Oscar Hoglund, Epidemic Sound CEO, Co-Founder and executive sponsor for the LGBTQIA+ Employee Resource Group at Epidemic Sound talks about why leaders have a responsibility to be allies.
It’s Pride and at Epidemic Sound our theme is Be Yourself – that everyone can and should be able to be themselves at work, at home, in the streets…. Anywhere. But in stating that ambition we also recognize that, unfortunately, not everyone has the safe space to be able to do that.
I’d like to set out here why I, as a white, middle-aged, heterosexual man, CEO, and co-founder, feel so strongly that we not only have a duty to be allies and create supportive spaces but, as a business, it’s an absolute no-brainer.
One of my core beliefs as a leader is about being humble. That shouldn’t be interpreted as me feeling unsure about myself or the steeliness of my ambition. It’s about acknowledging that I am not always the smartest in the room: that others bring ideas, energy, and experience that I simply don't have. One of my biggest lessons as a CEO is that it is a diversity of talent that propels companies forward. Without that approach, we just won’t succeed.
I will say, unashamedly, that it was the queer community that sparked my very first awareness of the need for safe and supportive spaces where people can be themselves. As a young man, living in the Marais neighborhood in Paris, I saw just how necessary having their own safe space was for the queer community for their self-expression and confidence.
The sheer radiance and brilliance of the atmosphere there made a huge impression on me, and I have tried to carry that inspiration into Epidemic Sound’s culture – one where we can all be allies by asking a simple question: how can I help? For me, this is what being an ally is about. Being humble, being curious, leaning in, admitting you don’t know, being prepared to ask the questions (sometimes the wrong ones but asked with good intent), and being willing to listen and learn.
That’s why, several years ago, we set up the first of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to provide both a space to support underrepresented groups within our workforce and equally to learn from each other. ERGs support inclusion by providing a safe space for people to share experiences and support each other. They bring new perspectives to management and address important topics for Epidemic Sound and society. And, they enhance diversity and inclusion initiatives by raising awareness and gathering feedback on initiatives/actions.
Our slogan for Pride at Epidemic Sound this year is ‘Be Yourself’ and for all the reasons above, I fully believe that this is where we get the very best from people. Our recent Great Place to Work Trust Index survey results indicated that 89% of employees feel they can be themselves at Epidemic. Our recent DEI mapping scores show that while we have narrowed the inclusion gap for under-represented groups against our average employee experience, there is still a gap and more work to do. We’ve made real progress, but we’re not perfect - the most important part of being an ally in the workplace means understanding that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in a corporate setting isn't a box that can be checked. It's a constant that should be practiced every day, just as we all have the right to be ourselves every day.
I am particularly proud and privileged that, having been turned down on my first application, I am finally the executive sponsor of Queer Epidemic but when I reflect on these scores, I am reminded of the ongoing need to be humble, to be the ally, to question, challenge, listen and learn. We can, and we will do better. We are all – as individuals and companies – a work in progress. Let’s help each other to make that journey together.
Epidemic Sound, the market leading platform for restriction-free music, is headquartered in Stockholm, heard around the globe and on a mission to soundtrack the world.The company has democratized access to music for storytellers. Its innovative digital rights model paves the way for creators - everyone from YouTubers to small businesses to the world’s largest brands - to use restriction-free music to take their content to the next level, whilst simultaneously supporting the musicians it works with both financially and creatively.The company was co-founded in 2009, operates across the globe, and has offices in five major cities: Stockholm, New York, Los Angeles, Seoul and Amsterdam. Epidemic Sound is backed by EQT, Blackstone, Creandum, Atwater Capital, Alecta. AMF, and TIN Fonder and its Chairperson is Andrew Fisher, former CEO and Chairman of Shazam.
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