It’s been almost 24 years ago, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was riding along in the tractor with my father while he was doing ground work to prepare for spring planting. My mother was working; my sister in school. I didn’t have much of a choice but to tag long with my father at the age of five.
I specifically remember taking my favorite pillow with me as I adventured out in the field with Dad. That pillow was a great source of comfort while riding along in those bumpy fields. I obviously wasn’t too interested in farming if I was asleep in the tractor cab next to Dad.
Throughout grade school, junior high and high school, my level of interest in farming was similar to my level of interest when I was five – minimal. Of course, if Dad called upon my assistance, I was more than happy to help, but he knew I wasn’t interested.
Fast forward several years. I was graduating college from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and searching for my first “real life” job. Coincidentally, an opportunity at Monsanto arose. What? Agriculture? Nah, I’m not interested.
Well, six years later I’m a proud employee of Monsanto and I have a much greater appreciation for my central Illinois background and family roots.
When I graduated from college, I was still trying to find my self-identity and place in life. I was figuring out the corporate landscape and culture of Monsanto – agriculture company, pretty conservative, right? Well, I beg to differ.
Shortly after joining Monsanto, an employee resource group called the Encompass Network started. This group was established to support Monsanto’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees along with their allies. Still unsure about my self-identity, I was hesitant to become involved. What would my co-workers think? What would my manager think? Is this okay?
After I connected with the folks in the group, and saw the work they were doing and what contributions the group was making to the company, I quickly wanted to be a part. As the group evolved and expanded, my engagement and involvement also evolved and elevated. Nearly two years ago, I was approached by the Encompass co-leads asking me to step up and co-lead this group. Hmmm, hesitation – was I ready for this?
There was one main thing holding me back from saying “yes” to this request – my family. I knew that I had to be true to myself and transparent with my family before taking on this role of leading a LGBT organization at my company. So, I set forth to accomplish that long awaited conversation with my family.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I waited so long to have the conversation. That sole discussion has led to a much closer, loving and transparent relationship with my family than I ever had before. The Encompass Network has a very personal meaning to me.
I know there are various reasons why employees are proud to work for Monsanto, but this is one of my key reasons – the company’s appreciation for diversity and inclusion. As many of us in the St. Louis community make our way downtown to the St. Louis Pride Festival this weekend, I will proudly stand at the Monsanto tent and walk in Sunday’s parade representing a company that respects the diversity in all of us.
Monsanto employees launched the Encompass Network in 2008, and have been instrumental in a number of human rights, human relations, and community recognitions received by the company. Network members are active both within Monsanto, with important roles in employee policies, and in the communities where we operate.