Setting the tone to promote inclusivity in the workplace — Interview with Yehoshua Gurtler
Let’s go straight to the point. What does Diversity, Equity & Inclusion mean to you?
Yehoshua Gurtler, General Counsel, Huuuge: At the most basic level the foundation behind Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is appreciating the value of every human being. And to appreciate that every person has something, their own story, and flavor, which they bring to the table. Regardless of the color of their skin, nationality, where they come from, sexual orientation, or gender identity, everyone deserves the same respect and dignity. As we build our Team of Teams, our goal is obviously to find the right mix of people to work with to realize our mission of uniting people around the passion for gaming. We can only achieve that if we recognize that the people we want with us aren’t necessarily the ones that look like us or share our stories. That’s why I think the core idea behind Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for us as a business is to open our minds to the fact that the right people could literally be anywhere.
The second thing, which is no less important than the first one I just mentioned, is that we as a company are a very central part of our employees’ lives — and simultaneously, our people are what make us who we are as a company. So there’s a two-way commitment here, and it’s our responsibility and obligation to make the workplace a safe and comfortable, and pleasant environment for all people who walk through our doors.
Is there a particular reason why fellow game dev companies like Huuuge should focus on diversity?
YG: The first reason is purely business -, we are a gaming company and our audience is universal — our players could come from any country, be any age, be any gender. Having an internally diverse and heterogenous team increases our ability to make games that are relevant to larger player demographics.
The second reason is about talent. We are a global company, so there’s no point in placing any sorts of limitations on who we hire based on, say, geographical location or even matching certain physical characteristics. There’s no reason why our staff should not be as diverse as the world is.
Last but not least, as a part of the IT sector, we have real power to make a difference. Similar to how our industry raises the bar when it comes to wages, working conditions, and employee experience, we have an opportunity to have other positive impacts on the greater society. If we, as a company, set the tone of acceptance, diversity, tolerance, and equality, especially in locations that are more conservative and less socially tolerant, we can hopefully inspire others to follow. As an example of this power we have — a few years ago here in Israel there was a big campaign against legislative changes that discriminated against same-sex parents. The surprisingly large number of companies that allowed their employees to go on strike and protest made a real social impact. When a big commercial sector, with all the money and power it has, supports its employees, it can positively influence the political discourse. I believe we as the IT industry have a responsibility towards the societies we are a part of to promote changes that empower our people and contribute to the greater good.
You previously mentioned creating a safe and comfortable working environment. Could you please elaborate on what defines it? Is it about design choices, or something else?
YG: I think that, fundamentally, it’s a matter of attitude. It’s an understanding at all levels of the company that people deserve dignity, safety, and security when they come to work. Just as we protect their physical safety, we are also obligated to provide them with emotional safety. A part of that is being able to come to work and be themselves without suffering any negative consequences for that. This is what I mean by creating an inclusive and safe workplace.
When it comes to designing our spaces, it starts with the little things — putting up a flag or sign that indicates to people that our spaces are ones where everyone can be their true selves, where we respect our employees for who they are and don’t discriminate. I’m really proud that Huuuge is one of the first 5 companies in Poland to have joined a campaign called ‘Business Does Not Exclude’ organized by the Love Does Not Exclude Association, a leading Polish LGBT+ organization, where we put stickers and posters with the ‘Here You Can Be Yourself’ message in our offices. This sends a really powerful, very strong message to anyone walking through our front doors, and also says something really good about us as a company.
We talked about the big picture, but are there any smaller gestures one can do to be more inclusive?
YG: I think to a certain extent this is influenced by cultural nuances and styles. It’s important to learn how to be culture-tolerant At the very basis it starts with the comments and jokes we make by the coffee machine, how we treat each other, and how we make sure that our language and behavior are inclusive.
From my point of view what made me comfortable being openly gay at work is when people spoke about my life the same way, they would have done with a straight colleague. When people reacted with genuine curiosity when I mentioned my husband or my kids, that interest made me feel comfortable and was an invitation to share things about my life. Maybe this is a message to my straight colleagues. Because sometimes I get an impression they might feel scared, like, walking on eggshells and so they don’t want to ask about anything because they don’t want to come across as offensive or intrusive. I think, generally speaking, people like to be asked about their life in a way that is curious but not offensive — and if you show interest in their lives in a way that gives them a space to share, then they will feel safe and comfortable around you.
Let’s come back to the attitude of a company being inclusive towards employees that you described previously. When should it exactly begin? During the onboarding process, or even earlier?
YG: I think it starts even before recruitment. When we design our recruitment process, we need to think about how we make sure we get the right mix of people for our company. We have to take into consideration situations in every country. For example, in Poland I have been told that far fewer women enter the IT sector than men, hence it’s so much harder to recruit women for tech positions. If that’s the case, we should design our recruiting approach to try and compensate for that gap. In terms of employees’ experience, it really runs through from the moment they are recruited, through onboarding, integrating people into teams and groups, and then their day-to-day interactions with each other.
In your recent interview published in The Jerusalem Post, you talked about how we can educate ourselves and find ways to be better allies and co-workers. Can you share some suggestions about how someone, specifically a person who is not in the community, and has no friends or family who are LGBT+, can become more aware?
First of all, I am very happy about what we did in Huuuge. As part of Pride Month, we offered people resources and opportunities to learn. I really enjoyed the webinar we had with the Stonewall Group — it was very informative and resourceful, and even I learned things I hadn’t known before.
But I come back to the answer I gave before — the best resource to learn from are the people around us. If you are curious about what it’s like to be LGBTQ+ the best way to learn is probably to politely approach an LGBT+ colleague or friend and just ask them. That’s probably the best starting point I would recommend.
Yehoshua, thank you so much for your time. It was great speaking with you and learning more about your approach toward diversity, inclusion, and creating a safe and comfortable place for everyone at Huuuge.