When Sam Shoemaker was offered his role as Customer Success Operations Analyst at Candidly, he had just one question: is there an employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ workers?

No such group existed at Candidly at the time, so the People and Culture Team connected Sam with Kevin Morris, a longtime member of the software development team, to break ground on this initiative. 

We sat down with Sam and Kevin to learn more about the founding of Candidly Out, why ERGs matter, and what’s next for the group.

Putting values to action

“This group is a concrete, year-round demonstration of what supporting diversity looks like at Candidly,” Kevin says. “We already work with and rally behind teammates from so many different cultures and backgrounds. We felt empowered to recognize and build community around our diversity because we already knew we would be met with total support.”

That support takes many different shapes — from company leaders attending a happy hour hosted by Candidly Out at a team offsite earlier this year, to air time during company All Hands meetings to promote group events. 

The group also recently finalized its logo, which puts a distinct spin on the company’s main visual identity. It was designed by software engineer Lauren Elkins, who says she was “honored to be asked” to pitch in. “It’s important now more than ever that we support equality for the LGBTQ+ community.” 

“Lauren’s support and enthusiasm for the project was so meaningful, and an example of the positivity and excitement we’ve had from everyone outside of the group,” shared Kevin.

Meeting people where they are

At fully distributed organizations like Candidly, community building can come with unique challenges. But in a remote-first environment, creating meaningful connections is all the more important: “It’s easy to lose that sense of community if you’re not intentional about it. ERGs help us see each other as individuals, as real people,” Sam says.

In between bi-weekly virtual meetings, the group stays in touch with tools already used across the company — especially Slack, where the group has its own dedicated channel and shares relevant content in other internal feeds. 

Connecting to the bigger picture

Candidly Out’s mission is to “encourage all LGBTQ+ employees to bring their whole, authentic selves to work, and to promote an environment that fosters inclusion through education, communication, productivity, camaraderie, innovation, and well-being.” 

There’s a natural connection between this vision and the company’s broader mission, since LGBTQ+ Americans are disproportionately impacted by the college debt crisis: in fact, LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to have federal student loans than non-LGBTQ+ adults. In recognition of this, and in support of Candidly Out, Candidly is making a charitable donation to an LGBTQ+ scholarship fund later this month. 

The road ahead

Next up on Candidly Out’s agenda is a virtual trivia night to celebrate Pride Month, which the whole company is invited to join. “We’re trying to balance education with having fun and being social,” shared Sam. 

And as it expands its own membership and scope of impact, the group hopes to help other ERGs come to life in the future, too. 

“As the company grows from 100 employees to 150 and beyond, it will be even more important to foster opportunities for connection. As the first official ERG at Candidly, we hope to help create more groups that help our colleagues feel supported to be their truest selves,” says Sam. “I’ve already been approached by other people in the company, including Laurel [Candidly’s CEO and Founder], who want to show their support and ask questions about what we’re doing and why it’s important to me. It’s exciting to help start the conversation about what it means to build community through authenticity.”