Pride Month is celebrated each year in June, honoring the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community. The month holds significance; it commemorates the rise of the gay rights movement following the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City – a galvanizing moment that took place at Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village institution for the local queer community.
One year later, the first-ever gay pride parade in America hit the streets, in which thousands of individuals marched from the Stonewall Inn to Central Park in peaceful protest. The official chant of that parade so long ago? “Say it loud, gay is proud.”
Five decades later, that pride is even more evident. Many cities and nations around the world observe Pride Month with parades, concerts, performances, speeches and proudly displayed flags and signs featuring rainbows – the universal symbol of LGBTQ+ culture and alliance. The merriment and spirit of these events is contagious and celebratory; however, it’s been a long and tenuous arc and many LGTBQ+ individuals are still battling for equality. Just this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” The ruling comes five years after U.S. law began recognizing same-sex marriage.
Despite frustratingly long lags in legislation, there has been progress. A significant number of companies and organizations in every industry and across the globe now openly welcome LGBTQ+ colleagues into the fold at all levels of the business. We are proud to say Tech Data has been a pioneer in exhibiting inclusion for its LGBTQ+ colleagues. Our company was one of the first to offer same-sex benefits to its employees. This, plus many other inclusive policies and practices has garnered Tech Data a 100 percent rating by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equity Index. Not just once, but 15 times. Inclusion is a Tech Data core value. We know that if our workforce is comprised of individuals of varying race, gender, faith and sexual orientation, our company creates a productive and healthy work environment, as well as ensures the sustainability and overall success of our business.
Today, in advance of Global Pride Day on June 27, we spotlight just a few of our LGTBQ+ colleagues and the allies who support them to learn how they are celebrating at a time when in-person parades and events are not possible, but continuing to elevate the voices and causes central to this community may be more important than ever.
Clearwater, Florida, U.S.
San Giuliano Milanese, Italy
Tempe, Arizona, U.S.
Tempe, Arizona, U.S.
Clearwater, Florida, U.S.
What was your first job in technology?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: I worked in Xerox’s business process outsourcing and consultancy services division. Xerox is a very LGBTQ+ friendly company.
Anthony Graziano: My first job in technology was as a sales associate focused on selling Epson printers and projectors.
Antonino Battaglia: I started my first job in the field of technology several years ago at Enermax, which makes fans, keyboards, PC cases and more.
Michael Hecker: I began as a programmer for EDIFACT converters.
Klaus Blascheck: I started as a programmer, working with Assembler, Cobol, PL1, VSAM, CICS and other code languages no one can remember anymore!
Pablo Zurzolo: I worked for a “corporate” reseller in various product marketing roles, eventually running all the software lines when software was still sold in shrink-wrapped boxes!
Past or present, who do you look up to in your personal life?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: There’s not a particular person I can name; however, my moral compass is driven by the ideas, words and actions of some of the greatest publicly known people, as well as the people in my own life. You don’t need to be well-known to inspire other people; all you need to do is to put your efforts behind the right cause and people will be naturally drawn to you.
Anthony Graziano: Ellen DeGeneres. Everyone loves to dance to Ellen's tune just as much as she loves to dance herself. She is always her authentic self. She’s a highly successful entrepreneur and an advocate for the community, providing just the right amount of comic relief while using her platform to draw awareness to the issues, struggles and successes of the LBGTQ+ community.
Antonino Battaglia: I admire my family, which has always supported me in everything I have done and has always been ready to help me whenever I need it.
Klaus Blascheck: I admire anyone who has a personal goal and is trying to achieve it without stepping on others to do so.
Michael Hecker: I admire all of the LGBTQ+ people that dare to be out in public and at their jobs. It’s been a long fight. I attended the first Pride demonstrations in 1986 in Germany and I’m proud to be gay.
Pablo Zurzolo: I have always appreciated the work ethic and optimism of my parents and grandparents. The importance they put on travel, education and love of family have made me who I am today.
Past or present, who inspires you the most in your professional life?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: I can’t think of anyone in particular, but I believe everyone should be the best version of themselves when it comes to their professional or personal life. I believe that being guided by common sense and good ethics is enough to deliver professional results and create a productive environment for yourself and others you work with.
Anthony Graziano: Our very own Linda Rendleman, Senior Vice President, Endpoint Solutions, Americas, is someone I admire. She is one of those leaders you hope to encounter in your career who encourages you to be yourself. She promotes a culture of inclusion and courageous conversations and challenges the status quo. She inspires me to be the best version of myself.
Antonino Battaglia: While I can’t come up with a specific person, I can say that I am inspired by people’s life experiences. You can learn something from everyone.
Klaus Blascheck: I admire people who are dedicated to meeting a goal and work hard to achieve it – and then share their success with those who helped them along the way.
Michael Hecker: I always knew that technology was my thing. Steve Jobs comes to mind as someone I admire. He was a visionary who was able to make his dreams come true.
Pablo Zurzolo: I have been very impressed with the way that Bill and Melinda Gates have used their considerable fortune, technology know-how and influence to help tackle some of the world’s largest problems that governments just haven’t been able to make progress on. The motto of their foundation is “impatient optimists looking to reduce inequity” and I strive to adopt that motto myself.
In recent years, more and more forums for the LGTBQ+ community in technology have popped up, including Lesbians Who Tech and TransTech Social Enterprises, to name just a couple. Has this had an impact on you and your career, and if so, how?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: To be honest, my sexual orientation has never been an issue at any of the companies I’ve worked at. Maybe I was lucky, or maybe I only took jobs at companies that recognized the LGTBQ+ community. As a result, I’ve never faced discrimination issues. I intentionally chose Spain as my country of residence, knowing that there are laws protecting LGBTQ+ rights and a general public acceptance of this community here.
Anthony Graziano: Yes, these organizations for LGBTQ+ people have helped increase visibility of underrepresented talent in technology. It shows that the industry is making progress, but we still have a long way to go, especially in regard to transgender individuals.
Antonino Battaglia: For me, being gay has not had much impact on my personal life or and career. Living in Milan, there is a lot of opportunity to make LGBTQ+ voices heard.
Klaus Blascheck: I have the advantage of living in Germany where life for the LGBTQ+ community is easier than in other parts of the world. In fact, I had my own coming out (on purpose!) during my time serving in the military. Ever since then, I have lived openly. I have never needed or sought out the support of organizations that support LGBTQ+ individuals in technology. However, I acknowledge that such communities are of great support for those who do not have the privilege to live in a country that protects LGBTQ+ rights.
Maghen Hannigan: I believe these forums are critical because they help showcase examples of leadership and success from the LGBTQ+ community. While a lot of us spend a good amount of time trail-blazing our own path, it’s nice to gain perspective from those with similar adversities and achievements.
Pablo Zurzolo: Resources like these for LBGTQ+ individuals in technology haven’t necessarily affected my career, but I am absolutely sure they have helped steer LGBTQ+ youth toward careers in this field that accept who they are.
How has Tech Data’s business resource group dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community, Spectrum, impacted your experience at Tech Data?
Anthony Graziano: Spectrum has brought visibility to Tech Data’s LGBTQ+ colleagues and celebrates Pride globally. It feels great to work for an organization where inclusion is a core value and that supports the LBGTQ+ community internally and publicly.
Klaus Blascheck: Twice now I have had the pleasure of celebrating Pride with my Tech Data colleagues in Florida. Last year I was especially impressed by the sheer number of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who walked with us at a Pride parade. I also appreciate that there are opportunities to mingle with LGBTQ+ colleagues when I visit Tech Data’s headquarters in Clearwater, Florida.
Maghen Hannigan: Three years ago, I had the privilege of co-leading the Pride flag-raising ceremony for the first time in Tempe, Arizona. Since then, I have been involved in this event, as well as Phoenix Pride. It was emotional for me because I can remember being a young kid entering the workforce at a time where being gay was a detriment to my career. Over the years many things have changed, but what I love about Tech Data and the Spectrum team is that they truly celebrate their LGBTQ+ colleagues.
Pablo Zurzolo: I think Spectrum has reinforced what I have always known about Tech Data, which is that our core values are not only words on a poster but that they truly guide the way we run the company. Spectrum and the other business resource groups we offer are a tremendous support for our colleagues, a differentiator when trying to recruit talent, and a real source of pride when I talk to our customers, vendors and other professionals in the community.
What made you join Tech Data’s Spectrum business resource group as an ally?
Ashleigh Castrichini: I want my team to bring their true, authentic selves to work. At home, I want my kids and my friends’ kids to know that I don’t care how they identify, and that I am always here for them. I had an incredible personal moment last year after Pride, where a longtime friend of mine told me, “I just want you to know that I think sharing [Pride] with your kids is so beautiful. I wonder how my story would have been different had I known that my parents were accepting, and if I hadn’t [stayed] in the closet in fear of their response.” That really stuck with me. It made me realize that I need to do more as an ally, and to ensure that my kids are also vocal allies and feel comfortable sharing their full selves with me and my husband.
What is your advice to LGBTQ+ individuals who are looking to pursue a career in technology?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: Go for it! Being a good professional has nothing to do with your age, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity. I suggest doing some research to make sure the technology company you’re interested in is LGBTQ+ friendly – but, from my perspective, many are!
Antonino Battaglia: My advice is to always believe in yourself and your values so that you move through your career with strength, courage and pride.
Klaus Blascheck: Your sexual orientation is of no importance to your job! There is no need to hide. If someone at your place of work has a problem with LGBTQ+ individuals, then that is that person’s problem – not yours.
Michael Hecker: Go for it. The technology industry is for anyone who wants to pursue a career in it. It is fun and challenging.
What is your advice for someone who may not identify as LGBTQ+ but wants to show support for this important community?
Ashleigh Castrichini: Just get involved. Join events and attend webinars to educate yourself, and network with people in those communities to hear and appreciate their stories.
It’s Pride Month, and even though events across the nation and world have been cancelled or postponed, how can people still show their support of this important community? What are the ways that you’re celebrating?
Aleksandr Pasulevic: You can celebrate Pride more than just one week or one month out of the year – you can celebrate every day by helping to educate those who might not understand what being LGBTQ+ is about and the goals of this community. Remember – people are usually afraid of what they don’t understand, so by encouraging them to see the world through your eyes, you are potentially changing their lives! Celebrate diversity every day!
Anthony Graziano: While there aren’t the big public pride parades and celebrations this month, you can certainly have your own and educate yourself by participating in a variety of virtual events and digital dialogues that are taking place daily throughout June.
Antonino Battaglia: Even if Pride celebrations in Milan have been cancelled, we must bring the Pride spirit everywhere with us – at home, to the office, while we are with our families, etc. Pride parades and events can also be organized later on in the year. That is the intent in Milan, for now.
Ashleigh Castrichini (ally): We have our Pride flag hanging in our living room right now! It is the background in all my Zoom meetings and is a visual reminder to anyone I interact with that love is beautiful regardless of sexual orientation, race, religion and gender. We have also made personal donations to LGBTQ+ nonprofits in Arizona.
Klaus Blascheck: Personally, I celebrate Pride every day of the year! But, while we are all working and socializing remotely, we should use Zoom to connect and toast with a distant glass of pink champagne.
Maghen Hannigan: The community has certainly proved that even a pandemic will not stop us from celebrating progress in equality. While Phoenix has, at this point, pushed Pride to November, there have been many virtual Pride festivals to watch. Tech Data still raises the Pride flag at our facilities across the country despite the absence of our colleagues, and our local diversity and inclusion council is releasing a podcast to honor Pride Month.
Pablo Zurzolo: I don’t know how much I feel like “celebrating” given the current state of affairs in the U.S. and in many countries around the world. However, I think the best thing people can do to is listen to each other, seek to understand other points of view and to continue to fight for basic human rights for everyone, not just for the group that you most closely identify with.
About the Author
Jenni Ottum is an Integrated Communications Specialist at Tech Data. She began her career in public relations and communications by working for a global retail and supply chain software provider. Since then, she has held several B2B marketing communications roles in the software space. Most recently, Jenni served as the Senior Director of Public Relations for SHE Media, a leading women’s media company with nearly 70,000 unique visitors per month and comprising four individual media properties, SheKnows.com, BlogHer.com, STYLECASTER.com and Hollywoodlife.com, as well as the #BlogHer conference series. In that role, Jenni led all B2B and B2C public relations and communications initiatives. Her background and profile can be found on LinkedIn.