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The Trade Desk’s Julie Kirkham on the power of allyship in a ‘rainbow family’

In partnership with myGwork

By Dylan Mann-Hazell

A family hug in front of a sandy rock
Julie Kirkham and her family [right] (Image: Provided)

myGwork sat down to talk to Julie Kirkham, GM of Learning and Development at The Trade Desk about allyship, supporting her family, and building inclusive workplaces.

Small-town America brings its limitations for representation, especially for the LGBTQ+ community. Growing up with an identical twin sister and a younger sister in Elk Mound, Wisconsin (population 700), Julie tells us: “I was surrounded by many outdated opinions about relationships, sexuality, and identity both at home and at school. Fortunately, my twin and I were voracious readers and were able to often travel much farther outside of our community and norms to different ways of living, working, and identifying thanks to many wonderful writers.”

Today, Julie is the proud wife and mother of a rainbow family, with her husband and children all identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community. Even their dog, Wellington, goes by they/them pronouns. “Who are we to say how they identify?” asks Julie. This decision is also to honour and support Julie’s son, who is non-binary, as well as to enable the family to educate others in their community when walking Wellington.

“To be an ally isn’t just to confront your own feelings or your own opinions”

“My allyship doesn’t just stop with my family,” Julie says. She recalls a recent Uber ride where the driver asked how she planned to “correct” her daughter upon learning Julie’s daughter identified as a lesbian. Julie took the opportunity to share that our job as parents is to support our children and show them what love looks like: we can’t truly control or correct anything beyond that. “To be an ally isn’t just to confront your own feelings or your own opinions, or even to just get comfortable with them. It’s to welcome the rainbow in your life and to walk the world like a disco ball, amplifying, mirroring, and spreading that rainbow for all the people you love.”

Close crop of a smiling woman's face
Julie Kirkham (Image: Provided)

At The Trade Desk, Julie is the GM of Learning and Development, a role she cherishes. When asked to pick a stand-out moment in her career, she highlights work she’s done with Diversity & Inclusion teams. In a previous organization, Julie partnered with a theatre group in Minneapolis called Breaking Ice, which performed pieces based on interviews with employees. “Seeing our own culture and examples come to life in a theatre piece was eye-opening. It made me laugh and cry and highlighted all the ways I’ve inadvertently made a mistake in my language, made an ignorant assumption, and so on. It opened my eyes to my privilege, whiteness, and identity in a way that no other class, course, or conversation had up until that point.”

“Love and care are the goal”

At The Trade Desk, Julie says inclusion is embedded from day one. “Your preferences, your pronouns, your relationships, your identity—we see and value them all as a part of who you are. I’ve been able to share proudly about my family and talk with other allies about what and how they champion the people in their lives. It’s the trying that matters. Perfection is not the aim. Love and care are the goal.” It was that same culture that first drew Julie to The Trade Desk, and made it so easy to say yes when she was offered a role. 

A smiling woman with folded arms
“Our children are future bosses, and they’re talking about their identities” (Image: Provided)

Reflecting on business in general, Julie believes that even as we’ve made substantial progress, we still have a lot of work to do. While pronouns in emails and on company channels may be ubiquitous now compared to a few years ago, educating and supporting the workforce is an ongoing job as we strive towards inclusion. “Those with privilege can still decide they don’t care. They don’t need to learn. They get to turn their acceptance switch on or off. Until we change that, we’re relying on the small minority to help shift the tide.” But the tide is shifting, according to Julie.

“Our children are future bosses, and they’re talking about their identities. We have to read up, listen up, and shut up. We need to really hear what our young people (and coworkers) are sharing with us. We need to ask questions and acknowledge differences. I have faith we’ll get there, no doubt.”

The Trade Desk is a partner of myGwork, the LGBTQ+ Business Community. To find out more and to check out their job opportunities, head over to their myGwork profile here.