The Woman Behind Atrium’s Inclusive LGTBQ+ CommunityFeatured
I spoke with Dana Levine (@DanaLevine) of Atrium, a technology enabled, full service corporate law firm for startups. She is the 2nd sales hire, current account executive, and LGTBQ+ employee resource group lead at the company.Inspired by her long time interest in law and politics, Dana joined Atrium in May of 2018, when the company was almost a year old and consisted of just 60 team members. Since then, they have grown rapidly to over 170. In the early stages, each team member frequently wore numerous different hats, and most projects required all hands on deck. As Atrium has grown, the teams have specialized more, and more efficiently scaled in this manner. With the broader company growth, the Atrium LGBTQ+ community has grown as well. Dana shares her experiences with and advice on creating empowering corporate cultures and diverse communities in tech.Having experienced and learned about disparate workplace cultures, Dana finds Atrium’s to be incredibly refreshing. In the early stages, the company was intentional about clearly articulating culture and community values and goals. Beyond grassroots initiatives, there has also been a substantial amount of genuine, top down support at Atrium. Dana underscores the importance of intention in creating inclusive cultures: frequently, particularly as companies scale, it is easy to create and run employee resource groups simply as a check the box measure. Employee resource groups and similar organizations at large companies generally have more resources to operate but without the passion of members and company leaders, these initiatives become unsustainable and fail to actually create diverse and inclusive cultures. The most effective initiatives are ones that stem from genuine desires to participate, engage, and learn. A combination of meaningful grassroots and top down initiatives create a more empathic work culture where people are comfortable with being vulnerable. In this way, teams are better able to collaborate, execute on projects, take risks to drive growth, and most importantly, bring their full selves to work each day.For queer people interested in careers in tech, Dana recommends finding other queer people at companies of interest and reaching out directly to learn more about the company’s culture (especially as it pertains to support for the queer community) firsthand. A company can outwardly check all the boxes, but if employees do not feel comfortable, they will eventually churn. In the workplace, Dana highlights the power of finding allies and creating communities around these pillars. People do not realize the size of the queer community as many individuals either do not discuss their identities or are not yet out. Dana notes that to create safer spaces for the LGTBQ+ community, be mindful of heteronormative language that can be unintentionally pervasive and make queer people feel outcast. Speak up and give feedback when you see explicit or even implicit discrimination. Outside of work, Dana notes the power of bringing together different communities. When she first moved to the Bay Area, she knew very few queer people. But through attending events and participating in meetup groups, she quickly grew her social circles. She found that many of the people she met were also looking to form stronger friendships in the queer community, and thus she brought her circles together through a unified group message and hangouts. As Dana has shown, ultimately, the people form the foundation of work and non-workplace communities. Being mindful, intentional, and proactive in creating genuine and supportive relationships and environments is essential to sustaining strong cultures and growing diversity in tech. Elpha Technies is a biweekly column by Jessica Li, featuring stories and best advice of women in tech. Interested in being featured or know someone who may be a fit? Email Jessica at [email protected]!Jessica Li, an Elpha Ambassador, is a recent graduate of Harvard College and is now working in the Bay Area in Morgan Stanley’s Global Technology Investment Banking group. Over the past few years, she has been involved with the Boston and SF startup ecosystems and as a venture investor with funds including Rough Draft Ventures/General Catalyst, Romulus Capital, Global Founders Capital, and Female Founders Fund. She is passionate about supporting female entrepreneurs, operators, and others in tech and beyond! She also blogs about early stage founders at Medium (@jessli).