Squeaky Wheel Activism at Oath
It's clear when talking to Sivan Sabach that she's who you'd want in your corner if you ever faced a problem in the office—or life, for that matter. The Director of OTT Video Strategy, global co-lead of Prism (Oath's LGBTQ employee resource group), and certified badass (if you ask us), Sivan is a passionate crusader for human rights, especially within the LGBTQ community. "I walk the streets feeling very confident that I am safe here, and that's not the case for so many folks in so many places," says the New Yorker.
"I relied on my [LGBTQ] community from a very young age. I think a lot of queers my age—and I'm hoping we're the last generation—do when they come out or are outed," says Sivan, describing how difficult it was coming out at 16. "I think I realized how important our community is and that stays with you. As an adult today who has a great career, a solid life, the love of family and friends, and all the things that really make us who we are, I feel absolutely obligated to give back. Like, it just has to happen."
Pride Month 2018 may be over, but that doesn't stop Sivan, as fighting for LGBTQ equality is a 12 months per year job for her. We sit down to learn more.
Title: Director of Strategy, Video
Office location: New York, NY
Years at Oath: 6
Hometown: Sharon, MA and Tel Aviv, Israel
Activities outside of work: Medium format film photography, darkroom development and printing, kayaking, and dog watching
Three-word oath: Always Stay Curious
You've been a true crusader for LGBTQ equality at Oath. From insisting there are gender-neutral bathrooms in offices, to making sure international offices feel more inclusive, to providing healthcare guidance for gender transition, this work clearly is your passion.
When Rachael Buckner-Carballo (Prism's co-lead) and I sat down for the first time and wrote out what our goals were for the group, one of the first ones was that we want every queer at Oath to feel comfortable being themselves at work. That's a lot easier in New York than in a place like Taipei, or Bangalore, or anywhere like that, but we even still have folks in New York who don't feel comfortable. So that's my main goal—I want people to be able to come to work and be in a safe space.
That's an admirable goal—is it attainable? Especially in international markets where there's less LGBTQ acceptance than, say, a place like New York?
If you are an employee in Taipei and you leave work every day and get fed this message of "Who you are is not okay and who you love is not okay," I don't want that happening in the office. I want you to be able to walk into the office and feel there is a place where you are accepted and celebrated and loved for who you are. That's kind of lofty in a way, but also pretty attainable.
Tell us more about your work for the trans community, like the fight for gender neutral bathrooms that are in some offices.
I want to make sure that queer folks feel like they're at home, that they can be their true selves, that they can—you know—go to the bathroom if they feel like it, and use the right one for them.
We had been talking about gender neutral bathrooms for years and hadn't gotten anywhere. Finally we got on a call with the head of HR, the head of Diversity and Inclusion, and the head of Worldwide Facilities to have a conversation about it and we've since made progress. Currently there are only six or seven offices that have gender neutral bathrooms, but that's better than it was five years ago.
When we go and ask for something, it never like, "No, we can't do that," it's like, "All right, let's talk about it."
That progress is impressive, but it's got to be frustrating too. Don't you want things to move faster
Folks expect these large shifts to happen a lot of the time and that's rarely ever the case. From professional activists all the way down to weekend activists, you really are constantly pushing for tiny, incremental changes.
You just need to be squeaky wheels. You can't be quiet and meek, waiting for your turn when it comes to human rights. It just doesn't work like that.
Now that Pride Month is over, tell us what you're most proud of at Oath.
I'm most proud of the work that we've done to build Prism to make it what it is today. I'm proud to have 15 locations around the world during Pride Month that have the budgets and resources to have significant activations and support and celebrate their employees.
I was looking through the photos everyone uploaded over the past month and was just like, "Oh my god—this is so amazing." You have belly dancers in Tel Aviv to a float in San Francisco to (Chief People Officer) Bob Toohey showing up to a gay happy hour in New York with a drag queen.
That's true celebration to me, which Pride Month is, but it's also the activism. We had people showing up to volunteer and find ways to better their communities during Pride Month.
Those two things are equally important to me and the biggest proud moment at Oath was to see both of those north stars being lit up throughout the month.
It's been great chatting with you. Any advice for others struggling to make change?
Even if nothing happens—even if it takes years—even if it's slow, incremental, tiny little changes, it's the not getting off the mountaintop. Just keep on yelling for a while until someone listens.
Oath's float at the 2018 San Francisco Pride Parade