How to be an LGBTQIA+ Ally: Q&A with Trac Pham, CFO

Synopsys Editorial Staff

Jun 23, 2022 / 6 min read

It’s June. And, for the northern hemisphere, it’s the beginning of arguably the best season of the year: increased daylight hours, summer vacations, Shakespeare in the park, music in the park (nearly anything in the park), fresh, phytochemical- and antioxidant-packed health bombs (aka seasonal fruits and vegetables), natural Vitamin-D infusion….and PRIDE.

It’s all about goodness. The best part is that everyone can partake.

Pride month is the entire month of June. (And Pride month is not only for all-points north but all-points south, too!) It’s a time to celebrate and commemorate the impact of LGBTQIA+ individuals around the world and to acknowledge their struggle to achieve equal rights. Community is critical for getting us all to a better place, which is why Synopsys has an active and growing Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG). Our Pride ERG provides support for Synopsys LGBTQIA+ employees and opportunities for advocacy and empowerment both inside and outside of the company. In addition to those who identify as LGBTQIA+ at Synopsys, allies are welcome to join.

One such ally is Synopsys CFO Trac Pham. In honor of Pride month, we recently sat down with Trac to discuss diversity and inclusion, what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQIA+ community, and his role as executive sponsor of our Pride ERG. Here’s what he had to say.

Q&A with Trac Pham

Q. Why do you think inclusion and diversity are important?

A. As an immigrant and as someone from a poor background, I often felt different because of who I was and where I came from. Now, in my position at Synopsys, I have a sphere of influence. I want to use that influence—do whatever I can—to make change for others who may feel different.

To me, inclusion and diversity are about creating space where people can feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves, regardless of what their background is or how they look or what their identity is. And from an organizational perspective, I want to create an environment that’s a true reflection of the bigger community that I’m a part of.

Diversity and inclusion are also good business because they are a way for Synopsys to differentiate through recruiting and retention. My hope is that by building on this culture, we are able to not only broaden our talent pool, but also retain that talent and further strengthen the fabric of our organization.

Q. How did you become the executive sponsor for the LGBTQIA+ ERG at Synopsys?

A. To be very open, while inclusion and diversity are super important, the focus has not been an urgent priority. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very passionate about driving inclusion and diversity. But over the years, as committed as I was to improving inclusion and diversity, it got shifted around other work priorities. So, the change you’re after ends up being slow. If you’re far behind, you can’t simply keep pace with what you’ve been doing in the past. You’ve got to accelerate simply to catch up, much less get ahead. That’s why I created a diversity task force in the CFO organization a couple years ago, and I’m thrilled with how far those leaders and my broader staff have driven improvements in our diversity since then. ERGs are helping to throttle us up closer to where we want to be.

Martin Tobias, on the Finance team, and Maatia Rickard in our Software Integrity Group, are co-leads for the Pride ERG at Synopsys. Martin is on my team, but I hadn’t known he was the co-lead of the Pride ERG. I learned that there were a lot of people on my team involved in various ERGs, but I was particularly struck with Martin’s passion when I inquired if the Pride ERG was getting the support they needed at the corporate level. That’s when I learned they were looking for an executive sponsor. The whole group has amazing energy. I like to spend time with them. I have particular respect for Martin and Maatia who bring such great, positive energy to the effort. That was the catalyst. We are lucky to have Martin and Maatia co-leading this ERG. They are fun, dedicated, passionate people who on top of their regular workload have committed to this work. They are doing an amazing job, not only supporting the community, but also making Synopsys a much better company!

Q. Has your allyship taught you anything new about the LGBTQIA+ community?

A. I like to think I’m open minded and supportive. But when Martin spoke at one of our leadership sessions about what the ERG means to him, it deeply moved me, and it opened up my awareness even further. He spoke with a raw sincerity conveying how the ERG speaks to him of safety. Then he described his own experiences: simple stuff, like coming into work on a Monday and having a colleague ask what he did over the weekend. And there was this whole thought process that would go on in his head before he answered, assessing whether or not it was safe to say. For instance, if someone asks you about your spouse or your partner, but you’re a man and your partner is a man, you may not feel safe revealing that. I learned that there’s always this subtext of intellectualizing in relating to others. There are concerns of judgment—or much worse—that could have real-world impact on lives and futures.

I additionally realized that while I may feel comfortable with LGBTQIA+ people in my sphere who would tell me what they did over the weekend (with any partner, regardless of gender), I always assumed they felt comfortable with me, too. And I learned that I can’t assume that. Because of the history of how LGBTQIA+ people have been treated, because of a lack of acceptance, because of potential danger from mild slights, or professional impacts, even physical harm. They must be on guard in how they relate and share their experiences. Even though we are here in 2022, and it’s more acceptable, the LGBTQIA+ community must still be vigilant about playing that game in their head, assessing the context, doing the calculus about what they communicate—Asking questions such as, Is it safe? Is it appropriate? How much can I be myself?

That gave me pause to think about the chasm of perception in relationships. It also made me think about all of the things I have taken for granted, and how I can help bridge those chasms to build a more accepting environment at Synopsys.

Q. Are you doing anything special for Pride month?

A. I’ll say this—I’ve got my house decorated. We had an ERG party on campus about three weeks ago. We’ve got Pride ERG swag all over my house, flags planted everywhere, stickers on my wife’s coffee mug, and various notebooks. Then when our friends come over or my kids’ friends come over, they see it—it’s there.

Q. How can other allies get involved?

A. Whether it’s the Pride ERG or another ERG that calls you, if your company has an ERG that’s open to allies and you care about diversity, I encourage you to get involved. Show up. At Synopsys, it doesn’t matter if you identify as LGBTQIA+ or not. Simply provide your support, because that’s what it’s about. Let them know you’re a colleague who wants to help and engage in meaningful fun. There are some really weighty conversations and serious and important work that happens in the ERG, but the overall vibe is joyful. Martin likes to get the energy going with great music as folks are logging on to various ERG Zoom meetings.

And to those in the wider world, look for ways you can support the LGBTQIA+ community. Some ways can include donations or volunteering with an LGBTQIA+ organization, or through educating yourself about LGBTQIA+ terminology and identities, or by being visible as an ally within your professional, religious, and social communities. It doesn’t have to be a heavy lift, it can be something small. Just participate. My message to allies is that it will be more rewarding than you could know.

Beyond that?

If you’re new to the Synopsys Pride ERG, just be prepared…you’re gonna have a blast.

Learn more about the Pride ERG and other Inclusion & Diversity Resources at Synopsys. 

#SynopsysPride #PrideMonth #LGBTProud

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