate the progress we’ve made, there’s still a long way to go. Homophobia and transphobia are still all too prevalent, and homosexuality is still criminalized and demonized in many parts of the world. The devastating effects of the COVID pandemic impacted our community particularly hard, as many LGBTQ+ businesses and families were disproportionately impacted by lockdowns and job loss. Young people couldn’t access safe spaces, and the crisis extracted a heavy mental health toll on all of us.
For these reasons, while it’s great to see rainbow flags flying and banners in support of our community, I think it’s especially important that this Pride Month we do more than just talk about our support for the LGBTQ+ community—we bring it to life.
From our early advocacy for the Equality Act to our decision to walk away from a new office location in North Carolina as a result of their passage of discriminatory legislation, PayPal has been a longtime advocate for LGBTQ+ equality and inclusion and a proud recipient of a perfect 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index each year since becoming an independent company in 2015.
In response to the growing number of state and local challenges to LGBTQ+ rights, we’ve signed on to the HRC’s Business Statement Opposing Anti-LGBTQ State Legislation, opposing bills introduced in statehouses across the country that target members of our community, particularly transgender youth, for exclusion or differential treatment. We’ve also signed onto the April 2021 letter by Texas Competes supporting the inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in that state’s non-discrimination policies and urging the legislature to resist policies that criminalize or exclude LGBTQ+ people from fully participating in their communities.
When discriminatory laws do get enacted, PayPal stands ready to support efforts through the courts to defeat them. Last November, we supported an amicus brief in the case of Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, a case that GLAAD says could allow “a broad license to discriminate in other critical taxpayer-funded services like homeless shelters, hospitals, disaster relief agencies and food banks.”
We’re also working hard to improve life for our LGBTQ+ employees at work. In the last year, we’ve expanded employee self-identification options to include non-binary gender status and updated company systems to add pronouns. And I’m thrilled about our recent launch of the Hong Kong chapter of PayPal Pride, our employee resource group for the LGBTQ+ community. It joins our robust network of Pride chapters in dozens of PayPal offices, bringing together community members and allies, and raising awareness and advocating for our team members around the globe.
Our Pride chapters are powerful engines for change within PayPal, helping drive policies to promote inclusion and representation. Most recently, our governance guidelines were revised to include sexual orientation in the list of diverse characteristics considered in assessing the composition of the Board of Directors.
I’m proud of the steps we’ve taken so far towards greater agency and inclusivity in the work that we do, and all of us at PayPal are aware of the responsibility we have to never stand still when it comes to advocating for a more just and equitable society. That also means making our industry more inclusive and representative. It’s why we’ve been a proud partner of Out in Tech, the largest community of LGBTQ+ tech employees in the world, since 2016. Earlier this month, a group of PayPal employees put their skills to use by helping create websites for LGBTQ+-owned small businesses, as part of their Digital Corps initiative. To date, we’ve supported the creation of more than 180 websites for LBGTQ+ advocacy organizations and businesses around the world.
2020 was a challenging year for everyone, and while the pandemic continues to ravage many regions around the world, I know many of our customers and employees have been looking forward to Pride Month this year as a time to reconnect with friends or family, engage with our communities, and to show our Pride at events and gatherings. PayPal stands with all of you in supporting and celebrating this diverse and vibrant community. Happy Pride!
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