Honoring Intersectionality: SoFi Pride

Meet Mark Shura, Senior Director, Program Manager In School, and Sean McAlister-Kiser, AML Compliance Senior Specialist, who volunteer their time as Co-Leads of our SoFi Pride Circle. SoFi Pride’s mission is to empower our diverse community and inspire equality for all of our people, especially when it comes to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Below, Mark & Sean share more about  the importance of intersectionality, The Corporate Equality Index, and how SoFi supports our LGBTQ+ employees in bringing their authentic selves to work all year long, not just in June! 

Tell us about the importance of intersectionality from your perspective! 

Mark: Growing up, many of us in the LGBTQ+ community struggled with our identity. From a young age, we're taught how to categorize and put things in "boxes." We often then apply those same principles of categorization to ourselves, feeling better when we can label who we are and what we do. The problem is that humans are beautifully messy and don't fit into boxes. There are so many aspects to each of us, so many labels that may shape who we are and how we view the world around us. We have to celebrate our lives doing the things that call to us. Being gay is one label, but I'm also a husband, friend, traveler, musician, aspiring chef, and business professional. 

Sean: As someone who is black, gay, a parent, and a former military service member, I wholeheartedly believe that diversity makes our world a beautifully complex and exciting place. Everyone should have the opportunity to feel proud of who they are as a person while also taking the time to appreciate others for their unique qualities. That is why, with the help of our allies, we aim to make this Pride month all about intersectionality, highlighting the significance of embracing the many characteristics that make each one of us uniquely ourselves.

Mark, tell us about the corporate equality index initiative you're helping drive and why it's important! 

The Corporate Equality Index is a benchmarking tool created by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC) to evaluate and rate companies' policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. This has been one of my pet projects since I started co-leading SoFi Pride two and a half years ago. The Corporate Equality Index is essentially the “Who's Who” of affirmative LGBTQ+ employers nationwide. It scores companies based on their inclusive benefits, policies, marketing and advertising, and community outreach. Companies that reach a score of 100% can broadly advertise this to support recruiting efforts and to show customers and prospective customers that they are entirely supportive of the community. I’ve really enjoyed working with our amazing people team on this initiative. 

Pride Creatives

How does SoFi support your ability to be your authentic self not just in June but all year long? 

Mark: Someone very wise told me you can never be your 100% self at work and used the example of people who dress up in character and play video games. You probably wouldn't dress up in character to come to work, but SoFi does allow me to bring as much of myself to work as is appropriate and I'm comfortable with. That means being able to talk openly about my husband, my friends, and my personal life without fear of judgment. It also lets me co-lead the Pride community with conviction and passion, especially with regard to areas where LGBTQ+ individuals are often victimized, turning those areas into opportunities for activism at the individual and company levels. One such win was working with our executive sponsor, Bill Tanona, to ensure that we could fly a Pride Flag at our Montana office for the month of June this year. We discussed the issue with Bill, and he worked the appropriate channels to get it done. At SoFi, I don't have to choose between my company and community; I can be proud of both.  

Pride Creatives (1)

Sean: I know the feeling of having to sit in silence while my friends share stories of love and family while secretly dreaming of experiencing those same joys myself. All those who served in the military during "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"—myself included—know firsthand how it feels to suffer in silence while honorably serving our country. This is why after leaving the military, I made a personal commitment to consistently live authentically and to only immerse myself in environments that uplift and support who I truly am. I am so grateful to have found a supportive environment here at SoFi, and I feel comfortable openly sharing the joys of being a husband and father, as I have always hoped to do. As a result of the support I have received here at SoFi, I have been able to continue that commitment to authenticity through my role as Pride co-lead, advocating for others within the LGBTQ+ community. When I reflect on how far I have come since my days in the military, words truly cannot express my gratitude toward all the wonderful people at SoFi that continue to uplift and encourage me to be me.

Sean, How can people be effective allies this month and throughout the year?

Listening is the most important and most overlooked aspect of being an effective ally. Though it may sound like a relatively simple task, it requires more effort than one might think. Standing in allyship with the LGBTQ+ community is difficult if you don't really understand some of the hurdles we face. This is why bringing an open heart, an open mind, and a willingness to listen is crucial. This first step will aid allies in supporting the LGBTQ+ community and allow them to comprehend what many of us are going through. Remember that in any situation, you must first understand what a group needs to provide support, whether through the use of preferred pronouns, advocating for equal rights and freedoms, or even being a friend.

How are you both celebrating Pride this year?

Pride Creatives (3)

Mark: I'm always excited to celebrate Pride. As I've gotten older, my weekends of Pride have turned into year-long celebrations. I attend friends' weddings, have get-togethers, and support local and national politicians to advance full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. This year, I'm most excited to fly my new all-inclusive Pride Flag!

Pride Creatives (2)

Sean: Living in such close proximity to both of our families, my husband and I take the opportunity to introduce them to all the beautiful things Pride has to offer. While our families are both very supportive, they have limited exposure to the LGBTQ+ community, so having the ability to introduce them to new experiences while educating them on the significance of Pride is something that we enjoy. Watching their enthusiasm and feeling their excitement has made Pride a whole new experience for my husband and I, no matter how cheesy my Mom's shirts get with each coming year. This year, both families are most excited to sip mimosas at their first drag brunch! 

As we celebrate Pride Month, we thank you, Mark & Sean, for helping to center our efforts on intersectionality and embracing the diverse identities and experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. By recognizing the unique perspectives of intersectional individuals and amplifying voices, we can engage in inclusive activism and build alliances to foster a more inclusive and equitable environment. 

The individuals featured are SoFi employees. Their personal experiences, obviously, do not take into account your own specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. Results will vary.

©2023 Social Finance Inc, All rights reserved.

All your finances.
All in one app.

SoFi QR code, Download now, scan this with your phone’s camera

App Store rating

Aly Wangerin, Talent Brand @ SoFi