Editor's note: June is Pride month. Each week, we will feature a note from one of our Pride Affinity Network members sharing their personal perspectives on what the month means to them. Alex shares his journey of coming out in the workplace and reflects on the chosen theme for Pride Month.
Nine and a half years ago, I started my GEA career. I was drawn to GE by its global presence, revered brand, and renowned employee development programs.
Still, I joined with reservations – was GE really committed to equality and inclusion? I consulted the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI), which benchmarks company policies, practices and benefits for LGBTQ+ employees.
GE had scored a 60% because same-sex couples lacked the retirement benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and transgender-related medical care was not covered. I resolved to give it a few years before deciding if I would leave the business.
Concerned the culture might not be accepting, I began my career “in the closet,” as 46% of U.S. LGBTQ+ employees still do. Closeted employees are 73% more likely to leave a company within three years.
Fortunately, I had great coworkers with whom I formed close friendships. I gradually felt comfortable coming out to them. Eventually, I began to participate in the Pride Affinity Network’s Learning & Development events, and I met other LGBTQ+ employees.
In 2014, GE achieved its first 100% score on the CEI. I felt our growing commitment to equality and inclusion, decided to come out more broadly at work, and joined the Pride Leadership Team.
When we became GE Appliances, a Haier company five years ago, I led efforts to re-engage with HRC and the CEI. GEA has now achieved a 100% CEI score and “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” for four years in a row. However, even with a 100% CEI score, our work is not done.
This year, our Pride month theme, “The Fight Continues,” reflects just that. Our “fight” must be an unyielding determination to build a more inclusive workplace where diversity is valued, including the experiences and perspectives of our LGBTQ+ employees.
This endeavor extends beyond the walls of our factories and offices into the communities where our LGBTQ+ employees and owners live. To make a positive impact and to be admired as a company that stands for equality, we must encourage the countries we do business in and companies we do business with to join us on this journey.
Right now, LGBTQ+ rights and protections are constantly being added and then removed at the federal and state levels. In fact, over 250 such laws have already been introduced in various states this year.
Our company policies, benefits, and culture remain steadfast that we do not tolerate discrimination, and we all have a place in this fight for equality and inclusion.
I encourage you to join us this month to celebrate Pride, learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, and get more involved.