Three LGBTQ Sodexo employees with out and equal lanyards

Sodexo and the 2SLGBTQ+ Community: Lead the Change

Kath Tisdale
About the author : Kath Tisdale

Senior Area General Manager, Sodexo USA

Published on : 11/10/23
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    Kath-Tisdale_300x331.jpg“I’m Kath Tisdale. My pronouns are they, them, their.” I will always remember saying those exact words on a call with fellow Sodexo employees and being overwhelmed with emotion. The importance of that moment wasn't lost on me — it was the first time in my life I could safely say that.

    The Right to Be Myself

    I was homeless as a youth because of who I am ౼ and I probably shouldn't have survived my childhood but I did. In my late teens, my aunt and uncle took me in so I could graduate high school and have a life. After various jobs in the food industry, I decided that I didn’t want to spend my career finding more ways to sell more drinks to more people. I wanted to find a job where I could be myself while also positively impacting my community. When I joined Sodexo 13 years ago, I was in search of meaning. What I found was all that and more — it was an adventure and the opportunity of a lifetime.

    It’s important to understand that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community can often feel a great deal of anxiety when we join a new company. We ask ourselves, is this going to be a safe space? Am I going to have to come out every single day? Am I going to feel like I belong? Thirteen years ago, I took that plunge. And I was fully supported every step of the way and I’ve never looked back. At Sodexo, we say that we are the communities we serve ౼ and that means being a part of every community, even the ones we don't necessarily see. I truly believe that everyone, from the C-suite to the frontlines, has adopted that mindset.

    When I first shared my story, the flood of people who reached out in support of me was incredible. I know that I am safe at work, I belong at work, and I have a voice every single day at work. Here, in this inclusive environment, being a nonbinary advocate has not hurt me at all. If anything, it has lifted me up, driven me in my career, opened me up to opportunities ౼ and above all, it has made me brave.

    A Fearless Advocate

    Because I can be myself without fear of reprisal, I know that I not only belong, but I have the right to be here. And I have the right to thrive. I no longer ask permission and I no longer apologize for who I am. I just do and I just am. One of the most beautiful things to come out of this realization is the work I’ve been able to do with Sodexo to support LGBTQ+, homeless and food-insecure communities. These areas really resonate with me because that was me not so long ago. So, I set out on a mission to let as many people in these communities know that there is a life out there, full of people who see them for who they are and celebrate that.

    I had been doing this work for years on my own time but once I started openly speaking about these projects and advocating for these communities, Sodexo was eager to help out. Together with the company, we donate surplus food, collect clothing and other items, connect homeless LGBTQ+ youth with mentors and counsellors, get them back in school, help them earn their GEDs and get college scholarships.

    Speaking Up and Speaking Out

    Unfortunately, today we see LGBTQ+ acceptance and safety stagnating or declining in many parts of the world. But I believe that as deep as the capacity for hate and violence is, our collective capacity for love and compassion can and will overcome that. Sometimes it just takes little people like me who just won't stop. It also starts with people from our community taking on mentorship roles, giving back to the community ౼ the more we are seen, the more open our allies are, the more the world will see that these differences just aren’t a big deal.

    In order to get there, we need to lead the change we want to see in the world — not wait for somebody else to make that change happen. And I get to do that every day with Sodexo, because they don’t just want us to thrive at work, but at home in the community as well. They help us do that with education and support and by sending us out to give back. When I stop to think about it, my job is to get paid to be of help and service to other people. I can't think of a better job.

    Learn more about how Sodexo advocates for diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.