Allowing Voices To Be Heard

September 15, 2009

By Ashley Alvarado

Encompass LGBT

Proud is the best word I can use to express how I feel about Monsanto receiving our first 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI). To obtain a 100 on the CEI, you have to be a company that has broad respect for diversity and inclusion. More specifically, you have to be a company that wants to advance the best practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) workplace inclusion, and that’s just what we are.

Before taking a position at Monsanto in 2007, I looked at the HRC CEI to see if Monsanto was listed. When I saw that it wasn’t, it made me a little nervous about how inclusive the environment would be.  After working at Monsanto just a few months, I realized that our policies and practices were very inclusive, and that Monsanto’s environment was one of acceptance and understanding, and deserving of recognition.

We applied last year for the CEI and received an 85 percent. It was an excellent score for our first year, but we immediately took action to do better. The challenge was that although our Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy already covered sexual orientation, it lacked terminology around gender identity and gender expression. A policy that covers sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression is important because many states have no law to protect LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.  As a result, LGBT people can face discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job.

When we brought the changes our EEO policy needed to the attention of our leadership team, they immediately addressed the changes. The updated policy was signed by our CEO Hugh Grant in February 2009.  So here we are, less than two years after we began raising our diversity and inclusion efforts for LGBT employees, and we have made it to the top of the class.

Each year, HRC makes improvements to the CEI rating criteria to help move companies forward, and so of course we will have more work to do in the coming years; however, the support for striving towards 100 percent is here. After my experience these last two years, I feel confident that the voice of LGBT employees is heard and respected.

Ashley Alvarado is an Administrative Assistant in the Chemistry organization. She has worked for Monsanto Company since 2007. In 2008, Ashley founded Monsanto’s LGBT employee resource group, Encompass.

Ashley Alvarado

Co-Lead, Encompass

Monsanto’s LGBT Employee Network

Proud is the best word I can use to express how I feel about Monsanto receiving our first 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Corporate Equality Index (CEI). To obtain a 100 on the CEI, you have to be a company that has broad respect for diversity and inclusion. More specifically, you have to be a company that wants to advance the best practices for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) workplace inclusion, and that’s just what we are.

Before taking a position at Monsanto in 2007, I looked at the HRC CEI to see if Monsanto was listed. When I saw that it wasn’t, it made me a little nervous about how inclusive the environment would be.  After working at Monsanto just a few months, I realized that our policies and practices were very inclusive, and that Monsanto’s environment was one of acceptance and understanding, and deserving of recognition.

We applied last year for the CEI and received an 85 percent. It was an excellent score for our first year, but we immediately took action to do better. The challenge was that although our Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy already covered sexual orientation, it lacked terminology around gender identity and gender expression. A policy that covers sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression is important because many states have no law to protect LGBT individuals from employment discrimination; it remains legal in 29 states to discriminate based on sexual orientation, and in 38 states to do so based on gender identity or expression.  As a result, LGBT people can face discrimination in employment, including being fired, being denied a promotion and experiencing harassment on the job.

When we brought the changes our EEO policy needed to the attention of our leadership team, they immediately addressed the changes. The updated policy was signed by our CEO Hugh Grant in February 2009.  So here we are, less than two years raising our diversity and inclusion efforts for LGBT employees, and we have made it to the top of the class.

Each year, HRC makes improvements to the CEI rating criteria to help move companies forward, and so of course we will have more work to do in the coming years; however, the support for striving towards 100 percent is here. After my experience these last two years, I feel confident that the voice of LGBT employees will be heard.

3 Responses to “Allowing Voices To Be Heard”

  1. James S. Says:

    Kudos to Monsanto for taking such incredible steps. It’s always good to see companies taking such thing seriously and taking steps to improve themselves. I wish more companies would follow Monsanto’s example. :-)

  2. Terrina Jones Says:

    I want to thank Ashley and the entire Encompass Team for their efforts to gain equality for Monsanto’s GBLT employees.

    Monsanto has marked many firsts in my life. The first company that has penned policy to protect my right to be myself. The first company where I did not have to use pronouns to describe my life. The first company that has allowed me to insure my wife and our children. The first company where I felt safe enough to say the word “Wife”. The first company that sees me as a person not just a member of a marginalized group.

    I have been blessed to have wonderful supervisors’ pre and post policy. I also want to thank Ferdinand Kokemor for his support in a moment of family crisis and Jeffery Billings and Timothy Charles for seeing my potential and taking action. Finally, a special thank you goes to Hugh Grant for his commitment and support!

  3. Lisa Dry Says:

    A few weeks ago I was in a meeting where Tyson Pruett mentioned that Monsanto was going to receive this honor — I thought “that’s nice, yes, Monsanto is a great company.” But the reality of what that recognition really means to employees didn’t hit me until I read Terinna’s comment– which brought tears to my eyes–kudos to Ashley and others who worked to enusre that Monsanto is a great place to work for everyone.


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