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Julie Gustafson: An LGBTQIA+ Workplace Summit Led Me to Realize That DEI Can be Life-or-Death

6/8/2023

Samsung is continuing to make progress on our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey towards driving meaningful change. And we want to spotlight the DEI champions within our organization that have been and continue to be instrumental in enabling us to make an impact and helping to create a rich sense of belonging where everyone can thrive.

Timed to Pride Month, annual celebration of the many contributions made by the LGBTQIA+ community to history, society, and cultures worldwide, we sat down with Julie Gustafson, Senior Director of Retail CX Design and a member of not one but two Samsung employee resource groups (ERGs). Here’s what she had to say about DEI

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1. What does diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mean to you, both personally and professionally?

Diversity, equity, and inclusion hold immense importance to me, both on a personal and professional level. DEI are my guiding principles that have shaped my belief and professional endeavors, and I actively promote these principles to create a more inclusive and equitable atmosphere. I love learning about and celebrating people’s qualities, perspectives, and experiences that make us unique and different. I make every effort personally and professionally, to ensure everyone has equal opportunities and access to resources regardless of background or circumstances, and work hard to foster an environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

2. What has been your greatest learning or most exciting experience in your career journey as it relates to DEI?

I was lucky to attend an Out & Equal Workplace Summit in 2019 with a cross-functional group of Samsung members. While sitting in a room with over 6,000 professionals, I was blown away by the participation in an exercise about inclusion in the workplace and belonging for all. During one of the sessions, everyone received a snowflake template and was asked to write a personal or professional struggle they have experienced. Each person crumbled their snowflake up into ball and threw their snowball anywhere in the room. The speaker then asked everyone to grab a snowball and read the snowflake message out loud at our tables. I will never forget the message I picked up. It was about a person who tried to end their life the week prior because of how others in their workplace made them feel like they did not belong. To my dismay, there were several of these types of messages. That was the first moment that I realized how important DEI is to an organization. It was also the greatest professional and personal learning I have ever received from a conference. Everyone matters!

3. What obstacles have you overcome as an Asian lesbian in the technology industry?

Early on in my career, I used to be extremely cautious when speaking about my family or background. In fact, I was once asked during one of my first leadership positions to not be an emotional woman and not to talk about my partner at work. It took me years to overcome the fear of sharing my authentic self in the workplace. Interestingly enough, I did not hold back in sharing these details at Samsung during my introduction email to my team nine years ago. Even though Samsung was still in the early stages of its DEI journey and prior to the formation of our ERGs, I was never treated as if I did not belong.

4. How have the views of diverse people enhanced your work or work experience?

I have grown so much as a leader and contributor because of the perspectives and views of many diverse and creative people at Samsung. People ask me all the time if I like working at Samsung and the answer is always yes. The unique insights, diverse thinking, and innovative solutions have enhanced my capabilities to drive change and growth in my career. I don’t just like working at Samsung, I love working at Samsung because of the diverse and talented people that surround me every day – and I, in turn, proudly support their talent and contributions.

5. What’s one simple way your fellow colleagues can turn allyship into action?

As a woman, a mother, and a leader, I have faced numerous challenges throughout my career, and my successes in life are because of the community that surrounds me. In both my personal and professional life, I have a community that supports me when I need help, celebrates me when I am successful, and walks beside me through the daily grind. The Women+ in Samsung Electronics (WISE+) and the LGBTQIA+ Equality Alliance ERGs at Samsung have been a part of my community and I am grateful for the significant role they’ve played. While belonging to an ERG is not a requirement, colleagues can turn allyship into action by joining these groups and helping us advocate for education programs, awareness building events, and strategic decision-making that makes DEI a core value.

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