By: Bethmara Kessler, SVP, Integrated Global Services, Campbell Soup Company
Being gay has always been a part of who I am as far back as I can remember. People have often asked – ‘When did you know?’ The answer is that I always knew. In my personal life I never sought to hide who I was. I came out to family and friends in junior high school ready to face the myriad of reactions that I ultimately experienced. I knew it was the right thing to do – I knew it was the only way to be free, the only way to just be me.
When I entered the workforce in the mid-eighties, reality set in. I started my career as a public accountant in one of the big accounting firms. At the time, mandated workplace dress norms and behaviors were a far cry from my free-spirited persona. I quickly realized that being out in that type of environment at the time could be a career-limiting move. My only option was to step one foot back into the closet.
My career journey has led me to many crossroads – was I in? or was I out? For most of my career I was in – a very difficult place to be. I spent a lot of time compartmentalizing myself into two separate people; Work Me and Real Me. It was isolating and exhausting.
Integrity prevented me from lying about who I was, so I built a wall of privacy around my life outside of work. I was masterful at avoiding personal conversations. Others talked about family, weekends, and vacations while I listened. Making authentic connections with people was never truly possible as I straddled the threshold of the closet door.
Myself and Caleb Kearney, IT Process Specialist and Chair of Our Pride Employee Network (OPEN), at the Pride flag raising ceremony at Campbell’s World Headquarters in Camden, NJ.
This story is not unique to the LGBT community. It applies to all of us. It’s familiar to kids who grew up feeling different, playing on the perimeter of the playground but never getting picked for a team. It’s familiar to the Mom or Dad who feels their career is limited because they leave at 5 p.m. to get their kids from daycare along with a side-eye from colleagues. It’s familiar to anyone who is afraid to be their true self in fear of preconceived notions based on their race, gender, or appearance. It’s familiar to anyone trying to be someone that they are not.
I am lucky to have an amazing wife, Lynne, and children who supported me through my decision to fully come out of the closet once and for all. As I considered the opportunity to join Campbell three years ago, being fully out was non-negotiable. Now, three years later, being fully out has never been an issue – Campbell not only encourages, but embraces, the real me.
Since I joined the team, I have been proud to be part of an organization that has scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index not once, but eight times. I am proud that this company embraces employee diversity with affinity networks, which I have dedicated my time to as the executive sponsor of Our Pride Employee Network (OPEN). And, I am proud that our marketing, such as our Made for Real, Real Life campaign features modern American families, including gay and lesbian couples, furthering our commitment to stand #forallfamilies.
This Pride month, let’s celebrate our diversity and the value that it brings. Join me in showing support #forallfamilies by using the hashtag on social media and standing alongside our Goldfish and V8 brands who will be participating in Pride events in Philadelphia, New York, Cincinnati, Seattle, and Portland.
Our differences make us awesome. So, show your pride and just be you. There is no one else you can be!
#pride #open #bereal #forallfamilies
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