Creating LGBTQ+ inclusive co-op experiences

Beck with children.

Every year the University hosts a two day conference of workshops and keynotes to encourage personal and professional growth of staff at the annual Waterloo Staff Conference. This year one of those workshops, titled “Creating Inclusive Co-operative Education Workplaces: Insights from LGBTQ+ Students,” was hosted by Beck Mallozzi, a fourth-year undergraduate student.

Beck is in her fourth year of studying psychology at Waterloo, and in Fall 2017 she had the opportunity to work at the Waterloo Center for the Advancement of Co-operative Education (WatCACE) as a co-op student. As a research assistant there, she chose to lead her own research project during her work term on the topic of inclusive co-op workplaces for LGBTQ+ students.

A number of Beck’s research participants were recruited from the Glow Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the oldest queer and trans student organization in Canada, whose home is right here on campus as a Feds Student Service.

“My first year at Waterloo was really hard…I found it hard to find my place on campus and I was far too anxious to really get involved in any clubs or activities,” Beck recalls of her early experiences at Waterloo. “When I saw that Glow was accepting volunteers, I decided to apply even though I was extremely nervous about it,” she shares.

Beck went on to spend two years volunteering with the organization, making many friends and developing self-confidence. “I did extra volunteer work whenever I could and really found my place within the LGBTQ+ community on campus,” she says.

While Beck is no longer a volunteer at Glow, she continues to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities wherever she can, and hopes her research will make an impact.

She admits that she was disappointed by the findings of her research and “saddened to learn that so many other LGBTQ+ people had such negative experiences in their workplaces.”

However, Beck says the workshop she hosted at the Waterloo Staff Conference was a success.  “Everyone was engaged and I even saw quite a few friendly faces in the crowd,” she says, and she was happy to see Waterloo staff eager to learn about this topic. “People would come talk to me after the presentations,” Beck says of the participants, “they seemed so eager to learn more, and I was happy to see just how interested everyone was.”

“The unfortunate part is that our presentation was more or less ‘preaching to the choir;’ that is, the people who chose to come to our presentation were most likely already involved in running inclusive workplaces,” she explains. “Regardless, I hope that this research helps people understand just what it means to be inclusive and that it helps workplaces become friendlier toward LGBTQ+ co-op students, or LGBTQ+ people that they hire in general.”

When it comes to advocacy, Beck encourages everyone to move beyond interest to action. “If you feel safe enough to do so, I encourage you to speak up and to become an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community as well.  Or speak up for racial or religious minorities.  Or speak up for children, who often do not have their own voices. I just want everyone to be kind to people, regardless of who they are.”

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