It was the middle of Summer. I had been leading the Florence Facility Pride Team for almost a year, and we had rolled out some great events and initiatives. This day, I was setting up the Town Hall room for a guest speaker through our ERG shared program called “Through One’s Eyes.” It is a way for WIN, Young Professionals and Pride to bring true stories of the community to share in our message of diversity and inclusion. This month, it was Paula Ison, and she was going to speak about her life being transgender.
Paula began her life story and invited anyone to ask whatever they wished. No holds barred. Many attendees asked some great questions, and then a man raised his hand. His question made me realize that my team and I are making a difference in sharing a perspective others may have previously been unfamiliar with.
He said, “What can I do to help you?”
I felt it in my chest. This is the quintessential question. This is THE question to ask anyone.
Paula had an answer. She told him to please tell anyone who asks that she is a nice person and that they should get to know her.
I just know that he did, because we want to help each other, and we will.
I remember the day I was asked over a year ago to become the leader for the Pride ERG in Florence, Kentucky. My very first thought was, “No way. How can I possibly do this role justice?”
I still sometimes ask myself this question in the middle of the night, but it’s gotten better for these three reasons:
- The Team
I am not alone in this effort. I have a team behind me to realize our mission: “To foster a judgement-free environment in which ALL employees are respected, supported and accepted, so they may thrive and perform their jobs safely and free of harassment. By focusing on LGBTQ inclusion, we will also communicate the importance of diversity within the site and the community.”
- Leadership Support
Have you ever heard that saying, “I’ve got your back?” Yeah, it’s really like that. It’s hard enough to introduce a new initiative in a busy workplace, but add the subject matter and education needed, and it feels impossible. Fortunately, our management made sure to allow opportunities to open the discussion: from permission to use volunteer hours to march in the very first Northern Kentucky Pride Parade to volunteering our own time to show support and contribute.
- We Are Evolving
Our employees want to work in a place that makes everyone feel included, valued and accepted, regardless of their life story or background. The more united we are, the better our site will be; we know this and want to make it happen. We get better every day.
Our Florence location is evolving. The thing to remember is that evolving never ends. Any other Celanese site can take up this mantle and make a difference in diversity and inclusion. And from my perspective, the benefit can’t be measured.
JoAnna “JoJo” Houchins
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