Jessica Dias de Oliveira is an alumnus of the Goizueta Business School’s BBA Program and a current Marketing Lead at GE Power in Atlanta, GA. She is an active advocate for LGBT+ folks who are out in the workplace.
Neil Vasudeva is GALA’s Member-at-Large.
NV: Could you start by telling me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at Emory for your undergraduate degree?
JO: I’m a 1.75 generation Brazilian-American immigrant. I lived in Baton Rouge, LA from the age of 2 until I left at 18 to attend Emory. As a high-achieving low-income high schooler I was awarded a full scholarship to Emory thanks to QuestBridge.
NV: How was your Emory experience from an LGBT+ perspective?
JO: The LGBT+ community definitely enhanced my experience at Emory. I attended the Office of LGBT Life’s open house my first week at Emory and joined Pride (the undergraduate LGBT+ club). I stayed active as a member throughout undergrad and my senior year I was treasurer of Pride. I met a lot of my queer friends in college through Pride and the office and am glad to say that they are some of my closest college friends that I still keep in touch with. A great array of students, alumni, and Emory staff always dropped by the Office of LGBT Life. I got to know so many people over the years including the person who referred me to Google! You never know who you’ll meet in the Office.
NV: What challenges do you think LGBT+ students faced during your time at Emory, and more specifically, Goizueta?
JO: As LGBT+ students we were lucky that Emory is a relatively open, affirming place for us. I definitely realized this after hearing stories from LGBT+ coworkers who had attended LGBT-unfriendly religious schools where they did not feel comfortable coming out knowing that they could be expelled.
That being said, during my time at Emory 4-8 years ago, I remember an unidentified LGBT+ student being kicked out of an off-campus party being called homophobic slurs. I knew of a fellow student who was rejected by their family for coming out. We also had Chick-fil-A at Cox Hall.
As an LGBT+ student at Emory’s Goizueta Business School, I felt like I was one of a handful of out BBA students – hardly enough for a quorum of any kind. At the time, we had no out professors (that I knew of) and didn’t have any advisors in the career center that I could approach with my questions about companies’ openness to LGBT+ recruits.
NV: How was your experience leading and being a part of the LGBT+ student organization at Emory? What hurdles did you face as an organization (i.e. challenging administration, regulations/rules, etc.)?
JO: I was treasurer of Emory Pride my senior year. To my recollection, we didn’t face any hurdles as an organization. Danielle Steele was our fabulous advisor who helped us with any roadblocks we had.
NV: What do you believe that Emory could do to improve the LGBT+ student experience?
JO: What I most wanted as a student was a queer mentor, preferably in the business world, that I could connect with and ask for advice. I highly recommend that GALA, the Alumni Association, the Office of LGBT Life and Goizueta team up to create a network of LGBT+ alumni that can be paired with LGBT+ students.
NV: What challenges have you faced being out in the workplace since you’ve started your professional career?
JO: I was very fortunate to join Google, a very publicly LGBT-friendly company, right out of college and led the Ann Arbor Gayglers, Google’s LGBTQ + Ally employee resource group. I’m very fortunate to say that I hadn’t had any negative experiences regarding being out in my workplace since I’ve started my professional career.
NV: You’ve been out in the business world for some time – do you have any advice to share with current Emory students who identify as LGBT+ on being out in the workplace?
JO: I would highly recommend that students take a look at the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index to see how LGBT-friendly large companies are as a starting point.
If you’re interviewing with a large company you can ask your recruiter to connect you with an out employee who you can chat with to ask about their experience as an LGBT+ employee. If recruiters are well connected to their colleagues in Diversity and Inclusion, which should also sit under Human Resources, they should have no trouble with this request. I have had conversations with recruits considering Google looking for reassurance that the Google offices outside of California were also LGBT-friendly and I was happy to take 30 minutes out of my day to answer any questions they had.
If you’re interviewing with a small- or medium-sized business ask them similar questions to the criteria on the Corporate Equality Index to see if they have an equal opportunity policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, transgender inclusive health insurance, and an LGBT+ employee resource group.