Viewing Business through an Inclusion Lens: Quick Tips from Maggie Lower

Maggie Lower is Chief Marketing Officer at Hootsuite, a global leader in social media management solutions. In her role as a key member of the executive leadership team, Maggie oversees Hootsuite’s overall brand strategy, communications, events, and more.

Maggie has been a leading voice in the LGBT+ community for many years. She is an executive mentor at RAHM, a global network that revolves around connecting, inspiring and supporting the present and future generation of LGBT+ leaders. Maggie has been named a role model by our sister company, INvolve, in the OUTstanding Top 100 Global Executives List for multiple years.

Audeliss was privileged to facilitate Maggie’s appointment to the Grindr Board this year. We got a chance to get Maggie’s thoughts on the role, navigating a transforming business world, LGBT+ inclusion in business, and more.

Tell us about your path from an inclusion perspective

“From an LGBT+ perspective, I didn’t start my career being fully out. I didn’t feel seen, so I didn’t feel like I would talk about it or wanted to talk about it. The more that I’ve moved through my career and moved into senior rooms, even when it was hard, or even when somebody would have this surprised look, when I would share that I had a wife, instead of the assumption that I had a husband, it became more and more important to me to be out. It was important because there are more people that would reach out to me either privately or in hallways, and say, “wow I don’t think I could do that and I have worked here for X number of years.” That journey of becoming more and more comfortable with being out and really becoming an advocate was when I had to come through my own terms. I think everybody has to do that. Some of us will be more outspoken and some of us will be quietly supportive, the whole spectrum of that is okay.

If you do feel comfortable speaking out, then it’s an important thing to do so that people really understand that there are people in senior roles, executive roles, getting these opportunities, not in spite of being gay, but because that’s part of what they bring to the table. And that’s an important thing for people to see so that they can then aspire to it.”

What are LGBT+ candidates looking for in a company?

“This is not just true of LGBT+ employees, but people are looking for companies that have a clear purpose that they’re willing to stand behind. If you look at any responsible study that’s been done on branding in the last 10 to 15 years, whether it’s B2B (Business to Business) or B2C (Business to Consumer), people look at companies as personalities, and they want to decide if that personality and that fit is there. Employees interact with brands as people. It is critical for companies to not only say what they believe in, but to stand up, even when those beliefs can be hard. If you’re in the LGBT+ community and you’ve experienced discrimination or marginalization, you want to be at a company that’s going to take that stand, even when it’s tough, even when it’s hard. Those are the moments that you build culture. It’s when things are tough. It’s not when it’s easy to just pull back from the tough conversations. That’s an important aspect to being able to attract all kinds of diverse talent. Because I would tell you, even for me, as a member of the LGBT community, I want to know how they’re treating other underrepresented groups. My job isn’t just to be an ally for my community, it’s to advocate for other communities as well. I want to be in a company that’s really going to stand up and say: “we stand for our people in whatever way, shape, form, orientation, color, they come in.”

Can you recall any moments in your career when colleagues were allies for you?

“There have been several, one of the most important allies that I had at a point when I was really trying to figure out how out I could be at work – was a straight white male. He would always tell me to be my authentic self. And the more that I got comfortable with it, the better my work became, the more confident I became in what I was doing. He saw a lot of talent in me. He understood intrinsically that if I could find that voice within myself, I was going to feel better in every area and my life would improve. I’ve had many incredible mentors. That one really came at a watershed moment, and I think about the time that I worked with him, and it really changed the trajectory of how I thought about my career. Those are really important moments.

I think about my current CEO – we had a Pride panel at work last month and he was on the panel when he didn’t have to be. But he joins those types of initiatives as a lifelong learner, he also comes to support me, and that means a lot. It doesn’t matter what level you’re at. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the C-Suite or just entering your career, you want to know that the person you report to sees you. The moments that I’ve felt the most important are the moments when I’ve felt seen.”

What appealed to you about the Grindr Board?

“I have a busy job that I very much love. There is a trend where boards are skewing towards recruiting directors earlier, still in their career rather than recruiting people that are retired. More boards want people that have acting operating management experience, which is wonderful, but you’re taking that on in addition to a big remit in your current role.

What I found interesting about the Grindr board was the investors, they were incredible. They all had their own authentic reasons for wanting to be a part of Grindr and what they saw as a business opportunity. It’s an incredible business and they run the business with a lot of discipline. They understand their community and they are good to their community. They really cultivate a sense of digital togetherness and connection at Grindr. It’s an opportunity to spend more time doing something that really advocates for my specific community.

I’m excited to learn from the people that are going to be sitting on the board with me. The caliber of professionals that sit on the Grindr board is why I feel very honored to be part of that group. They’re incredible people, but they’re incredible at what they do as well. So that piece of it, I know I’m going to learn so much from being around them, and they have a diverse set of skills and backgrounds, and so I’m just excited for that exposure.

The other piece is that I’m in the social media space and Grindr is a connection technology, and they’ve done an extraordinary job of thinking about community since the beginning. I’m excited to learn how they cultivated that and how they think about that. All of my experiences with everyone at Grindr have been great, they’re magnificent people that are really passionate and have specific reasons why they joined Grindr and there’s gravitational pull to that. When you’re around people that are passionate about what they’re doing, you want to be part of that, right?”

Tell us about your experience working with Audeliss

“Audeliss is a firm that I’m very familiar with. I know Suki and I knew that I wouldn’t just be presented as a candidate. I knew if I was the right candidate, I would be advocated for. That’s an important part of the candidate process since there’s so much wonderful talent out there from underrepresented groups. Audeliss does an incredible job of sourcing people that are incredible at what they do. I knew that if they really felt that I was the right candidate, that I would get not only advocacy, but be presented in a fair and genuine way. Audeliss takes relationships with their candidates seriously. If this role isn’t the right one, then they’re still going to keep you in the mix for something else and I value that.

All of us in the market today really want to change the way the recruiting works. It can’t just be transactional, it must be relational, especially as the job market becomes more and more ephemeral.

More people are staying in roles for shorter periods of time and I think the market is getting more comfortable with that. You’re going to work and go back to recruiters/search firms that have your back. And I felt like Audeliss did and I have always felt that way.”

What advice would you give other business leaders on what they can do to ensure they have an inclusive workplace environment?

“We just came off June and celebrating Pride Month is a good start, but being inclusive, it’s like the quote that’s rolling around this year “queer all year” – Pride should be celebrated all year long. I think about the LGBT+ community, I’m not suddenly no longer LGBT+ on July 1 because Pride Month is over. Companies must authentically commit to representation for underrepresented groups. Inclusion has to be a lens through which you make any business decision or investment, and then also how you invest in your people and your employment/talent acquisition strategy. That’s what needs to happen. If you show up once a year and put a rainbow in your logo, it just isn’t going to be enough anymore. It probably never was enough, but there were days when just seeing that rainbow logo felt pretty damn good too. We’ve evolved passed that. The community has a bigger voice and people recognize the buying power of our community now, and they realize we have a lot of choices now.

So, as a business leader, you better find ways to really have inclusion be something that’s visible throughout everything you do.”

Is there anything else you want to share?

“One of the things that I’ve come to be able to articulate better as I’ve moved through my career is that the moments when I do my best work are the moments that I’ve felt the most seen. Companies that take that effort and take that time to really understand their individuals and their communities within the company are going to be the ones that win. Any company today that truly wants to have a diverse employment strategy has to think about how they’re going to create those one-to-one connections with their employees at scale, which is difficult to do. I want to acknowledge that it’s difficult to do, but that’s what the opportunity is for Grindr, just like that’s the opportunity for Hootsuite, and that’s what gets me excited about my roles. How do we make sure that we’re building a brand that people gravitate to and how are we building a culture and a philosophy that people come to? I think that just makes everything easier. Your customers are coming to you because they’re attracted to the way that you think about business problems, and your brand reflects that ethos of inclusion and belonging. Those are very critical elements. I think every company needs to do more, but I try hard to affiliate myself with brands that are committed to that. Even when it’s tough, they’re committed to it.”

Additional thoughts:

“I think that the most important thing to do is not let people think that the work is done. I think that what I worry about every day is that we’re going to have folks that decide they’re tired of hearing about this, or that we’ve done enough. We’re just getting started. Hopefully we’ll evolve to such a point that this doesn’t have to be a carve out conversation. But until that happens, keep holding people’s feet to the fire. Keep recruiting for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and keep pushing people in powerful roles to make space for this conversation continually.”