In honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month, I recently had the opportunity to interview one of Tyson Foods’ newest team members, learn about his upbringing as the gay son of Mexican immigrants, and speak to him about the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Miguel Sanchez joined the company 6 months ago and currently serves in the Disruptive Innovation Lab as a senior graphic designer. He helps turn brands, products and advertisements into visual works of art.
Below are some excerpts from my conversation with Miguel.
What do you want Tyson team members to know about you as a person?
“First and foremost, I am an artistic individual who aims to incorporate various cultures and backgrounds of my own experience into my work – the Hispanic part of me, the LGBTQ part, and more. I am also extremely extroverted and have been a practicing dancer my entire life.”
Tell us a little bit more about your background and the experiences that influence you the most.
“Well, I am the youngest of five children born and raised in Southern California in a traditional Mexican-American family. My parents are both immigrants who came from nothing and taught me the value of discipline and hard work from a very young age. They were extremely frugal, very strict and took us to church every Sunday. That influenced a lot of their expectations of me.”
What were your parents’ expectations of you?
“They have a pretty traditional view of things. They want me to work a laborious job, get a wife and have kids I can provide for. Even going to college for a graphic design degree was sort of frowned upon. I came out to them at that time, and that was difficult. They love me and everything, but they are kind of in denial about my sexuality. One of my brothers is also gay, and my parents accept his boyfriend into our home but do not publicly acknowledge their relationship. They’re ‘just friends.’ I think they are more afraid of being judged by others.”
Given your background, how important is LGBTQ inclusion and diversity in the workplace to you?
“It is really important because I want to feel safe and comfortable working where I am. In the past, I worked someplace that wasn’t that inclusive, and I just felt alienated. I didn’t feel like I could be myself, and that affected my work.”
What was your perception of Tyson’s stance on LGBTQ inclusion and diversity when applying for your job?
“What drove me most to Tyson was the opportunity for change. I had only ever worked for small companies before and had never lived outside of Southern California. At first, I was a little apprehensive because I had this perception that Tyson was fairly conservative. But when I started researching the company, one of the first things I came across was an article about the [Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index] that talked about how inclusive and friendly to LGBTQ people it was. That made a huge difference for me.”
What is your opinion about LGBTQ inclusion and diversity at Tyson now?
“It’s only improved. From the minute I walked into the Chicago office for my interview, I was moved by the presence of the ‘I’m an Ally’ desk signs. I was also invited to be a member of the Tyson Pride Network and now serve as participant director. I’ve never worked someplace with business resource groups like Tyson, and I feel like it gives me an outlet to give back to my community. My team has also been incredibly warm and welcoming and made me feel comfortable being myself.”
“As a creative person, a lot of my inspiration comes from my identity and experiences. Bringing my whole self to work allows me to perform at my best for my team and for Tyson.”Miguel Sanchez
What advice do you have for team members who want to be better LGBTQ allies?
“As an ally, you have a voice and an avenue that most LGBTQ people do not have access to. Use it. Seek to understand the issues that LGBTQ people face, and be engaged and outspoken in speaking up on their behalf when appropriate. You can’t put yourself in our shoes, but you can be empathetic – and simply listening and acknowledging hardships goes a long way.”
Miguel told me he took a giant leap in deciding to move to Chicago and come to Tyson last year. He was understandably uneasy for multiple reasons, but says he quickly learned Tyson truly is a family that accepts him for who he is. While disappointed he can’t experience Pride Month in Chicago in person this year, he looks forward to celebrating with his new friends all month long. You can check out Miguel’s artwork at https://sanchuary.co/.