Happy Pride month! From its origins as a way to honor the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Pride has since grown into a global celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and an important vehicle to highlight the ongoing work necessary to achieve equality for all. That resonates with us at Mend. Promoting diversity and inclusion—and integrating these values into everything that we do—is a core tenet of our culture. In the spirit of Pride, we wanted to give space to two of our amazing employees to share LGBTQ+ perspectives, both personally and as a member of the technology industry. A quick introduction: Miriam Iomin is a security researcher on Mend’s dynamite research team, while Shiri Arad Ivtsan works as a senior director of product management for Mend.
What does Pride Month mean to you? Miriam: Pride month means being seen, not being ashamed of who I am and hiding my true self as I used to before I came out. It also means fighting for basic rights that are still unavailable for many, such as marriage and children. Shiri: For me, the meaning of Pride Month has changed I feel like over the years. When I was younger it was mostly about parties and fun, but now that we’re a “proud family” (my wife, a two-year-old boy, and a girl on the way), it’s much more than that. It’s mostly about the legal rights for families like ours here in Israel. It’s about equal marriage and making sure that my partner will be their legal parent and have equality with regards to law. Finally, it’s very important for me to have authentic representation of LGBTQ families in movies, TV, books etc. so that my toddler doesn’t feel different.
Why did you choose to work at Mend? Do you feel like you are able to be your authentic self-working here? Shiri: I chose to work at Mend because of the industry, the challenge in product management, and the people. I love the culture here, and I feel I can really be my authentic self. Miriam: I worked with Mend for two years before I formally joined the company, and I liked the people, the atmosphere, and the feeling that my work impacts both the company and the community/clients. Yes, I definitely feel free to be who I am here. It is absolutely “normal in the view,” and I openly talk about my experiences and LGBTQIA+ topics with a variety of people at work, which is fun and amazing to see.
What does it mean for you to be your authentic self at work? Miriam: It means being more fun, open, and free and being happy in my environment. Which of course raises my motivation as a result of the above said. Shiri: It means I can tell people about my family, my weekend, and my challenges without hiding anything, and I feel I’m completely accepted and equal.
What encouraged you to be your authentic self at work – was there an experience, moment, or encounter that prompted this? Shiri: When I first interviewed at Mend, it was important for me to mention that I’m lesbian. It’s similar with every new workplace, just to make sure I work in an environment where this is a non-issue. I completely got this feeling from everyone at Mend, from that first interview to now, after almost four years in the company. Miriam: Frankly, I came out super late at the age of almost 25 because I didn’t want to destroy my parents’ lives. When I came out (they were the first to know) nothing else mattered—once they knew, I was free. My friends and workplace never bothered me, and it was always a positive experience telling them. My attitude since coming out is that if and when relevant, I will mention my orientation. If anybody feels uncomfortable with it, that’s their problem. I am who I am, and not afraid nor ashamed about it anymore.
What advice would you give to an LGBTQIA+ person entering the tech workplace today? Miriam: Well, the advice is non LGBTQIA+ specific, but I believe that a person should never stay in a place where they can’t be themselves. Always be who you are and choose an environment that lets you be yourself and bloom. Shiri: Just try to be yourself without hiding anything; most workplaces, at least in the center of Israel, are very open and accepting.