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We all spend a significant portion of our life at work. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I know that to come to work and perform at my best, it’s important for me to feel comfortable and open with my colleagues. At Nestlé USA, I’ve experienced something beyond acceptance — people who really try to understand and identify with my point of view.
This year, I am proud to see that open spirit reflected in the news that Nestlé USA, Nestlé Waters North America, Nestlé Health Science, and Nestlé Purina have each scored 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index. This is recognition of the tangible efforts the company has made to improve the way LGBTQ employees like myself are represented at work.
As Head of Diversity & Inclusion for Nestlé USA, Elizabeth Marengo understands the benefits of working with HRC: “Having a workforce that is representative of our consumers is what allows us to continue to innovate and make products people love. We must continue providing the best benefits for our employees and their families — I am thrilled to see the positive impact our workplace culture and benefits are making.”
Nestlé’s diversity and inclusion efforts reflect an evolving consumer base, a better understanding of how diverse voices drive innovation, and a firm belief that supporting minority groups is just the right thing to do.
LGBTQ employees at Nestlé are fortunate to have workplace protections and enjoy an inclusive environment, but it’s important that we leverage our name and scale to do what’s right. That’s why we joined the HRC’s Business Coalition for the Equality Act. We’ve seen time and time again that the business community can be powerful change agents.
Here’s a look at more of the work we’ve done to make a score of 100 our baseline, and lay a firm foundation to build upon in the future.
1. Building Employee Engagement and Advocacy from the Ground Up
Nestlé would not be able to make significant steps forward in inclusion policies without listening to the people it matters to most. To drive change from the ground-up, we’ve founded company-supported Employee Engagement Groups like the LGBTQ and Allies Network, where my colleagues and I lead conversations about how Nestlé can improve further. Right now the network is looking at opportunities to be more involved in Pride events in the DC area in 2019, and exploring local organizations where we can volunteer to help LGBTQ folks in the community who need support.
In the LGBTQ+A Engagement Group, we’ve already had a number of successes: we worked with the company to join Virginia Competes — a program developed by Equality Virginia for organizations which believe in welcoming LGBTQ employees, customers, and communities. Right now there is no statewide standard to protect LGBTQ people from workplace discrimination in Virginia — becoming a member of Virginia Competes means we offer those protections to our employees, and advocate for broader protections in our state.
We’re making our voices heard at state and federal levels — Nestlé joined with its Sustainable Food Policy Alliance partners to express our strong support for the Equality Act in an open letter to congress, which we believe would be a strong step forward towards ensuring that all people, in all settings, are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. Nestlé also strongly opposed anti-LGBTQ legislation in Tennessee.
Nestlé USA are also looking to our colleagues at Nestlé Purina, who have a strong history of being one of the best companies for LGBTQ workers in their home city of St Louis, MO, where they take part in community pride events and provide financial support for LGBTQ advocacy groups such as the St Louis Effort for AIDS.
2. Providing Equal Benefits for Married Couples or those in Domestic Partnerships
When Nestlé moved its U.S. headquarters from California to Arlington, Virginia I knew I wanted to make the move cross country with the company and my husband, Luke, agreed that we should commit to the relocation.
It was a big decision, but what made that decision easier was that Luke received the same benefits of any spouse at Nestlé — he was assigned a career coach who helped him through the process of finding a new career. The coach worked with him to streamline his resume, and showed him how to navigate the job market in an unfamiliar city. In no time, he had a new job and we were able to start our new life on the east coast quickly.
Elizabeth outlined to me why this kind of support matters: “We take great pride in having a culture where our employees feel empowered to bring their best selves to work. Laws in a number of States do not offer protections for partners and spouses of LGBTQ people — that is why I believe it is vital for companies to build their own benefits into their policies to ensure equal protection for all.”
For me personally, it was gratifying and comforting to know that Nestlé had me and Luke covered.
3. Respecting LGBTQ Parents with the Same Benefits as Straight Parents
In 2015 Nestlé launched a progressive Parent Support Policy, which provides 14 weeks of paid leave for the primary caregiver of a newborn with an option to extend with 12 weeks unpaid leave. When they say primary caregiver, they mean any primary caregiver, regardless of gender or sexuality: biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, and spouses or domestic partners with primary responsibility for caring for a child.
This equal opportunity policy is vital for LGBTQ parents, who often find themselves without parental support options from their employer. Many same-sex couples look to adoption as their path to starting a family, which can be an expensive and emotional process. Nestlé understands this, and has built protections into the policy — offering additional support for adoptive parents by helping eligible couples with financial support for adoption expenses, which can be substantial.
These examples are just a look at some of the work being done to support LGBTQ employees at Nestlé — when you dig a little deeper there’s more that the company is doing to help out, including providing unlimited financial support for medical costs to employees undergoing gender transition.
I have big plans for furthering LGBTQ advocacy at Nestlé in 2019 (watch this space!), and with conversations rooted in respect alongside tangible actions on the part of the company, I believe scoring 100 on the Corporate Equality Index is just the beginning.
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