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Celebrating LGBTQI+ Pride: Lydia Edwards

June 2019

Cultivating authenticity

Being your authentic self is not as easy as it sounds. The concept has been bandied about for decades, but in a world that can be judgmental, the practice of revealing your authentic self can feel scary. Seattle resident Lydia Edwards works on the Microsoft Advertising marketing team, and knows first-hand the power of being your authentic self. “The beauty of an organisation like Microsoft,” Lydia says, “is that they create a culture where people can bring their whole selves to work. That’s been an amazing experience for me.”

The weekend challenge

Very early in her career, Lydia had a real fear of being ‘out’ at work. She was afraid of the potential negative impact it could have on her career advancement. “I remember there were two days of the week that I really hated — Friday and Monday,” she admits, “because my coworkers would ask me Friday what I had planned for the weekend, and Monday they’d ask what I did over the weekend. I never wanted to tell them anything because I didn’t want them to know what LGBTQ event I had gone to or what drag brunch I attended.”

Thank the Lorde

After struggling with that fear for some time, Lydia came across the book Sister Outsider by writer/activist Audre Lorde. This was a watershed moment for Lydia. “Audre has been a big inspiration for me,” Lydia says. “Reading her book was the first time I was exposed to the groundbreaking concept of intersectionality — the idea that one person can belong to different marginalised groups. For me, identifying as a queer person of color, it was meaningful to learn about other folks who belong to various marginalised groups,” she shares. “It made me feel I wasn’t alone and allowed me to discover that there’s power and strength in our differences.” This was a critical aspect of helping Lydia come into her own. “Audre’s work also helped me understand that it’s important for us to speak our truth. There’s no benefit from being silent and bearing the burden on our own,” she admits. “It doesn't help me be less marginalised. And I realised that if there are people who will discriminate against me because of who I am, that’s their issue, not mine.” Awakening to that profoundly changed Lydia’s world view and helped her be herself at work. Once that happened, she really flourished.

The power of community

This deep shift in her own life inspired Lydia to help others going through similar challenges. One of the ways she helps empower people is through her involvement in various mentorship programs. “Being able to advocate for people and be a role model is powerful and rewarding — you can see the impact it has,” she says. “It can be so isolating to feel like there's nobody out there who understands you or looks like you.” That’s why it's important for Lydia to be visible in the community. Being a reflection for others is empowering. It builds confidence, a sense of inner strength.

“Being able to show up in the world as your authentic self — it’s a powerful statement to yourself, it inspires others and it creates a feeling of community,” Lydia shares. “And that's when you really flourish as a person and are able to provide a lot more to the community and the world.” That’s especially true when people are able to see others who look like them or identify similarly to who they are. Along with this work with the LGBTQI+ community, Lydia is also very passionate about the life changing power of education. To that end, she spends time working with organisations that provide scholarship funds for youth.

Shifting the tide

With so much going on in the world, Lydia believes it’s more important than ever for people to help others. “Microsoft has an amazing culture of giving back to the community. They encourage everyone to be involved as citizens as well as employees,” she says. “I’m fortunate to work with incredible people that align around making sure we drive our mission of empowering every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more.” That resonates with her on many levels and she’s come to see that what you care about really can change the world. “I think sometimes we believe we live in isolation from society. But the fact is, we’re all connected,” she says. “And if we're able to reach out and help our neighbor, that makes the world a better place in small and big ways. That adds up. I believe we're best served when we give back to each other. Together we can shift the tides.”

To learn more about Lydia or connect with her, check out her profile on LinkedIn.

It made me feel I wasn’t alone and allowed me to discover that there’s power and strength in our differences.