Dow’s diversity networks show company’s commitment to inclusion

Over the years, research has shown that diverse teams often perform better. Groups with different perspectives often are able to achieve better or faster results. While diversity might lead to better performance in the long run, it is something one local company has embraced for years and is now considered a pioneer in the industry. Here is a closer look at diversity and inclusion at Dow Chemical.

Cory Valente, a research and design leader for the Strategic Recruiting and Research Assignments Program, joined Dow Chemical in 2011. Shortly after, he discovered GLAD, an employee network and resource group for LGBT+ employees and allies.

“I got involved with GLAD a few months after I started working at Dow,” says Valente. “At the time there was no chapter at Springhouse, so I started one and we eventually grew to over 100 participants.”

Started in 2000, GLAD is the longest serving employee resource group of its kind in the chemical industry. With participation from allies and LGBT employees, the network boasts over 3,300 participants around the globe in twenty-five chapters spread across the United States, Latin America and Europe.Cory Valente, Dow's leader of the GLAD diversity network.

“It is interesting because in each country, the conversations around culture change and greater inclusivity look a little different,” says Valente, who currently serves as global leader for Dow’s GLAD Network. “We make sure to do our due diligence before launching a chapter, to make sure employees are able to remain safe and feel empowered. In the coming year, I am hoping to continue to expand in regions where we have less of a presence.”

The network recently launched the first ever Shanghai chapter, and hopes to continue growing the Asia-Pacific presence in the coming future. In addition to managing GLAD’s global expansion, the group’s strategic planning team focuses on impact and initiatives across three areas: policy, culture change and corporate reputation.

“Time and again the data shows that if a company isn’t working toward inclusion, employees are more likely to leave,” adds Valente. “There have been multiple employees who have come up to me and said that the reason they are proud to work for Dow and enjoy coming to work every day is because of GLAD and the clear commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion.”

As part of the group CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion, Dow recently joined 175 companies from over fifty industries and all geographies to be part of the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

GLAD is just one of eight diversity networks that employees at Dow have the option of participating in. With over 170 chapters worldwide, these networks range from mentoring and professional development for women, to retention efforts for returning veterans and affinity groups across racial and ethnic backgrounds.

“For me, being a part of this cause and network, has been one of the joys of my professional career,” continues Valente. “And the data backs it up. Our survey responses have shown that in recent years LGBT employees, especially those participating in GLAD, show some of the most favorable responses when it comes to being engaged in the workplace.”

In November 2017, The Dow Chemical Company, a subsidiary of DowDuPont was named as a 2018 “Best Place to Work” for LGBTQ equality by the Human Rights Campaign. The company has received a 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the last thirteen years consecutively, an award Valente is most proud of.

“It shows our continued commitment and that we are willing to adapt and evolve to the needs of our employees,” says Valente. ‘This is a merit-based index, and to receive that score for thirteen years in a row, just the consistency of it, says something about the company’s passion and commitment to equality.”

Valente stepped into his current role as global leader for the GLAD Network about three years ago. He initially expected to be working with primarily LGBT employees, but Valente talks about a group that has surprised him over the years — the allies.

“We have had parents, family members and friends reaching out and asking us for help as they understand how best to support to their loved one through this progression and be an ally as they find pathways to being included,” describes Valente. “I didn’t foresee this aspect of the work, but almost everyone knows someone who identifies as LGBT. It has been inspiring to worth with allies through their process of progression, acceptance and understanding.”

As he looks toward planning for 2018, Valente hopes to continue creating innovative programming to spur culture change, while also organizing around policy initiatives. Pushing for passage of the Federal Equality Act is high on his radar. If passed, this bill would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include protections that ban discrimination or segregation on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations among others.

“Something that sticks out to me about this company is the public support of advocacy efforts,” reiterates Valente. “When someone is willing to go on Twitter or engage in external policy discussions around what can be considered a socially controversial issue, it shows the commitment of the company to standing up for their values.”

Valente is also looking forward to working with Karen S. Carter, recently named Dow’s first Chief Inclusion Officer. This new role aims to strengthen the integration of diversity and inclusion with business strategy and results.

“Diversity and inclusion makes for a more innovative and engaged workplace and higher-performing teams,” says Carter. "This is about creating a culture where every employee feels fully empowered and valued, a place where they can contribute to their maximum potential in order to maximize business and company success. I look forward to accelerating our progress and to helping the company – and all of its employees – achieve these results.”

Last October, Dow was also named to the 2017 OUTstanding Leading LGBT+ & Ally Executives and LGBT+ Future Leaders Lists published by the Financial Times. Several members of Dow’s leadership have been honored by OUTstanding.

Additionally, on December 7, Jim Fitterling, president and chief operating officer at Dow, was presented with AIChE Foundation's inaugural Doing a World of Good Medal. Fitterling was recognized for “his dedication to safety in engineering, for his advocacy of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and for his professional and personal commitment to mentorship.”

As part of the community, GLAD is joining forces with the national organization, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) for the twelfth year in a row, to offer STEM scholarships for LGBTA students. Each scholarship offers $3,500 to be put toward college for students who show a strong interest and skill set in science, technology, engineering or math and support LGBT equality in their communities.

The culture is clear and diverse workforce made up of of different genders, races, perspectives and backgrounds creates an environment where employees can thrive and bring their whole self to work.