Pride Month Small Business Highlight: PrideWorks Agency LLC
Nancy Brownlee (she/her) sat down with me over Zoom to talk about her journey of starting a staffing agency catered to helping members of the LGBT community. Nancy has lived in Memphis for 15 years and knows her city like the back of her hand; the bad parts and good parts. She told me that she had spent much of her life trying to fit in. However, Memphis is a unique place filled with remarkable people, so different fits right in.
PrideWorks Agency, LLC was started because Nancy saw a need for someone who understood the struggles of unemployed LGBT community members and someone willing to fight to get people the jobs they deserve. Nancy initially worked for a local Memphis career agency that helps all types of people. Still, she “quickly became the token gay person in the office, and then all of a sudden I’m looking at my caseload, like, these people are having this issue with finding work or at the jobs that we send them to, and so we need to look into finding something more inclusive in terms of employers and for [the potential employees] to just prosper in their jobs.”
PrideWorks Agency became an official business in January 2022 after a few months of Nancy finding job positions for those in need pro bono. She and a small group of her friends work together to “provide affirming, inclusive, and diverse career opportunities for African Americans and LGBTQ+ professionals.” Though the stigma against members of these communities has gotten better over the last decade, many members still face discrimination and prejudice in the workplace and have a hard time finding jobs. Many businesses state that they are inclusive, but Nancy sees through them. She asks the companies why they haven’t hired a diverse staff. Often, these businesses can’t give her a good answer. “Some people do not want to be held accountable,” said Nancy. She then told me about two of her clients, who have 15 years of experience in the healthcare field but cannot find a job because they are transgender.
I asked her what the most significant challenge her clients face is. She told me paperwork and documents; this is an especially tough challenge for those in the trans community. For example, some trans folks will have their name and gender marker legally changed, which can cause problems when trying to get transcripts or other documents from schools. In addition, some of her clients don’t have access to their birth certificates or can’t get them because of their situation. If an employer needs these documents and Nancy’s clients don’t have them, then there is not much she can do to help. She does, however, try to help them start the process of getting the necessary documentation. “Employers and schools do require this information, regardless of whether you’re gay or straight,” Nancy told me, and she’s right. Everyone needs a social security card and a state id.
Finally, I asked her what advice she would give to a job seeker. She said, “go after what you want. Right now in this market, anything is up for grabs.” ‘The Great Resignation’, as businesses like to refer to it, has hit every single type of business across the board, and there are millions of job positions currently available. “Just do it. Apply,” Nancy advises. Many jobs are now work-from-home, making it easier for those who can’t travel to work in an office. Nancy said that it’s about a 50/50 chance of a position being in-office or at home. Now is a great time to apply for at-home jobs, especially for those who feel they might face discrimination in an office setting.
It is essential that job seekers pursue jobs suited for them and where they can use their unique skill set. Unfortunately, it is often harder for members of the LGBT community to find employment due to stigmas and lack of job-seeking knowledge. Do what you can to lessen the stigma and be willing to accept those around you. Everyone deserves a job, no matter their identity.
Do you identify as LGBTQIA+ and are looking for a job? Reach out to PrideWorks Agency, LLC for professional job assistance. Check out PrideWorks Agency on their website, Instagram, and Facebook! Inspired by Nancy and her story? Reach out to The Profit Link today to share your story or to get started writing your own.