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Cory Valente: "Everyone tackles the challenge of being an 'outsider' in their own way"

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As part of our LGBT inclusion series, Cory Valente, R&D director at The Dow Chemical Company and member of the OUTstanding LGBT power list, discusses his experience of coming out at work.

To this day, I still end up in situations where I don’t feel comfortable being myself for fear of being marginalised. But you have to take that first small step. For me, it was actually joining the GLAD diversity and inclusion network at Dow, and step by step, this organisation has made a personal and professional impact that I’ll never be able to repay. 

The GLAD network serves LGBT and ally employees here. We undertake specific actions that aspire to achieve true and full inclusion both inside and outside of our company’s walls. I have the privilege of leading this global organisation, working with a fantastic team to set and implement a strategy that sets Dow apart as an employer of choice for not only LGBT citizens and our allies, but for any minority person that is marginalised simply for who they are. What could me more critical to a company than to have all their employees committed and contributing at full potential?

We’ve been very active in public policy over the past few years. We’re not a direct-to-end user company, and without consumer advertising, we need to use our resources and influence in other impactful and relevant ways. That’s where the public policy piece comes in. We’ve weighed in on nearly every major piece of proposed LGBT legislation in the US this year, and that sends a very clear message to both our current and prospective employees: we support you both inside and outside of Dow’s walls. 

Simply put, it’s about being my authentic self and doing my job to the best of my abilities. By being a visible example that you can be out and thrive in the workplace, not for who you are but for what you bring to the table, I hope folks that are still in the closet are encouraged and head into a space where they are comfortable to do the same. 

The end game is true culture change. In my mind, two things are required: relevance and relatability. Start by educating your employee base on the business impact of diversity and inclusion (relevance) and start to tell personal stories of colleagues and how their company’s inclusive culture has positively impacted them (relatability). Combined, I think that sets the stage for significant gains.   

Thinking back, I was the one setting up barriers to avoid conflict or uncomfortable situations; I guess that’s human nature. My work with GLAD has actually benefited me by expanding my professional network and providing me with leadership lessens early in my career. Certainly, the story is not so positive for far too many; it’s why we’re here discussing my passion for LGBT equality. 

 

Love this article?
You can read more stories from LGBT role models, as part of our exclusive series:

Angela Darlington, group chief risk officer, Aviva: "My biggest career barrier was my own reticence to be completely out at work”

Arjan Dijk, vice president of growth marketing, Google: "You need to be authentic for people to understand who you are and to be able to fully trust you" 

Isabella Segal, partner, Nymon Libson Paul, on transition: "I'm a role model for diversity within our firm"

We will be showcasing more insights from LGBT leaders over the next few weeks.

 

Changeboard digital magazine

This article was featured in the November 2016-January 2017 issue of Changeboard magazine.

To read this article plus many more inspiring stories around the career, talent and leadership agenda; click here and open our digital edition straight on your desktop.

Mary Appleton

By Mary Appleton

Changeboard

Mary is Changeboard's editor in chief.

Changeboard

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