Yahoo’s Lisa Moore talks to myGwork’s Pepi Sappal about her commitment to creating inclusive workplaces and opportunities for LGBTQ+ staff.
Lisa Moore is a passionate LGBTQ+ ally. Her commitment to LGBTQ+ matters is evident not only through the work that she is doing with Yahoo’s LGBTQ+ employee resource group Prism, but externally too. As well as supporting her own son through his transition, she is actively involved as vice-chair of the board of the Hetrick Martin Institute, a non-profit organisation providing vital support services to young LGBTQ+ people in New York City and with a specific focus on mental health counselling. As a proud parent of an eighteen-year-old transgender man, Lisa’s first-hand experience of helping young LGBTQ+ people through the many challenges they face – particularly trans, non-binary and gender nonconforming youth – more than qualifies her for the role as Executive Sponsor of Prism. Of course, that’s in addition to her full-time role as Global Head of HR Business Partnering, Talent and People Operations role at Yahoo.
Lisa’s life at Yahoo began around seven years ago in 2014, when she joined AOL in London. In early 2017, when AOL’s parent company Verizon bought Yahoo, she was offered her dream opportunity to move to the US to work on the merger of the two companies. She jumped at the chance, having worked in the HR and diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) space since the mid-1990s (in both the UK and Italy). Lisa’s career story includes a ten-year break to start a family and a two-year stint in Tokyo with her husband on an expat assignment.
“This time, rather than me following my husband’s job, my two teenage sons, husband and dog, followed me to New York,” recalls Lisa. As part of her remit, she’s also responsible for recruitment and learning and development, and her team numbers one hundred across seventeen countries, in addition to her work with Prism.
LGBTQ+ representation comes with different challenges as it’s often an after-thought, with “trans, gender nonconforming and non-binary people specifically being hugely overlooked,” highlights Lisa. “Society assumes that they’re taken care of within the LGBTQ+ acronym, but the ‘T’ in the LGBTQ+ community is, in many ways, considered as the second or even a third-class citizen. There’s some animosity within the letters that make up the group. Just the other day, my son pointed out that it’s taken him a while to realise: ‘the white cis-homosexual is not necessarily my friend and there’s no automatic affinity, sense of support or even solidarity there.’ Additionally, the focus on trans rights only moved into the spotlight in the last couple of years.”
Despite the many challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth, one of Lisa’s missions is to help more marginalised groups, like trans people, find a pathway into employment. “Many trans people suffer from terrible mental health and homelessness after being ostracised from their families,” explains Lisa. “It has been shown that the earlier children can be accepted for who they are, the lower the chances of developing ill mental health and the lower the likelihood of self-harming or – in the worst case – attempts at suicide. We need to work with parents and schools to develop advocacy and create an environment where trans kids are not seen as freaks or something to be feared. If they are accepted by their families, they are more likely to remain in education, where they have the chance to go to college, get a job and lead fulfilling lives.”
It’s about speeding up education and awareness of the challenges that trans people face. “My hope is that we will create the conditions where we see trans and nonbinary people come into the workplace through college routes and through our regular intake of candidates,” Lisa adds. “But the reality right now is that many young people have been so damaged by their experiences, that the adjustment needed to come into a corporate situation is out of the question.”
Lisa believes it’s a question of time, investment and resources for attitudes towards trans people to change. “Education is key,” she stresses. “Unless you’re close to or know a trans person, then you’re unlikely to know what it means to have, say, body dysmorphia or to look completely different from the way you want to. Education is vital, especially in the workplace to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.”
Part of her role in the DE&I space for Yahoo is creating a workplace that drives inclusion and belonging. In September 2021, Lisa created Yahoo’s “Work@Yahoo” vision. The new framework, which Lisa developed, retains the flexibility that employees had throughout the pandemic, allowing people to balance their individual personal needs with professional duties, as far as it relates to picking up kids, caring for any relatives, walking the dog and so on, and staff being able to choose if or when they go into an office.
This vision will not only help Yahoo to retain staff, but also enable the company to cast its recruitment net wider and ensure as much diversity in the candidate pipeline as possible, adds Lisa: “It will allow us to hire talent from places we ignored in the past, both from a geographical perspective, but also from certain under-represented and marginalised groups, such as people with disabilities who may not physically be able to come into an office.”
In fact, work-life balance, flexibility, development opportunities, along with diversity and inclusion, are just some of the working conditions most younger generations demand from employers in the post-pandemic workplace. Lisa admits that finding and recruiting from marginalised groups is tough: “There’s such fierce competition in the market now for talent, as we’re seeing many other companies also turning their attention to inclusion and belonging to attract them.”
Some companies are paying a lot of money to get the “diverse” numbers up first. “The commonly held thought is, if you get the diverse numbers up first, then that itself will create the sense of belonging. But we think about it the other way around,” she explains. “You’ve got to create the conditions where everybody can feel they belong. If you can do that, then you’re more likely to be able to count on word of mouth from your employees to attract talent who will ultimately want to stay with you.”
Given the ignorance and discrimination experienced, especially at work, Lisa is obviously concerned about young people – like her son – going into a workplace and being the first trans person in that office. “I worry about things like the lack of education of the team they’ll be working with, or not having a gender-neutral bathroom for those who prefer to use those,” she explains. “It’s really important to create an inclusive environment first and not rely on your diverse hires to show you the way.”
Yahoo is creating inclusion, especially for LGBTQ+ staff, in several ways. “Job descriptions were reviewed and amended over the last few years to ensure we don’t use aggressive terms or words that exclude certain people. We guide managers and recruiters to ask potential recruits which pronouns they prefer to use. We introduce new hires to our ERGs very early on, to help them understand that there is a supportive community outside of their immediate team and business unit. We focus on manager training and try to reframe the way managers think about hiring decisions as well as focus on providing targeted development for our high potential diverse future leaders.”
Yet, despite these efforts, it’s still difficult to find and recruit LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people, reveals Lisa. “That’s why and where we partner with organisations like myGwork, who not only help us to find LGBTQ+ candidates but also provide guidance on how to create an inclusive environment that supports retaining them.”
That means providing the right benefits too. “Prism is a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to come and share their issues,” says Lisa. She used that opportunity to listen and learn more about some of the specific challenges and needs of Prism members: “One of the things I quickly learnt was that facial feminisation was not included in our company’s benefits policy for male to female transition. So employees were only able to use the insurance policy for chest down surgeries, but that’s not enough for a male to female gender affirmation to be successful. Employees need other things like jaw reconstruction, work done on their cheeks, laser hair removal, etc. Our Prism members wanted an overhaul of our benefits policy related to gender affirmation surgery, so it would specifically include things like facial feminisation.”
Lisa went after this update and expansion of benefits change with a “laser focus”, explaining to her colleagues why this was such a critical piece to include and the change will be reflected in the new Yahoo benefit policy rolling out in September 2022. She intends to look at the entire suite of benefit offerings across the employee lifecycle and collaborate with her benefits team to put together innovative, creative and inclusive packages that reflect Yahoo’s workforce and meet the needs of all staff. Having set up the original women’s group to address the lack of women in leadership positions in the media and tech industries during her time at AOL in London, Lisa is not afraid to challenge the status quo to break down barriers.
Although Yahoo has done a lot of great work around diversity and inclusion, Lisa admits that there’s still a long way to go to really create and sustain a truly inclusive environment, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. “Although we now have the option to add pronouns in signatures and can disclose our sexual orientation or gender identity within our HR systems, not everybody understands why it’s so important,” notes Lisa. “Outside the community, people can feel they are being inauthentic if they use their pronouns. It’s not really about the way they identify though, it’s more demonstrating: ‘I’m aware, I care and I see you’. Like many things, adopting pronouns at work won’t be embraced company-wide unless leaders change their attitudes. So we need to develop our executive understanding around the benefits of using pronouns, and encourage everyone to self-ID.”
“Acknowledging intersectionality is key to creating inclusion,” points out Lisa. She strongly believes that opening up and sharing stories will develop stronger connections between groups. “I was at a leaving party one night, which several other ERG leaders and members attended. I got talking to an African American colleague, who happened to be the global lead for one of our ERGs. Two minutes into the conversation, she told me about her partner, who is nonbinary. Then I shared something I learnt from my son’s nonbinary friends,” says Lisa. “Basically, we found this common ground that we probably would never have identified unless we were together at that moment, sharing stories.”
In short, “it boils down to treating everybody as an individual and allowing them to express themselves as who they are in that moment, by listening to them and their stories,” adds Lisa. She believes it’s only when companies create the space to do that, can they learn and develop the right policies to help LGBTQ+ employees, those with the company now and those who will join in the future, like her son – feel included at work, and giving them the opportunity to thrive, without fear of discrimination.
“Instead of operating in silos and battling for airtime, resources and change, I would like to see ERG groups strategise and collaborate more effectively and share stories that give true meaning behind the word intersectionality,” concludes Lisa. “Every ERG – whatever its ‘affinity’ – is likely to have a member who identifies as LGBTQ+.” Her goal for 2022 is to figure out how to combine efforts to drive change as a unified group rather than through individual silos, without – of course – losing that ability to lift up and celebrate individual differences.
Yahoo is a proud partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ business community.
DIVA magazine celebrates 28 years in print in 2022. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQI media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable.