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Solvay celebrates the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month, and beyond

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The following article was written and published prior to the spinoff of Syensqo in December 2023 and may feature activities, solutions, and markets from both Solvay and Syensqo.

Solvay takes steps to ensure LGBTQ+ inclusion and equity year-round


Every June, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ+) community and their allies come together across the globe for Pride Month, a month-long happening that celebrates, raises awareness of and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights. It is also a moment of commemoration, recognizing the impact LGBTQ+ individuals have had on history, and remembering the sacrifices many have made.

“To me, Pride Month is an opportunity to be thankful and remember the people who fought so everyone can be themselves,” Rodrigo Pena Silva, Process Engineer of Solvay’s Coatis GBU in São Paulo says. “I see it as a promotion of dignity, equality and increased visibility for the LGBTQ+ community. And as a reminder that I too have to do my best to create a future where LGBTQ+ rights are a given.”

Matching words with deeds 

Pride Month is also a vital opportunity for organizations to reflect on whether they are doing enough for their LGBTQ+ employees and communities. In recent years, some organizations have been accused of “Rainbow-Washing,” showcasing the rainbow flag on company logos and social channels to express solidarity, while remaining silent on the actual issues the flag represents, and the actions they are taking to address them.

At Solvay, we are aware of those risks, which is why we’re getting to work internally. A recent survey highlighted that some LGBTQ+ colleagues fear negative impacts on their career, social distancing, misconduct and/or discrimination.

“Indeed, I’ve received feedback from some LGBTQ+ colleagues saying that they don’t feel comfortable mentioning their sexual orientation at work. If we celebrate human dignity within Solvay, however, and if we want our colleagues to come with their whole selves to work, then we must agree that this situation is unacceptable,” says Nathalie van Ypersele, Head of DEI. “So, let’s do something about it.”

Start by listening

Brian Carroll

Solvay recently brought together a group of LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies to advise on how to better support LGBTQ+ employees. A first essential step, they advised, is creating an LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group (ERG), which allows members to share experiences, suggest ideas for personal and professional development, and provide feedback to Solvay’s DEI Taskforce on how to foster the community:

“Solvay is a company deeply rooted in science, which is all about discovery and progress,” Brian Carroll (pictured left), a founder of this new Employee Resource Group explains. “The aim of the group is to empower all employees, regardless of their background or sexual orientation, to be who we are meant to be, and discover our own purpose as individuals. By embracing the power of our differences and diverse experiences, we can advance progress for our company, customers, communities and, ultimately, society-at-large.”

The Initiative is part of Solvay’s larger One Dignity program, which has pinpointed the creation of ERGs as one of Solvay’s objectives to create a more equitable, inclusive and diverse workplace. In addition to the ERG, Solvay is also launching an informal LGBTQ+ Google Currents community, which connects all LGBTQ+ members and allies virtually across Solvay.

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Becoming an active ally 

Allies are a crucial support for the LGBTQ+ community. They help turn ‘them’ into ‘us’ by understanding and helping to address discrimination against LGTBQ+ individuals. By showing up, speaking up, and listening, everyone can be an ally, not just during Pride Month, but beyond as well.

“Solvay wants to be an active, meaningful ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month is not a marketing opportunity,” emphasizes Nathalie. “It’s an opportunity to show how we are committed to providing our LGBTQ+ employees and communities with the support they need to feel safe and bring their whole selves to work. We want to learn, grow, and do more to create a space for our LGBTQ+ employees to be heard.”

Meta Schouten

Meta Schouten, Product Stewardship Coordinator of the GBU Peroxides in the Netherlands (pictured left), believes promoting visibility is crucial. “By just being there, you can have an impact. Anyone in your close environment could be gay, bi, trans or queer, but too afraid to admit it for fear of losing their jobs. Knowing they’re not alone can make a huge difference.”

Rodrigo Pena Silva

Security is also key in allyship. “Solvay should protect and be a safe space for their employees. We have sites in several countries where LGTBQ+ groups have little to no rights,” Meta explains. “I was proud to learn that Solvay has introduced equal parental leave to all co-parents, regardless of gender or orientation, across all Solvay locations including those where it’s not legal. That’s how inclusion should work. We take care of each other, and we live by it every day.”

“It’s also important to start at the top,” Rodrigo (right) continues. “We need to educate our leaders so they can provide the proper support and understanding when LGBTQ+ members are facing adversity. We need a mindset shift within Solvay, and it starts with them.”

Solvay wants to be an active, meaningful ally to the LGBTQ+ community. Pride Month is an opportunity to show how we are committed to providing our LGBTQ+ employees and communities with the support they need to feel safe and bring their whole selves to work.

Nathalie van Ypersele, Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Solvay

Waving the flag for inclusivity, equality and diversity

Introducing an LGBTQ+ ERG and online community are among the first of many planned steps to help Solvay pave the road to a strong LGBTQ+ allyship. By understanding and uplifting diverse voices, Solvay can incite meaningful change and create a working environment where everyone can thrive.

“I am really happy with Solvay’s initiatives,” Rodrigo says. “This was the first time in my four years at Solvay that I heard someone say LGBTQ+ out loud, and I was able to share my experiences. The LGBTQ+ ERG is an important first step, and in the future we want to go even beyond the Group and make Solvay a place where everyone feels respected and safe to speak up, so every employee can be their authentic self.”

Meta agrees: “To me, allyship goes even beyond Pride Month and LGBTQ+. It’s about all of us. We are all Solvay, we are all human beings working together, and we have to create a culture where everyone is treated with respect.”