Why TaxJar Became an Obvious Choice for Me and a Diverse Group of Employees

by Carolyn Urban June 28, 2019

TaxJar Pride Zoom
As the vice president for TaxJar’s Customer Services Organization, I take pride in overseeing the voices and communications that are the front lines to our customers. Our team is responsive, positive, helpful, and reflects the happy place where we all work. 
Unfortunately, not all workplaces are as positive as TaxJar, nor as inclusive. As a relatively new employee, I had the luxury of scouting my next professional home based on my personal and professional beliefs and interests. Once I found a place at TaxJar, I began thinking about what made other teammates choose to work here. 
Below are some candid conversations with a few of my coworkers who openly identify as LGBTQ+. In honor of Pride Month, we’re excited to share our thoughts around what we look for from diversity and inclusivity within the workplace. I am beyond thrilled to report TaxJar meets these requirements (and then some) with flying colors. While our backgrounds are all unique, we share a common thread of wanting to work somewhere where our differences bring us together, rather than divide, and yet aren’t a differentiator when it comes to our ability to perform professionally. 
What I Look for in a Company 
When I began my latest job search it was important for me as someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ to look for a place where I can be my authentic self every day. To me, that means I can socialize with my colleagues and talk about my family without fear of judgment or repercussions. It means that I will be evaluated based on the merits of my work, leadership, individual and team performance – not on any other factors. 
Earlier in my career I was more cautious so that I would not be pigeonholed or seen through a lens of prejudice. I wanted to be accepted and given a chance to develop into a leader, without any concerns that my orientation was different from most folks in the office. So, while I did not hide or lie, I also did not offer up many personal details. I let my work do the talking. 
I asked our Director of Information Security, Jennifer Carati, how TaxJar became her future employer:

I wanted to make sure I align with the leadership and their values, the company’s vision, the technology, and the culture. However, I’ve learned that over the years, having a cultural fit and being in an environment that is open and inclusive are ultimately key to my growth, success, and sanity. 

Why is this so important to you?

In my first job right out of college, feeling like I was not able to share my personal life or be my true self around my colleagues affected me both mentally and professionally. There was this “extra” weight I felt I had to carry into work every day. Knowing I would have been accepted and welcomed by my colleagues for whom I was 12 years ago is something I certainly wish I had and why it’s one of the main things I look for in a company.

How has TaxJar proven to be an accepting and welcoming employer?

It was obvious to me from the very beginning of my conversations with the leadership team, that this was a place that not only accepted everyone but also welcomed them. Shortly into starting as a full-time employee, a LGBTQ+ employee resource group was created. This gave me an even bigger sense of community and openness that I haven’t had in the workplace before, and for that I’m grateful and happy to be a part of it!

My coworker Jonathan Hinkle, software engineer, who has been at TaxJar for almost three years, shared his thoughts around what he wants from a workplace.

At the bare minimum, I look for a company where I can mention my partner very early on without any weird reaction from the person I’m talking to, which would be an immediate dealbreaker. I’ve been working hard since adolescence to build a world for myself where I don’t have to be thinking about my sexuality all the time: from where I live, to where I spend time socially and online, and in my workplace. Seeing LGBTQ people in leadership roles is an even stronger signal, and knowing that I won’t be the only LGBTQ person at a company is always a nice bonus. 

What does this ultimately mean for your productivity as an employee?

Having to maintain a constant awareness of your difference and self-filter the things you say to avoid conflict is exhausting. Having to deal with whatever conflict that that provokes would certainly be no less exhausting. I want to minimize the number of exhausting things I have to do during the time I spend at work. This way I can focus my mental energy on doing the work instead of on making homophobic or homo-queasy people comfortable and/or keeping myself safe.

Is there anything else that stands out to you as a red flag when job-hunting?

I look for evidence of other -isms (like racism and sexism) causing issues at the company. This functions as a sort of canary to warn me of the danger: if a company can’t deal with sexist behavior appropriately when women are half the population, why on earth should I think that they’ll be able to deal with homophobic behavior successfully when we’re a much, much smaller portion of the population?

My coworker, Heather Wilson, and I chatted as well around company culture for LGBTQ+ employees. Below are her thoughts on where TaxJar aligns with her needs.

Something I love about TaxJar is the  trial period. Both parties are making sure it’s a match  and that’s a great thing. It gives you time to observe. When teammates who identify as male  speak can openly talk about their husbands and teammates who identify as female can announce they’re dating a new woman, and it’s greeted in the same way a cisgender and/or heterosexual person announces similar news?  This is what I want to see.

What about company culture is important to you?

Company culture is such a buzz phrase these days, but I immediately check out a company’s culture online, as much as is available. Are social and corporate responsibility policies in place? And if not, is the company willing to explore the topic and have discussions, even if they’re hard? Are they just checking a box, or does leadership really care about making sure ideas and conversations include everyone in the company? Do colleagues just tolerate each other or is there a mutual working respect where ideas are valued and shared no matter who they come from? Do teams celebrate each other, openly? Does acceptance  come from all  sides? When I observe that these things are happening, I know it’s likely going to be a good match.

These conversations had me thinking about not just how we think about the workplace when we’re seeking a new position, but once we’re hired, how does the business highlight diversity and not just tolerate, but truly include everyone. Below are more thoughts from my teammates on these topics.

In talking with Jonathan around inclusion, he said:

I like to think of inclusion as the leveled-up form of “tolerance.” There was a time (not all that long ago!) where the LGBTQ+ movement was focused on gaining “tolerance,” but I was never really keen on that term. “Tolerance” seemed like a low bar, given that we usually “tolerate” something unpleasant — construction noise, a toddler’s tantrum, a mild cold, a crummy roommate because it’s only for another couple of months. No one wants to feel as though they’re merely being tolerated, endured, put up with, or coped with — they want to feel accepted and included. “Inclusion” to me means being fully accepted as a natural part of social group.

Similarly to Jonathan’s words, I found it interesting that Heather also gravitated toward the word tolerance:

When in a Diversity and Inclusion group like the one TaxJar has, I can openly state I identify as cisgender, bi-sexual, and I’m married to a man. No one judges me or asks me inappropriate or suggestive questions, and that’s meaningful. I also observe the dynamic between men and women in the workplace. 

This led me to ask why diversity and inclusion, which means obviously more than tolerance, are so important to my coworkers. Jonathan’s thoughts are below:

Humanity is—undebatably!—incredibly diverse. That means that any time you see a sizable but homogeneous group, there are forces working actively to exclude certain types of people from that group. One of the most core beliefs is that equitability is important. I firmly believe that my life is no less valuable (nor any more) than any other person’s, so I think that we all deserve the same opportunities, sense of community, and respect. I think that active efforts working toward diversity and inclusion is the only way to get there. You cannot provide equitable opportunity, community, and respect to others without including them.

Closing Thoughts
These conversations have been so insightful that I’m so thankful to have found an employer in TaxJar that provides a safe place for folks like me to find community. For that reason I am very proud to be a founder of the LGBTQ+ employee resource group at TaxJar. We are not only building great sales tax software, we are doing so in a super-inclusive culture that values you, whoever you are. 
Hearing from my colleagues has made me grateful for not only working with such talented and incredible people, but for TaxJar’s efforts toward creating a fully-remote workplace that values the heritage, orientation, beliefs, and backgrounds of our entire company.  If you’re looking for an inclusive work environment, TaxJar is hiring. Come join us! 

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