As members of Darden’s Pride Alliance Employee Resource Group (ERG), we were presented with the opportunity to participate in this panel. It featured representatives of various large companies in our area who are members of the LGBTQ community and could give first-hand, personal accounts of what it is like to be out in the workplace. This was the inaugural panel with about 30 students in attendance ranging from education to hospitality to engineering majors.
The panel format allowed for very open and honest dialogue about sexual orientation and employment practices that are sometimes difficult to have in general career fairs or networking events. Hearing the specific concerns of some students, as well as anecdotes from other panel participants about previous employers, reinforced the importance of inclusive corporate cultures. It is important to find a company where you don’t feel like you’ll be treated differently because of any part of who you are.
We recognize that it can be difficult to identify companies who not only say they embrace diversity but also implement this in day-to-day practices. As you begin your job search, one helpful tool is the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, which rates companies’ business practices and policies toward LGBTQ employees. This year, a record 303 businesses achieved a perfect score of 100, and we’re proud that Darden is among them.
We also recommended students talk to a prospective employer’s current employees during the recruitment process to truly get a feel for the company culture and make sure it’s the right fit. Look for companies that have an active ERG for the LGBTQ community. At Darden, our Pride Alliance ERG is made up of both members and allies of the LGBTQ community. Ask if a prospective employer’s ERG is also made up of members and allies. Also conduct some research to see if a company’s corporate policy prohibits discrimination against any other categories in addition to protected classes, such as gender and race. We’re seeing that some companies are adding sexual orientation and gender identity/expression as categories because they believe that no one should feel harassed or excluded for any reason.
We see many companies that share Darden’s vision of diversity as a competitive advantage, and we’ve seen how a welcoming environment truly attracts the best talent that ensures we don’t omit anyone in our recruiting efforts. And once employees have joined the Darden family, they can be their best at work because they feel free to be their true selves.
After the panel we were able to network with the attendees, which provided additional opportunities for more personal conversations. We were also asked by UCF if we were interested in being informal mentors to any interested students, which we are eager to do. With each generation, we see corporate cultures everywhere evolving and these students are our future leaders. We’re energized by their optimism and excitement to join the workforce, and we can’t wait to see where they will go and all they will accomplish, including further advancing diversity and inclusiveness in corporate culture.