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How our LGBTQ+ employee resource group is breaking barriers

Read Time: 3 minutes

June 20, 2024


It all started in 1997 with a memo.  

That year, three Cargill employees — James Quenzer, Dan Larson and Kevin Horne — sent a memorandum to Nancy Siska. Their request to the then head of human resources: form a gay employee resource group.  

That memo led, in 2000, to the birth of the Rainbow Alliance Employee Council, now known as the Cargill Pride Network (CPN).

Today, the rainbow flag flies high at Cargill facilities around the world. Pride Month in June is celebrated across the company. And the Pride Network remains an important part of Cargill’s diversity, equity and inclusion culture. 

“The Cargill Pride Network exists to foster an equitable, safe and supportive business environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and allied employees,” says David Zwak, co-chair of the network. “By embracing our employees’ uniqueness, we create an inclusive workplace where all people can thrive.” 


Perfectly inclusive community building

Cargill employees holding a pride flag outside.Our Pride Network was founded by three employees more than 25 years ago and now has more than 1,300 members.

What started as a safe space for people in the LGBTQ+ community to meet has grown exponentially over the past quarter-century. 

The Pride ERG (employee resource group) now has over 1,300 members around the world. In Brazil, the group has advocated for transgender access to employment and education, resulting in CPN representation at every operations facility in the country. Across Latin America, CPN has improved transgender hiring initiatives, resulting in 40 transgender individuals joining Cargill since 2018. 

“We’re contributing to build an inclusive culture, workforce protections and benefits, gender affirmation, and education on the use of pronouns,” says Katy Nordhagen, Cargill Pride Network co-chair.

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has rewarded this positive impact. Cargill just received a perfect score in its latest Corporate Equality Index, which rates U.S. workplaces on LGBTQ+ equality. That’s Cargill’s 19th in a row, highlighting the company’s commitment to putting people first.

“It's an achievement we're proud to share not just with our LGBTQ+ colleagues but with our entire company,” adds Katy. “We're committed to fostering a workplace culture of inclusivity and equality for all. 


Advocating allyship so all employees feel they belong

A group of cargill employees posing with a large pride flag inside an officeThe Pride Flag is internationally recognized as a symbol for the LGBTQ+ community.

As the Pride Network has grown, so have the group’s goals and challenges. Today, ERG members are working hard to empower allies to engage with the LGBTQ+ community.  

David Webster, Cargill’s chief risk officer and leader of the Food Ingredients and Bioindustrial enterprise, is one such ally. The executive sponsor of the Pride Network says his journey to allyship and advocacy is rooted in his family history — but adds that’s not a prerequisite to supporting the cause.  

“I have witnessed bias and mistreatment in action,” he says. “It helped me realize the leader I wanted to become and the environment I wanted to create. Everyone deserves to be themselves, and we must have an environment that allows all to thrive.” 


A brief history of Pride at Cargill



First mention of sexual orientation in Cargill's Equal Employment Opportunity statement.



Three employees — James Quenzer, Dan Larson and Kevin Horne — send a memo to Nancy Siska, head of HR, about the formation of a gay employee resource group at Cargill.



In April, the Rainbow Alliance employee council starts.



Cargill begins offering domestic partnership benefits.
Cargill becomes the first Minnesota company to receive a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Cargill has received a 100% score every year since.



Cargill participates in a Pride march in Bangalore, India, for the first time.



Cargill employees at Pride parade image More than 100 Cargill employees march in the Minneapolis Pride Parade, including CEO David MacLennan and Chief Human Resources Officer LeighAnne Baker. This marks the first Pride Parade hosted by Cargill and Global Inclusion and Diversity.

In June, the Cargill Pride Network launches the Cargill Canada Pride Network.



The Cargill Pride Network expands with the launch of the Cargill Pride Latin America (LATAM) chapter, the Cargill Pride European chapter and the Japan Pride Network.



Cargill Brazil signs on to the 10 commitments of the Businesses and LBGTI+ Rights Forum and is now part of an exchange network for good practices and connections with other companies in the country.



The Cargill Pride Network celebrates its 25th anniversary.



165 Cargill facilities have raised the Pride flag. 


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