“I really hope that by being out the way I am, all the people who work with me can feel secure enough to do the same and be the same”
BY DYLAN MANN-HAZELL
Norah Memran, Senior Operations Manager at Oracle, spoke with myGwork about the inclusive culture at Oracle, the inspiring work she does for Foundation Le Refuge, and the future focus of LGBTQIA equality in France. She provided an enlightened perspective of how workplace openness has evolved, and the specific steps that Oracle has taken to improve inclusivity and combat discrimination.
Having lived in Paris for most of her life, Norah quickly adapted to the busy, rather chaotic lifestyle that comes with growing up in the capital. This alone may have helped prepare her for the stress of undertaking three master’s degrees – yes, three – during her early adulthood. However, she also admitted that she may have been making use of her parents’ generous offer to aid her financially as long as she was still in education – making the most of the fun student life while she could. Soon after she entered her first job as an accountant, working in various similar roles until joining the team at Oracle. Some 17 years later, Norah is a confident part of the company, pushing for improvements in diversity and inclusion at the firm.
Multinational computer technology corporation Oracle has incorporated methods for all employees to express their identity and individuality. Norah spoke with pride about the ‘Safe Place’ meetings that take place at the company, where a different panel is held every month. From supporting Black Lives Matter to discussing what it’s like to identify as a woman in the tech industry, to encouraging LGBTQIA openness, and much more, these panels exist to pave the way for employees from all backgrounds to bring up any topic they wish to talk about. Not only does this allow for growth in the company, it also provides an opportunity for people to understand different perspectives, In some cases, it has even allowed staff to come to terms with new things about themselves, revealed Norah. It also sparked a standout moment in Norah’s career so far.
“The first one that we did was ‘What It Is to Be an LGBTQIA Person Working in a Company’, and I presented in front of 600 people,” said Norah. “And that was awesome. Just to see people’s questions, people realizing a lot of different things.”
These meetings also allow perfect opportunities for employees to bring up any issues they’re experiencing at work. Whether it’s how they’re being treated, or a suggestion of how attitudes can change, Norah observed that the culture at Oracle is full of understanding. “Every time you bring a topic on the table, and you explain that this is not normal, they’re available to listen and work with you to get better,” she revealed. “It’s awesome because you can see a lot of ways to improve a lot of different aspects.”
This open atmosphere at Oracle was instantly beneficial to Norah’s mental well-being and confidence upon joining the company. Her first boss openly identified as a lesbian, meaning there was no question of discretion when it came to discussing her identity. “She let me open up. And that was amazing, because my wife and my kids could come to the office, and we could talk about it, and we could invite them over for dinner at my house.”
Beyond joining in with the progressive culture at Oracle, Norah dedicates much of her time to supporting Foundation Le Refuge, an association created to help house homeless LGBTQIA youth in France. Whether they’ve been kicked out of their homes for how they identify, or found it difficult to keep a stable career whilst being openly LGBTQIA, the foundation seeks to provide temporary shelter and the means to support victims of LGBTQIA-phobia. It is for her commendable efforts in supporting this cause that Norah was recently named one of the Top 25 influencers in France, becoming a recipient of the LGBTQIA Leader Award from Isabelle Rome, Diversity Minister and Delegate to the Prime Minister. Following on from this incredible achievement, Norah continues the fight for social equality and justice for LGBTQIA youth in France, unwavering in the help she provides for Foundation Le Refuge eleven years after joining.
Norah’s involvement in this admirable cause stems from reflecting upon the instant acceptance her family showed her when she came out, and in turn wanting to help those who weren’t so lucky. Witnessing the controversial reaction to the legalization of same-sex marriage in France also sparked inspiration in her to take action against those who sought to bring harm to the community. She spoke about the injustice of those detractors: “Seeing those people striking and walking in the street because they didn’t want to consider my family as a family… I was thinking, ‘How can they go and talk about my life without knowing my life?’.”
Considering the future of LGBTQIA equality in France, particularly in the workplace, Norah shared her belief that true progression lies in creating a space where people feel included. In particular, creating a healthy environment that doesn’t cause people to hide their identities out of fear of judgment or discrimination. Not only would this benefit millions of LGBTQIA people across the country, but Norah explains how a concerted effort to achieve workplace inclusivity would also be advantageous for business success. If the amount of energy spent worrying about being closeted can be eradicated, then work efficiency by focusing on the task at hand will naturally improve.
“If you think about how hard it is for someone to go to the office and make sure that they don’t say something about their life, or that people don’t find something on their Facebook page, or that they don’t say the wrong pronouns when talking about the person they’re living with,” she explained. “That’s so much energy they have to spend in fear of not being discovered. By offering ideas, you can open minds on topics that haven’t been considered. Making sure that people are willing to spend more time doing good work, and feeling like part of something, is where we can get a better, more successful business.”
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