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Walking the Talk
Pride Month at HEINEKEN USA:
We Like You Just the Way You Are

Cool and stylish workspaces, advanced benefits and other perks are among the many ways that employers stand out as a great place to work. Yet there’s another perk that is just as important, if not more so: an open culture. According to a recent Glassdoor survey, culture and values are the biggest predictor of employee satisfaction.

As a gay man, I look back with regret at the fact that I was closeted in the workplace for most of my professional life. My career in the public and private sectors has taken me from Atlanta to Chicago to Washington and, for much of that time, I made the conscious decision to hide a significant part of who I am. That all changed in March 2017 when I joined HEINEKEN USA (HUSA).

Although I finally got up the courage to come out to some of my colleagues a few years into my last job, HUSA is the first workplace where I've been fully open since day one. What separated HUSA from my previous employers? A sense of understanding and openness permeates these (green) halls. In fact, when I was still interviewing for my current position at HUSA, the company invited me to a formal event attended by the CEO — and I brought the guy I was seeing as my date. Nobody batted an eye … and a few weeks later, they offered me the job.

This past October, I had my first opportunity to visit our global headquarters in Amsterdam. While in town, I made sure to stop by the “Heineken Experience” — a fun, interactive display located at the site of the original brewery — where I was deeply moved to discover this greeting on the wall at the start of the tour:

When you enter this iconic building
It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what color you are, which religion you have
If you are straight or gay, poor or rich.
We like you just the way you are.

This message greets roughly two million visitors in Amsterdam each year, and it’s what I personally experience at work every day. As we enter Pride Month, I’m reflecting on what others can learn from my experience and wanted to share three simple recommendations:

1. Look past labels.

Last year, our HEINEKEN colleagues in the UK conducted the Open Your World experiment. The campaign film, “Worlds Apart,” sets out to prove that when you look past labels, even strangers with opposing views can come together to find common ground. The experiment inspires us to focus on the things that unite us, to live fully, be ourselves and, most importantly, be open.

2. Stay true to yourself.

HEINEKEN’s partnerships and campaigns, like World Apart, represent our continued commitment to Open Your World, and they’re one of the many reasons I’m proud of being a HUSA employee. I’m also proud of working at a company that encourages me to bring my true self to work every day, at a place where I don’t need to constantly ‘self-edit’ myself. We’ve all covered up part of our identity at one point or another, but I’ve become a strong believer that we need to be true to ourselves to find greater engagement and satisfaction at work.

3. Be engaged locally.

For more than 150 years, Heineken has stood for openness, believing that the simple act of sitting down and having a conversation over a beer helps bring people together. Our corporate partnerships also support and promote inclusion and openness in our communities. For example, we will be sponsoring both NYC Pride and Capital Pride in 2018. And HUSA will once again the lead sponsor of FUERZAfest NYC, an event aimed at educating and sensitizing others through the arts around the impact of anti-gay stigma, homophobia and transphobia.

As we look towards the rest of Pride Month, I encourage all employers and employees to reflect on what makes you live authentically, how you Open Your World to others, and how we can encourage greater inclusion in the workplace for all communities.