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Girls, Gays and Theys: Navigating Corporate America from Beyond the Margins

We’re talking about our experiences navigating corporate America as part of the LGBTQ+ community.  Vibe with someone’s story? Click their name for their full blog.

Camille Todd
Agile Coach, Cybersecurity
Remote (Delaware)
Pronouns: He/Him | They/Them

I navigate corporate structures with intention and compassion. I’m intentional about 2 things– being my most authentic self and taking up space. I thrive when I can be my authentic self and bring ideas from my unique perspective on the world. I’m intentional about taking up space because early in my career I was plagued by imposter syndrome and it caused me to shrink away from various opportunities. In recent years, I’ve learned to own my experience with greater accountability. I take up the space required to present new and fresh ideas, foster and cultivate relationships with my coworkers, and drive growth and diversity within corporate culture.

Anahita Chaudhary
Lead Modeler
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/her/hers

At the beginning of my career, navigating my identity at work was particularly tricky. I had to go back into the closet after college to be able to fit in. I felt I would let the entire community down if I came out and then couldn’t perform up to the mark at my job. So I worked hard to establish my credibility, which in turn gave me confidence to gradually come out. Within 2 years I was the only visibly queer and gender fluid person in the office. I’ve been extremely lucky to have supportive colleagues and bosses throughout my career who made it easy for me to be myself without the fear of any judgement.

Natalie headshot with glasses onNatalie Kalmbacher
Lead Account Specialist Billing Resolutions
New Castle
Pronouns: She/her

During my transition, I never ever thought I would see the end of the tunnel. But I grew stronger than ever and now I do. It’s all thanks to Discover, actually. They provided me with the resources I needed to make myself complete and get the care I needed. I’ve also gotten so much love and acceptance from so many people. Honestly my whole experience at Discover has been amazing. I’m openly Trans and wish I could speak to even more people within the company. I want to share my story and ensure anyone in my position knows that they have a voice. As a Trans individual, it’s rare to find a company as open as Discover— people need to know that. I do know other Trans people at Discover who don’t want to speak up. But I personally want to be seen.

Amy Armstrong             
VP, Compliance Advisory
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her

About 5 years ago, in the middle of interviewing a candidate, he pointed to a picture on my desk of my partner and I on vacation. He asked me where “my friend and I” had vacationed. I told him that the photo was of me and my partner at a theme park. He then abruptly said he hadn’t realized I was gay and that he wasn’t interested in the role because he couldn’t “work for someone like me” and literally left the interview. From this experience, a hard truth I’ve learned is that people will dislike or disrespect you for things that you cannot change.

Karlyn Steadman 
Team Coach, Customer Service & Engagement Dept. Core
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: They/Them

Knowing how to navigate a professional work environment as a male or a female is learned— from binary dress codes, to learning how to navigate proper etiquette based off your birth gender. As someone who doesn’t fall under the binary gender umbrella, it was always difficult to know how to navigate those norms. After my first year of college, I was a chef. I kept to myself and always made sure I worked somewhere where the uniforms were the same. I always chose a unisex cut chef’s coat. But after leaving the industry, I was thrown into the business world without guidance on what to do.

Thankfully, I was lucky and worked for Discover. I quickly realized that the scary truth of a binary dress code, binary bathrooms and professional brand, were not true for Discover. I felt comfortable in my own skin quickly and created my own brand. I felt confident that it didn’t matter that I didn’t fall under a female or male identity. I identified as me and portrayed that in my attire and confidently shared my pronouns.

woman standing against grey wood panelingMegan Isaac
Team Leader, Deposits Front Office
Lake Park, UT
Pronouns: She/Her

When I was first hired at Discover, I was so scared for anyone to know that I was in a relationship with a woman. I didn’t have very many positive experiences or role models that I knew of that were successful and Out. I’ve been very blessed to work for a company that I personally have never felt like my sexuality has held me back from opportunities. The environment at Discover is amazing. My management and peers have always made me feel included. A mistake I’ve made is being too cautious. Oftentimes, if I’m unsure of how LGBTQ+ friendly a situation is, when speaking about my fiancé, I use they/them pronouns or substitute “my partner” or “my fiancé.”  Yet, I’ve never had a negative interaction from a co-worker finding out I’m a lesbian. My management, peers, and people I manage have always been supportive. Yet, I’ve held back when sharing personal stories. If I could change anything, I would be open and proud from the start. I wouldn’t hold back when asked about my relationships, and I would use she/her pronouns from the get-go.

headshot of patrickPatrick Opinion
Lead AML Compliance Specialist
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: He/Him/His

Gradually over time, I’ve discovered opportunities to find self-acceptance by working for organizations that champion diversity. I’m now connected to people with the same passion for inclusion. I feel it’s imperative that organizations develop a safe space for individuals where everyone can be themselves and find a sense of belonging. I’ve been privileged to be a part of my organization’s diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) council, where I learn from a team of like-minded individuals and navigate topics like unconscious bias, blind spots and racial injustice. Through action and conversations like these, we can learn how to be more intentional in how we treat each other.

Chris Crosby
Team Leader, Identity Protection
New Albany, OH
Pronouns: He/Him/His

It’s hard to navigate corporate America as a black gay man. There’s always the mentality that I’ll have to work twice as hard to get half as much. So when I first started working, I kept my identity private and only told a select few. As I progressed in my career, I learned that if I hide who I am, I’m not going to be able to give 100% of what I can offer. Now I understand that my identity is major a part of who I am. It allows me to share stories and experiences that can shape the outcome of the business. In turn, I also seek out individuals at Discover who look like me. As simple as that sounds, it can be a challenge. But I’ve found so many, across different points in my career. I use them as a reference and motivation to know that I can be greater than where I am today.

Nicole Shuck     
Senior Manager, Rewards Marketing
Riverwoods, IL
Pronouns: She/Her/Hers

I’ve been at the Discover Riverwoods, IL headquarters for 6 years now. For the first 1-2 years, I was very selective of who I came out to and told about my personal life. When people asked who I lived with, I called my fiancé my “roommate.” At the time, I’d come out to a close friend at work who accepted and love me. She pulled me aside and said, “You have to stop doing that. No one will care about who you love and they will only love you more for being you.” In that moment, she was the best ally I could’ve ever asked for. She gave me the courage, in this new professional world, to be my full authentic self.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to really lean into the notion that, “When you’re scared, afraid, nervous; take one step forward.” Coming out at work was one small step forward. I slowly opened up one by one, until eventually my sexuality became part of everyday normal conversation. I’ve moved away from “coming out,” to just “being me.”  Ever since then, every person I’ve come out to has shown me nothing but positivity. Even most recently, my past coworkers, current coworkers and friends came together for a surprise virtual bridal shower for me and I was blown away by how many people showed up and contributed to the gift.

 

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