On March 23, the NC Legislature (NC HB2) passed a controversial piece of legislation in a special session that was quickly signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory. The now controversial “bathroom bill” has engendered a huge and sweeping response from businesses, politicians, and the media. I want to publicly share Pendo’s 100% opposition to NC HB2 and detail the reasons why from our perspective—as a product and customer experience focused company. This is why it took me several weeks of reflection before posting this.
This issue hits me both professionally and personally.
As a company, we don’t stand for discrimination of any form. Everyone is welcome at Pendo and we simply want the best talent. I started a company here in North Carolina because I believe it is a great place to start a business. A double digit percentage of our new employees are new to the state and a majority of our revenue comes from outside of it. We have successfully raised over $11M in capital—most of which was from outside the region and we used that to almost quadruple our headcount. We need the best team members and will continue to recruit nationally. This legislation does not help Pendo raise money, recruit people, or win customers. It has the ability to negatively impact all of those things and distract us from what really matters.
Personally, I am a registered Republican, a Christian, and father of two elementary-school-aged daughters as well as the CEO of a small business. Governor McCrory apparently signed this legislation to protect our children and help small businesses. Looking at my demographic, most would expect me to side with the Governor. Yet, I feel embarrassed and sad and confused that the values I believe in are being perverted for political purposes and perpetuating hate.
But let’s look at the recent news through the lens of a product person and customer experience. As a product person, I constantly have to translate people’s requests (what they want) with their intentions (why they want it). So let’s unpack the issue. Charlotte passed a bill to expand the definition of anti-discrimination to include transgender people. It may not have been perfect legislation but their intention was to create a better environment for those of us who identify with a gender different than their birth gender. Their intention was not to advocate all men using the women’s room. While I’m not 100% certain, I doubt their intention was to change every bathroom in Charlotte nor was it to create an unsafe environment for children. I do understand that these make good sound-bites and quotes though.
We Need To Practice Empathy
Another technique product managers use to solve problems is gain empathy. I understand that many people don’t understand this issue. Many people, particularly those in rural areas, have never met a transgender person. I haven’t had a lot of exposure myself to transgender people either. However, a lack of exposure or understanding isn’t a good excuse for discrimination. I do not know what it’s like to be an African-American, a woman, gay, a Muslim, or transgender. But I do know that we shouldn’t discriminate based on someone’s race, religion, who they like, birth gender, or desired gender—simply because we aren’t like them. That is basic common sense.
Being different is hard. As kids, most of us have experienced this in some form. As a parent, we often encounter situations where our children are teased because they are different at something. I have a lot of empathy for children who face this and parents who help them through it. Parents and children need leaders who help create truly safe environments—environments free of discrimination solely for being different.
Common Sense and Safety Are Not Justifications to Discriminate
The talking points for this bill are all about “common sense” and “safety.” These were the same talking points that the South use to justify discrimination against African Americans in the 60’s. George Wallace said, “A racist is one who despises someone because of his color, and an Alabama segregationist is one who conscientiously believes that it is in the best interest of Negro and white to have a separate education and social order.” It’s the same talking points that opponents of same-sex marriage made during that debate. While I wasn’t born in the South, I live here and raise my children here. Honestly, I’m proud and happy with this decision—it’s a great place to live. The fact is there is a perception that the South is more discriminatory. Our southern forefathers were not on the right side of history, so it’s incumbent on us to take a firm stance against discrimination of any kind for any reasons. Because discrimination is simply another form of hate.
And hate, in any form, is fundamentally against our values—both professionally and personally. So we stand with others in opposition to this legislation and other legislation like it. We hope that true “common sense” will prevail and our leaders will undo this wrong because we (the citizens of North Carolina) are better than this.