I came out almost 30 years ago to my family and friends. Personally, I have lived my life authentically as a gay woman in a remarkable and loving relationship for 23 years. Professionally, not so much. For a good part of my career path, I left my true self at home.
Then, 10 years ago during a one-on-one professional coaching session, my leader paused and said to me, “You know, Lynn, it’s OK to live your truth being out.” This was the first time in my professional career — in my almost-30 years of being out — that I felt proud to be me. I will never forget that day, the courage of my leader, and the responsibility we all own to invite allies in and to help others be.
I have shared that story many times because it speaks volumes to the power that diversity and inclusion practices can have in the workplace. That one encounter had a lasting impact on me, but encounters like mine should be the rule, not the exception.
I believe that being out at work makes me a better employee and colleague. For example, this past year we introduced OUT@Comcast, a new Employee Resource Group (ERG), to our Freedom Regional employees who serve customers in New Jersey, Greater Philadelphia and northern Delaware. As a co-leader of this ERG, personally contributing to a workplace environment that is aware, inclusive and productive for all brings so much added value to my day-to-day job. The ability to help other out employees and allies grow personally and professionally, as well as creating opportunities to give back to the local LGBTQ community, has been a tremendous outlet for me and a benefit to the company.
Last month, I marched with hundreds of Comcast employees in Philadelphia’s Pride Parade, joined by our friends and family. Walking together as a company, alongside our local community, sends a powerful message about Comcast’s culture to lean in when it comes to diversity and inclusion. But Comcast is not alone. It was inspiring to see so many other organizations represented at Philly’s Pride Parade too.
When a company has strong diversity and inclusion practices, the customer benefits too. Where I work, customers benefit from programming that is also more diverse and inclusive. This includes an entire platform dedicated to LGBTQ film and television. This employee-inspired destination never would have been possible if employees didn’t feel encouraged and supported to be themselves.
We as the LGBTQ community have come far, but still have a long way to go. I hope that we — as a local community and entire country — can take our moment, and momentum, and make the most of it.
Lynn Merrilees is a resident of Point Pleasant, N.J. She is director of customer service for Comcast and a co-lead of the Freedom Region OUT@Comcast Employee Resource Group.