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Johnson & Johnson’s Laura Devaney on Being ‘All-In’ for LGBTQ Allyship

Originally published at Johnson & Johnson is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.


Remaining Optimistic in the Face of Adversity

Laura doesn’t mince words when it comes to discussing DEI in the workplace—a fearlessness that landed her on the “Top 100 LGBT+ Future Leader” list for the second time last year. She reflected on the connection between DEI and COVID-19 with similar candor: “Look, there has just been a lot of sadness, so much has happened, and a lot of it has been honestly somewhat terrifying during the last 12 or 18 months.”

The past year has posed unique challenges for all of us, to be sure. As Chapter Co-Lead of Open&Out UK, our employee resource group for the LGBTQIA+ community, Laura often found herself wondering: How do you continue to ensure that everyone at J&J feels a sense of safety and belonging when we’re in the middle of a global pandemic—and when no two people are in the same place?

The easy answer—you can’t—felt like a cop-out, so Laura dismissed it. But the broader question is one that she’s been grappling with—or, to state things perhaps more accurately, tackling head-on—ever since.

In fact, that’s what inspired her and the Open&Out team to lead broad-based initiatives around the concept of “allyship” over the last 12 months.

“We’ve really elevated this idea of ‘allyship’—of standing up for others, and putting other people before yourself—to a whole new level of visibility within the company in 2021,” she said, listing a number of new trainings, programming and initiatives as proof.

And if it’s possible for there to be a silver lining in a global pandemic, Laura thinks she may have briefly glimpsed it through that work. “What I found really interesting,” she observed, “was that because of the all-virtual format of these allyship initiatives, we were actually able to reach more people, and to be more broadly inclusive, compared to what we’d seen in the past.”


Changing Hearts and Minds Through Allyship

In evangelizing allyship and fostering dialogue around the concept, Laura has found that the majority of people are receptive and fully on board. “They’re excited and engaged,” she said. “They know the conversation is going to evolve, and they want to evolve with it.”

At the same time, however, Laura’s encountered other perspectives as well. In fact, she thinks there are two distinct outlooks that cause some people to shy away from important dialogue.

“The first are the people who are essentially going to say, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do, so I’m just not going to do anything at all.’ In my mind, these are the people we really need to engage.”

And the second?

“The second group consists of people who are simply too scared to say anything. They’re scared they’ll say the wrong thing, so they’d rather not say anything at all.”

Changing that—nothing short of changing hearts and minds—is Laura’s mission today, and of course, it’s not an easy task. But Laura does think one thing makes a difference.

“Listening to personal stories is key,” Laura explained. “I really mean that. I’m telling you, listening to personal stories gives these issues a completely different edge. Once you’ve heard someone share something with you that’s drawn from their own personal experiences, it just becomes very hard to walk away from that person and say, ‘There’s nothing I can do about this.’ Because you know that isn’t true.”


Pursue Your Passion With a Company Where YOU Belong

If, like Laura, you’re committed to fighting the good fight, she has this to say to you: “You should know that you’ll find a sense of mission and purpose here, as well as a deep sense of safety—this is a place where you’ll always know that you belong.”

So be sure to check out all of the opportunities to team up with Laura (and the rest of us), and think about joining our Global Talent Hub, too. The latter is a great way to stay in touch and even get updates about jobs that might interest you in the future. Finally, you can learn more about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) at Johnson & Johnson today by checking out our annual DEI Impact Review.

Happy Pride Month from all of us at Johnson & Johnson!

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