Pride was already going to look different this year — social distancing due to COVID-19 precautions led to the cancellation of parades, and the LGBTQ community at Nestlé was preparing to take celebrations online. Then, as our communities reacted to racial injustice and inequity, we began to ask ourselves what Pride month is really about.
As leaders at Nestlé affirmed that Black Lives Matter and activated with community partners, and many of our colleagues talked openly about the frustration, fear, and sadness they were experiencing, the Nestlé Pride Alliance started to look at what we could do differently this year. Remembering that Pride itself began as a protest, we’ve worked in partnership with our Diversity and Inclusion team to pivot our efforts to ensure we’re opening a door for a more inclusive Pride and to have brave conversations with our colleagues.
Below is a discussion between Pride Alliance leaders David, Jonathan, Ash and Nolan alongside Nestlé Black Employee Association co-lead, Ishmael.
To start, what is the purpose and value of groups like the Nestlé Pride Alliance and Nestlé Black Employee Association [NBEA]?
David: The Pride Alliance has a number of goals, including helping employees better understand the LGBTQ community and how to be great allies at work, and providing outreach to our local LGBTQ communities through volunteerism and activism.
Ishmael: I’ve worked at companies before where there were only 3 black employees, or where the company never even mentions Black History Month. At Nestlé, I’ve found it inspiring to be able to work with other Black colleagues through the NBEA — it’s an opportunity for us to come together and make sure our voices are heard.
What does Pride mean personally to you?
Nolan: I think right now what I’ve been reminding myself of is that Pride has been more of a celebration recently because it’s evolved into that, not because that’s its origin. It was a protest for LGBTQ rights. As a white male engaging with efforts to improve racial equality, I’ve been reminded how I have the privilege I have today — it’s because of those protests. Now, I think Pride is a chance for me to use my privilege to speak up for everyone’s rights.
Ash: I’ve lived in the U.S. for 11 years, but my first Pride was only five years ago, when gay marriage was legalized. I had only come out a year before that — later in life than many. I lived in a small town in Arkansas, and I couldn’t believe how many people showed up to Pride, even in that small town. I think I’ve always been aware that I get to celebrate because other people have fought for my right to.
As racial equality conversations expanded this month, how did that make you rethink Pride?
David: We immediately knew we needed to have brave conversations inside the Pride Alliance and across the company, because this is not about just the last few weeks — these injustices have been happening for a long time. We started looking at how we could use this platform that the Pride Alliance has in June to talk about a range of identities: supporting Black LGBTQ youth, creating opportunities to donate to relevant organizations, and sparking conversations with a greater emphasis on the intersectionality of the LGBTQ community.
Was that pivot difficult?
Ishmael: The Pride Alliance came to us [the NBEA] and said they had a month of events planned that they didn’t feel were right. We agreed to combine forces. The Black community and the LGBTQ community at Nestlé should be working together, because now is the time to really come together as allies. As a Black hetero cis male, I had no idea the Pride protests were started by Black trans women — our communities should be supporting each other.
Ash: We’d already been really agile in changing up Pride for social distancing, and the thing I was excited about was that we’d come together across locations more than ever because everything was virtual — we want to keep extending our ability to reach employees in more places.
Has leadership been supportive of Pride?
Jonathan: I’ve found our leaders to be very supportive — aside from the fact that they’ve been enthusiastic about things like raising the Pride flag and the trans flag in our buildings, we’ve had leaders send out emails to their full teams encouraging everyone to get involved with Pride conversations and events.
What could the Pride Alliance do better?
Ash: This is the first company I’ve been with as an openly gay person, and I’m proud to work with the Pride Alliance leaders because they’re so clear in their mission. Now, we can do more outreach to bring in a diversity of voices.
Nolan: Ash is right — most of the Pride Alliance leadership is made up of white men like myself. We need to promote more diverse thinking within our own group. As gay white men, we need to be proactive in bringing in a wider range of LGBTQ voices.
What are your goals for how the Pride Alliance and NBEA can impact the company in the future? How are you activating on those goals already?
Ishmael: I’m committed to helping our group drive more of a voice in decision-making, like identifying causes for the company to partner with, and helping develop a path to see strong diversity in leadership through development processes and training.
David: The executive team have done a really great job at listening to employees over the last few weeks, and I think that’s the thing they need to continue to do. Within our sphere of influence, we’ll keep encouraging that dialogue.
We’ve worked closely with the NBEA and the D&I team to host events like a panel on Allyship, where we’ve seen increasingly honest discussion about how we can all better support each other as minority communities. Usually you don’t come to work and talk about these things openly, without filter, directly to members of the executive team. That takes courage and trust.
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