At Arch, we welcome colleagues from a variety of diverse backgrounds and seek to create a work environment that allows them to be their authentic selves. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that was a welcome change for India Montes when she joined the company in 2020 — and a big change from her previous employment experiences. This is her Arch story.
Maya Angelou said it best: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
New York City has the largest Pride parade in America since the 1969 Stonewall riots. It’s shocking to be living in New York City where you’re welcomed to all no matter who you love. You would expect work-life to be accommodating as well.
Living in New York City made it easy to not hide my sexuality but that was a different story — and much more difficult — when I entered previous jobs. I felt like I was living a double life, like a one-way mirror in an interrogation room where everyone can pry in my life but I couldn’t pry into their “normal” lives. But I still never dimmed my light; I just proceeded with caution.
My experience in the workplace has challenged me at best. It was not conducive to openly express my sexuality or my marital status. As a bisexual woman, many people either assume that I can’t decide or I’m too greedy and it makes them uncomfortable.
When I started my first job in 2012, I learned that, although my boss was a white, openly gay married man, he often thought that gave him the right to judge me and belittle me when I disclosed my sexuality. He made inappropriate and salacious sexual jokes and felt it was OK when other colleagues joined in. I learned pretty quickly that not all gay people are treated equally. All and all, it was a despicable work environment, but it still didn’t make me hide who I am. This is when I initially learned to be careful with how I approached people at work.
Inequality in the LGBTQ+ Community
At another job, the work environment was the opposite of my first. The company, including my boss at the time, made it clear that LGBTQ+ people were welcome and able to work. Some changes came about as a result, such as name changes and pronoun usage, leading me to believe the company was working toward being more inclusive. So, once more I tried to be my authentic self and be transparent by revealing my sexuality. It began all over again, where my colleagues felt some sort of unsolicited imposing entitlement to invade my sex life. My colleagues continued the trend that all LGBTQ+ people weren’t treated equally. While everyone praised the gay guy who wore lipstick and changed his pronouns to “she,” I was approached with curious, inappropriate and invasive questions.
Feeling Welcome on Day One
Coming to Arch, I vowed to enter with no guard up; if a heterosexual doesn’t have to hide, why should I? I began Arch in a slightly different circumstance than any job before — I was a newlywed. My virtual onboarding experience was great. I was welcomed by my team in Human Resources and everyone seemed nice, enthusiastic and genuine. But I still needed to take the temperature of the room. So, when I was asked to tell the team a little bit about myself, I decided that was a perfect time to disclose. I told them I was married and mentioned my wife. Now, this is a virtual environment, so all cameras were on and I could read the room as soon as I said that sentence. Surprisingly, no one’s face changed in a negative or confused way, unlike my previous jobs where my colleagues’ facial reactions gave them away. My team instead wanted to know my wife’s name and how long we’d been married. It made me feel good and glad to finally be at a company and on a team that accepted me … and I mean all of me.
My HR team has continued to make me feel equal and never made me feel like my sexuality was an issue, and now Arch has an Employee Network for me to celebrate loudly who I am.
Thank you, Arch, for taking heed of what’s important to your employees. You may not know it but a slight change can make a huge difference in someone’s life.
HR Assistant, Arch Insurance Group