‘Acceptance, Community and the Celebration of Our Identities’: Powering Pride All-Year Long

Sponsored by Cummins

Karissa Finicle. Photo courtesy of Cummins.

Karissa Finicle. Photo courtesy of Cummins.

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May 29, 2024 at 1:0PM UTC

As a Senior EEO & Affirmative Action Compliance Specialist at Cummins, a typical day for Karissa Finicle involves “collecting, reviewing, and interpreting data, mainly with respect to our diverse representation in the U.S.,” she tells us. “I partner with HR, Legal, and Analytics professionals to prepare over 100 Affirmative Action Plans and respond to government audits of our data.”

But this is not all that she does! “I also research the latest compliance trends, legislative updates, and ways we can improve the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) of our workplace,” Finicle shares. 

Finicle is also at the heart of a handful of Cummins’ efforts to improve DEI, including their year-long efforts to support the LGBTQIA+ community. For example:

  • Finicle co-leads one of Cummins 13 PRIDE ERG Chapters. “Each chapter plans regular events, shares educational resources, and advocates for LGBTQIA+ initiatives,” explains Finicle. “The Pride ERG also conducts LGBTQIA+ Safe Leader Training virtually, in-person, and in multiple languages. The objective of this training is for employees to learn about LGBTQIA+ Terminology, identify how to respond to anti-LGBTQIA+ comments or actions, and understand the various policies and programs Cummins has that support the LGBTQIA+ community. One such program is the Pride Ally Program, which launched across the globe to provide educational resources and empower individuals to be visible allies.”

  • Finicle served as a Gender Transition Ally to an individual wishing to use new pronouns at work. At Cummins, “a team of Gender Transition Allies from different countries and business units partner with an employee, their HR, and leaders to develop a Transition Plan then provide the support needed to bring that plan to fruition,” she elaborates.  “Actions included in this plan could be name changes in HRIS systems, updating ID badges, and organizing sensitivity training for team members.” Reflecting back on this experience, Finicle says that “it was an amazing opportunity to be an ally to an employee during such a period of change and vulnerability.”

Here, Finicle took time out of her busy schedule to discuss everything from Pride Month to advice for showing solidarity! Keep reading for tips and inspiration…

What does Pride Month mean to you?

To me, Pride Month means acceptance, community, and the celebration of our identities. I first became involved in the Cummins PRIDE ERG as an intern by volunteering to walk in the Indy Pride parade. The joy and comradery I saw on display is a special memory that I still treasure many years later. 

Seeing LGBTQIA+ identities celebrated and cherished led me to celebrate and cherish myself. Educational webinars in recognition of Pride Month provided examples of coworkers living authentically and gave me language to identify who I am — a queer woman.  

How is Cummins supporting LGBTQIA+ employees this Pride Month?

Across the globe, we are participating in local Pride Parades and Festivals. In Indiana alone, we will be participating in Indy Pride and Seymour Pride. Over 200 of our employees and leaders will be there in solidarity with our LGBTQIA+ colleagues and community members. Our Corporate Headquarters will be flying the Progressive Pride Flag for the entire month of June. We are also planning a global webinar to discuss the history of Pride Month, how we are celebrating across the globe, and to encourage our employees to get involved. 

This year’s Pride Month theme is “Strength in Solidarity.” What does this mean to you? 

We are stronger when we come together. If we rally together and use our voices, we can make change happen. By showing solidarity and offering a sense of community, we provide safe spaces and shoulders to lean on for folks who need it. When we take those extra few moments to understand someone’s point of view and don’t dismiss their experiences, we broaden our understanding of the world around us and humanize topics that we may have previously felt uncomfortable or closed off about. 

What are five specific ways that allies can show solidarity?

  1. Always use the name and pronouns that people want you to use when referring to them. If you’re unsure what those are, please ask. We will all make mistakes and, if you do, don’t make a big deal of it.

  2. Don’t rely on people from within the community to educate you. Of course, take the time to learn from folks’ experiences and perspectives, but don’t expect them to be your teacher. Individuals are not spokespeople for the communities they are a part of; we all have our unique views and experiences that shape us. Own your own journey and education. Do your research!

  3. Don’t let homophobia, transphobia, and other prejudices go unchecked. Take the opportunity to discuss it in the moment as you would confront all other forms of oppression; it is everyone’s concern, not just those targeted by hateful actions. Even be proactive and engage folks in discussion to ask questions and share your knowledge. 

  4. Remember that you can even be an ally from within the LGBTQIA+ community. We can support and learn from one another. 

  5. Be an engaged ally through action. Find rallies to participate in, contact your legislators, and support LGBTQIA+ organizations in your local communities. 

Finally, do you have any advice for people who are looking to make their company more inclusive? What do you think other companies can learn from how Cummins supports LGBTQIA+ employees?

  • Support and celebrate your LGBTQIA+ employees throughout all the months of the year, not just June. 

  • The impact of having senior leaders engaged in initiatives that support the LGBTQIA+ community is unquestioned; their ability to move mountains and advocate for employees is appreciated. 

  • Pay attention to language. Use gender neutral language any opportunity you can, model that behavior, and challenge the norm.

    • Cummins Pride ERG hosted educational webinars about “Terminology & Definitions”, which covers each letter of the LGBTQIA+ acronym and the difference between sex and gender, and “The Importance of Voluntary Self-Identification”, which promotes the opportunity to self-identify as nonbinary among the other dimensions of diversity in our HRIS system.

  • Get involved in an ERG. And, if one doesn’t exist, create one! 

  • Provide opportunities to educate, ask questions, and simply connect in a safe space.

    • For instance, at Cummins, we offer the Pride Learning Series, which consists of quarterly webinars to discuss a key topic.

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