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NEWS | June 5, 2024

PRIDE ERG helps to foster inclusivity, support through persistence, dedication

By PSNS & IMF Public Affairs

The term "Pride" used by the LGBTQ+ community has its roots in the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal event that marked the beginning of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement. While the PSNS & IMF PRIDE Employee Resource Group didn't begin with a landmark event like Stonewall, its journey has been one of persistence and dedication. The group's efforts reflect the ongoing commitment to fostering inclusivity and support within the shipyard community.

During the 2000s, under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, sexual orientation was not explicitly protected from discrimination at PSNS & IMF. Despite this, around 2009, a group of dedicated LGBTQ+ employees began meeting outside of work to create a sense of community and support. Their determination and resilience laid the foundation for a more inclusive environment, even in the absence of an antidiscrimination policy at the time.

Through informal channels, the group participated in Kitsap Pride festivals, AIDS Walk Kitsap and also raised funds for the Command’s Combined Federal Campaign and donated books on LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace to the Command Library.

"We participated in these activities to contribute to the shipyard and the community, and also to make it known that LGBTQ+ employees are an integral part of the workforce here at the shipyard,” said Marcie Mathis, quality analyst, Code 200Q.

Following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" in September 2011, the group was hopeful that there would be a positive shift in the shipyard climate to support PRIDE as an official Employee Resource Group (ERG). The first PRIDE ERG charter was submitted in October 2011, under the dedicated leadership of Marcie Mathis and Jonny Cornelison. After a period of consideration, the charter was approved in 2013. Since then, PRIDE has been an official ERG.

Since its inception, PRIDE ERG meetings have generally seen a small but dedicated group of regular attendees. Over the past year, however, attendance has grown to an average of around 25 people, reflecting a positive shift in engagement and support.

“Changes and progress have come, and we’re on a positive path forward. PRIDE is the only ERG that meets during lunch hours, allowing members to attend without needing supervisor approval,” said Wes HansonSmith, supervisor, Code 2310. “This approach ensures that everyone can participate and contribute while maintaining their privacy, as they don't have to account for their whereabouts to supervisors.”

Some in the LGBTQ+ community at PSNS still face obstacles, such as not feeling safe being open about their identities with supervisors or coworkers. To respect this, PRIDE ERG uses Blind CCs for announcements, ensuring privacy for those who need it. Despite these obstacles, the increasing attendance and ongoing efforts of PRIDE ERG highlight a growing culture of inclusion and support within the shipyard. This progress benefits the entire workforce by fostering a more diverse, accepting, and productive environment for all employees.

The ERG is also working on several initiatives, including addressing and educating about negative behaviors that impact LGBTQ+ employees, promoting respectful and inclusive language, and organizing an LGBTQ+ Ally Seminar at Command University. The seminar will aim to educate attendees on how to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues and create a more inclusive workplace. PRIDE ERG leaders are optimistic that increased awareness will lead to greater inclusivity and a stronger sense of community within the shipyard.

“I think just knowing our group exists is a huge thing for our members,” said Kendra Schaff, industrial engineer, Code 100TO, Command Transformation Office. “We hope that as we continue to support the community and educate others, we can demonstrate that respect for LGBTQ+ individuals at PSNS is integral to the 'Respect Every Individual' Command Guiding Principle. Even if you're not part of the LGBTQ+ community, you likely have friends, family members, or acquaintances who are. Supporting the community and our coworkers is always appreciated and helps create a more inclusive and understanding environment for everyone.”