On Wednesday, November 16, 2016, Dow Chemical Company hosted Ally Coming Out Day at their Collegeville campus. OUTWORD.Today was in attendance and had a chance to chat with Dow Chemical’s GLAD team about the purpose of the event, Dow’s history supporting LGBT rights and inclusion, and future goals for the LGBT Employee Resource Group.
Can you share with readers the history of the Dow Chemical/GLAD partnership?
GLAD is one of eight diversity employee resource groups (ERG) at Dow. It was formed in the year 2000 by a handful of employees. Today, GLAD is the largest ERG at Dow with 24 chapters and more than 3,000 participants at 118 different Dow sites in 35 countries around the world.
The vision of GLAD has always been to foster a safe, inclusive, supportive and open working environment for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. GLAD is not exclusive to LGBT individuals; we welcome all who support LGBT rights and fair treatment. In fact, over 80 percent of GLAD participants are allies (someone who is not LGBT, but supports and/or advocates for fair and equal treatment of LGBT.)
How do you support your local LGBT community?
Dow promotes a fair, diverse and inclusive society with a three pronged approach. We provide financial support to communities, employees volunteer their expertise and time, and we actively engage on public policy and proposed legislation to ensure equal rights, fairness and opportunity for everyone.
What benefits are offered to Dow Chemical’s LGBT employees that are not always offered through other companies?
Dow offers the same benefits to all of its employees and was the industry leader in 2000 when it first extended health care benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partnerships. Dow recognizes that LGBT employees are parents too and extends the same parental leave policies to all employees regardless of sexual orientation. We fully support and embrace our transgender employees with
We fully support and embrace our transgender employees with industry-leading benefits, including medical benefits for transition-related surgeries for employees and their dependents.
For all of our policies and practices related to LGBT equality, Dow’s received 11 consecutive 100% Corporate Equality Index scores from the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization.
What types of events do you host throughout they year focusing on LGBT inclusion?
We host a wide range of events locally with regard to LGBT inclusion. One of our big events this year was “Ally Coming Out day” which is a spin on “Coming Out Day”— where we look to educate and celebrate the impact of allies in the workplace for our LGBT colleagues.
We participate in GLAAD’s Spirit Day, which is a national campaign where participants are encouraged to wear purple to raise awareness for bullying within the LGBT community. This year we hosted a “photo booth” where employees showcased their purple attire and enthusiastically unified around the anti-bullying message.
In conjunction with our other Dow sites in the Delaware Valley, we also participate in a number of Pride activities including Philadelphia and Chester County Pride as well as supporting/volunteering at the Attic Youth Center. Partnering with PFLAG, Dow employees raise funds for a scholarship to support students who demonstrate a particular interest and expertise in STEM while demonstrating an interest in service to the LGBTQ community.
Tell us a bit more about the Ally event that you hosted last week?
Ally coming out day is a twist on “Coming-Out Day” – an internationally-recognized civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). This event gives employees the chance to hear the impact allies have on LBGT coworkers. Our program consisted of an overview of the GLAD employee resource group, the message of the business case for diversity and inclusion, an interactive Q&A highlighting some surprising and startling facts about the protections and realities for LGBT workers across the US. For example, “how many states is it legal for an LGBT person to be fired simply for who they are? (Answer: You can be fired in 29 states (16 if you are a public employee)). Statistics like these can be very eye opening, especially because our corporate policies uphold the protection of LGBT employees in the workplace even when state laws might not. Additionally, we had two employees share their personal experiences as both an ally and LGBT employee on the importance of having strong allies at work as well as at home.
How were the speakers chosen?
Our goal from this event was to have a broad, diverse range of employees participate, both on stage and in the audience. On stage, we had a number of employees who have been longstanding supporters of the GLAD network. This event was a chance for them to explain to their coworkers why they were so passionate about their support of diversity and inclusion.
In the audience we had over 75 employees, representing various job function (global leaders, people leaders, scientists, administrative professionals, etc.) and orientations (LGBT and ally). That level of visual support and diversity of backgrounds really speaks to the commitment at all levels of our organization to diversity and inclusion.
Since this was the first event of it’s kind, do you feel that it was successful and what would you like to add or change next year?
I think this event was a huge success—we had great participation and I think we really drove the message home of the importance of allies in the work place.
For next year, I would like to see our GLAD team here in Collegeville driving a conversation regarding transgender issues in the workplace. Dow has comprehensive, inclusive policies for transgender employees and I see this as being a great way to educate our community.
Why does Dow invest so much in diversity?
It’s quite simply the right thing to do. And there’s a very strong business case for diversity. Data shows that diverse and especially inclusive workplaces are more innovative and productive. Employee engagement is higher in an inclusive workplace, which has benefits for not only recruiting but also retention of employees. To succeed in this global environment, we must have dedicated colleagues from all walks of life contributing to their full potential.