By Josh Stopple, American Family Insurance Space and Relocation Specialist
During LGBT Pride Month, Josh Stopple reflects on his personal and professional journey, supported by his involvement with the company’s LGBTQA Business Resource Group (BRG). A BRG is a network of employees who share a common identity characteristic or set of interests. At American Family, BRGs are made up of employees who volunteer their time and are committed to serving as resources for the organization.
I remember the meeting vividly.
It was 2015 and I’d been with American Family Insurance just a short time. I was “out” to only a handful of co-workers.
I’d traveled over to our National Headquarters from the East Regional Building in Madison and gotten lost in the hallway on the way to the meeting. There I was, sitting in a room with no more than ten other people. All I had to do was introduce myself, but even so, I turned red and my voice cracked.
I thought to myself, “thank goodness I’m sitting down.” It was my first of many LGBTQA Business Resource Group (BRG) meetings, and I was excited to attend. Despite my historic discomfort with speaking in front of strangers, I somehow made it through.
I continued to attend as many of the group’s meetings as I possibly could, helping with committees, meeting new people, and forging new friendships. Eventually, I volunteered to lead a project: our company’s first-ever participation in the Madison LGBT Pride parade.
Flash forward to April 2019. I’m in the fourth month of my two-year term as one of the BRG co-leads, and seated on a panel of five in front of a full classroom of soon-to-be-graduating students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. The topic is “being an out LBGT person at work.”
The questions for our panel ranged from applying for jobs, to the interview process, to how to actively identify the characteristics of organizations that have embraced and championed Diversity and Inclusion, specifically for the LGBT demographic.
I was so excited to talk about everything American Family Insurance has done to meet and exceed my expectations in this area, that I positioned myself at the table to be the first to answer questions.
I talked about the CEI index of Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality that AmFam has worked so hard to achieve and maintain at a perfect 100. And I noted the importance of gender-neutral bathrooms, how to foster inclusive language, and the importance of joining, or even starting a Business Resource Group — also known as an Employee Resource Group — and the amazingly positive impact it can have on your professional and personal life.
Getting in my car afterward to drive back to Madison, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much I’d developed in the last five years; from being terrified to introduce myself at a small meeting, to being so passionate about something that I leaped out first to talk to a group of strangers about it.
June is recognized internationally as Pride Month for the LGBT community, but I think the true message is simply to have pride in yourself and the person you are and what you can accomplish.
We do a lot of great things here at American Family, but none of those things is conceivable without first having a rich and diverse group of people to accomplish them, and support from the organization for us to be our true selves and find our voices.
American Family’s BRG has offered an amazing opportunity for me to develop as an employee, and also as a person. I’ve truly been able to find my voice and the passion and courage to stand out and talk. The opportunity to be a co-lead of the LGBTQA BRG group has been for me, a chance to give that back and encourage others to have the same experience I had.