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Finding LGBTQ+ inclusivity at CareerBuilder
CareerBuilder | June 24, 2021
Senior Account Executive Paul Rody on CareerBuilder’s affirming workplace.
Paul Rody knew exactly what he wanted to use as his senior quote in his high-school yearbook. It was something country-pop queen Dolly Parton said: “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Like most things Dolly, it was direct, proud, a little profound and a little defiant. Which was why he couldn’t go through with including it.
In all his years of schooling in Savannah, Georgia, Rody only knew of two openly gay students, and life was not easy for them. “They were ridiculed behind their backs,” Rody says. “It was scary.” Even though he wasn’t out—to himself or anyone else—he’d still caught some of the bullying. His mother thought he’d started speaking quicker since people had made fun of his voice. And though college at the University of Georgia was just around the corner, some of Rody’s classmates would likely follow him there. What would people say?
“It’s just ironic, isn’t it? That I didn’t want to do that on my senior quote. Because if anything, it was denying myself who I was,” Rody says today. “But, you know, I didn’t have the foresight at that time. I had nothing but fear. That quote means the world to me now.”
Rody did step into his identity at the University of Georgia, confiding in friends and eventually coming out to his conservative Christian family. It wasn’t perfect, but it was something. “Family is everything to me,” Rody says. “I’m glad we worked through it and got to a comfortable place in time. Sometimes you don’t give people enough credit.”
The well-worn narrative of coming out hinges on one big event: a dark closet door opens onto the light of self-affirmation. But in reality, things are a little more complicated — especially in the workplace. “After coming out, that’s when I was like, ‘We’ve got to embrace this, we’ve got to figure out how to get to a healthy place,” Rody says. “But once I ended up in the workforce, I wasn’t bringing any of that up.”
“Just like when growing up and just like in college, in the workplace, people say things, you know?” Rody says of the casual homophobia he encountered as a new worker. “You get the question of, ‘Are you dating anyone?’ I didn’t get to that comfortable place until I was probably 27, 28, and it would be like you drop this huge bomb. I’d be like, ‘Yeah, my boyfriend,’ and you’d see eyes get big, like they were shocked. I mean, you really weren’t that shocked. You were probably just shocked I said something.”
Though Rody feels that the business community has come a long way on LGBTQ+ inclusivity since he entered the workforce, his early experiences still sound familiar to many LGBTQ+ employees. A 2018 study conducted by the Human Rights Campaign found that 46% of LGBTQ+ workers were closeted at work. Their straight and cisgender colleagues’ responses might indicate why: 36% of non-LGBTQ+ employees said they’d be uncomfortable hearing an LGBTQ+ coworker talking about dating, and 59% said that it’s unprofessional to talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. And while these numbers have hopefully changed since last year’s Supreme Court decision protecting LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination, it’s sobering to consider the obstacles LGBTQ+ people, and particularly trans people and LGBTQ+ people of color, must navigate throughout their careers.
Rody says that, as long as it’s safe, it’s important to politely but firmly interrupt homophobic and transphobic language at work. “If you see something, say something,” he says. After all, employees can help shape a business’s inclusivity. For LGBTQ+ candidates concerned about fitting in on the job, Rody recommends asking recruiters about an employer’s workplace culture as well as diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Checking out a company’s social media accounts can also help job seekers get a sense of its ethos: Do they post about inclusivity? Support LGBTQ+ organizations? Celebrate Pride?
In 2019, when Rody joined the CareerBuilder sales team in Chicago, he found a very different atmosphere from what he was used to. “It wasn't until I got to CareerBuilder that I was like, we can strut down this hallway if we want to!” he says with a laugh. “But that’s how the environment met me. You know, I didn’t just kind of … hope I’d get accepted. It was kind of like, ‘Hey, come as you are and sell stuff!’ That’s the vibe I got.”
Rody credits CareerBuilder leadership with fostering inclusivity. “My manager, Lauren Rasmussen, really made sure I felt like I belonged, and that's one thing I'll always be grateful for,” he says, tearing up. “It does come up to leadership so much. ... It trickles down from [CareerBuilder CEO] Irina [Novoselsky] and [president] Sasha [Yablonovsky],” who regularly share insights about the importance of diversity and affirmed LGBTQ+ workers this LGBTQ+ Pride month.
All of this came full circle for Rody when he recently gave an internal presentation on the history of Pride month and how to support the LGBTQ+ community. Once too afraid to quote Dolly Parton’s wisdom, he got to share it proudly with the whole CareerBuilder team.
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
Resources for LGBTQ+ workers: