The Importance of Pride Month, Inclusive Cultures, & Finding Companies That Celebrate Your Full Self

Sponsored by Henry Schein

Karen Goody. Photo courtesy of Henry Schein Inc.

Karen Goody. Photo courtesy of Henry Schein Inc.

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July 25, 2024 at 7:51PM UTC

When Karen Goody started her job search for her second career, she approached the process very carefully. 

“I was looking for a company that I felt would be a great fit for me, not just a job,” she tells Fairygodboss. “For me, being a lesbian has always been an additional point to consider when conducting a job search, and it was most definitely important to me to find a company that would be welcoming and where I could be my authentic self.” 

As Karen explains, this adds another level of difficulty to the job search process — and is a reality for many people in the LGBTQIA+ community.

As it turned out, Karen had connections who told her that Henry Schein, Inc. is an amazing company, and she eventually joined the team as the Telesales Representative for Henry Schein’s Foot & Ankle Division. Karen can confidently say she’s at a company that supports the LGBTQIA+ community in so many ways. 

“Henry Schein has always promoted a diverse workplace culture and welcomed a diverse workforce,” remarks Karen. “The company has won numerous awards for its DEI programs, and our CEO, Stanley Bergman, has been a vocal and visible supporter of all ERGs at Henry Schein. He has been a regular guest and host on many of our PRIDE & ALLIES (Henry Schein’s LGBTQIA+ ERG) speaking engagements.” 

Karen has personal experience with these ERGs herself, being part of and having previously served on the Leadership Committee of PRIDE & ALLIES. 

“I continue to be so impressed by the ability of the group to serve such an extensive workforce all over the country, which now includes our international Team Schein Members,” she explains. “What I really love is the ERG’s focus on being inclusive to all allies and anyone who wants to know more about our community. There are so many people in our workforce with family members who are just coming out as gay, lesbian, trans, nonbinary, etc., and have no idea who to turn to for help. To know that we are offering a lifeline to those people, as well as all employees at the company, makes me proud to be a part of this group.”

Here, Karen talks to Fairygodboss about what Pride Month means to her and how individuals and companies can show solidarity with the LGBTQIA+ community…

What does Pride Month mean to you?

Pride Month means many things to me, and its meaning continues to evolve for me over time.

I’ve been out since age 19, and, like many of us in the community, the meaning of Pride Month was confusing. Honestly, at that age, it was just a month to go to a gay Pride celebration and party. When I attended my first Pride celebration, I was literally in tears, but I didn’t fully understand why. Later, I realized that this was when and where I could really be my full self and see others who were doing the same. It was where I experienced a level of happiness and authenticity that I had never felt in my life. My emotions were heightened that day in a great way, and I will never ever forget that feeling.

Now, I know that I am certainly not unique, and this is why Pride is so important. Living as someone who is different from the “mainstream” is hard, whether you are part of the LGBTQIA+ community or “different” in another way. The toll it takes accumulates differently in all of us, but it’s there whether we even notice it or not. 

If Pride Month helps even one person know that they are not alone and are not only okay the way they are, but celebrated, then Pride Month is something that should never be taken for granted. I celebrate Pride Month and everything about it makes me smile. I will wear the rainbow and be proud of who I am every month, but Pride Month will always take me back to that first time when I was a 19-year-old with very wide eyes full of tears. 

How is Henry Schein supporting LGBTQIA+ employees during Pride Month?

I’m proud to say that my company is very supportive of LGBTQIA+ employees now and for the 13 years I’ve been here. The PRIDE & ALLIES ERG has been in existence now for over three years and is an incredibly active and impactful group. While PRIDE & ALLIES is active all year long, it really steps up during Pride Month. We have well-attended events all month, ranging from Interviews with LGBTQIA+ community leaders and excellent articles to 5k runs and Drag Bingo. 

There is always a nice balance between fun events and education about the importance of Pride Month. The theme of education is so important because many of the issues we deal with involving bias come from a lack of knowledge about LGBTQIA+ issues. We also have a nice focus on allies and why they are important and valued members of the community.

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

For me, this means that we are stronger together. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I feel very proud when I see our community working together for common goals and making a strong showing when called upon. Our battle for equality has been and continues to be a work in progress where we’ve had to be involved in many different venues. Politics, local and federal social causes, and supporting charitable organizations are only a few of the ways that we are all involved in moving the dial forward and trying to resolve the issues facing our community.

Strength in Solidarity also suggests a very important issue, which is supporting those within our own community: the other letters of the alphabet. We must be great examples of supporting and being there for each other while realizing that there is no room for bias. In many cases, we are still learning about each other. Remembering our own journeys is crucial to understanding others within our community. Our strength will always be in standing together and tapping into that understanding to become a great example for others to follow.

What are a few specific ways that allies can show solidarity?

  1. First, seek to be an educated ally. We love our allies just as they are and respect that being an ally can be challenging in some ways. I love to see our allies go the extra step and educate themselves where necessary on areas they may not be completely comfortable with (for example, using proper pronouns). When an ally is educated and can use that knowledge to help others, that person is an even greater friend to the community.

  2. If  you are comfortable, show up, be vocal, and let the people around you know that you are an ally. Many people want to be an ally, but fear that they may be ridiculed or judged in some way. There is power in knowing that allies are out there and proud to say so. 

  3. Join your employer LGBTQIA+ ERG or another local group. Stand in solidarity with the community as part of a group. Our allies are a valuable part of the community and seeing an ally at an event or any gathering always makes me smile.

Do you have any advice for people who are looking to make their company more inclusive?

Be proactive and reach out to Human Resources about what their current diversity and inclusion plans are; this terminology should not be foreign to them. Volunteer to be on the ground floor in starting up a company ERG, and talk to coworkers about helping once you get the blessing to do so. Take an active role in pushing the company in the right direction and engage other employees of the same mindset to help. 

Also, remember that there are always going to be isolated incidents that go against any company’s strong position on diversity and inclusion. There have been a few situations I’ve either experienced or heard about that serve as reminders that this work is never done. As large companies often reflect the actions of society at large, there may always be behavior and incidents that are surprising and frustrating. How a company responds to these incidents is really the moment of truth and the measure of whether they are “getting it right.” In my opinion, a company doing the hard work by creating a diversity and inclusion strategy with people who are sincere in their determination to make it effective is taking a great path toward success

What do you think other companies can learn from how Henry Schein supports LGBTQIA+ employees?

Now, more than ever, it is difficult to find and retain excellent employees. The LGBTQIA+ community is large and full of people who are strong, resilient, and actively looking for companies who will support and welcome them. Our company has benefited immensely from cultivating an excellent environment for LGBTQIA+ employees. We have representation at every level of management and employee groups all over the world. Henry Schein is an award-winning FORTNE 500 company that is quite successful in so many ways, and employee satisfaction is a crucial aspect of any company’s success. Our surveys show that we love our company and are proud to be here. 

Overall, the biggest thing other companies can learn is that supporting any particular group of employees is just the right thing to do.

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