Stories and Viewpoints
By: Niki Kapsambelis
June 3, 2022
There was a time when Darren Foulkes used to dread Pride Month. Throughout his adolescence and as he entered young adulthood, he spent many years struggling to understand why he found the same sex attractive.
“My personal journey’s been long,” said Darren, who is the European account manager on Viatris’ Global Accounts team, based in the United Kingdom office. “I think it’s taken me many years to be truly happy.”
There were the things people said to him: “You’re just going through a bit of a phase,” or “Oh God, you’re not gay, are you?” When confronted with those questions, he found it hard to answer yes.
“It’s definitely taught me that people should be very careful about the language they use when they speak with others,” Darren said. “It’s all about careful communication.”
Luckily, the support of his family and friends has brought him to a stage in his life where he can be comfortable as his authentic self both at home and in the workplace. And today, he sees Pride celebrations as an opportunity for the LGBTQ+ community to acknowledge the progress made in being treated equally in society.
“Sadly, the fact is that homophobia – and specifically transphobia – has been on the rise in many countries, and I think that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Darren said. “Regressive laws which seem to suggest that countries are going backwards worry me. So Pride really is an opportunity, I believe, for us to educate and influence the wider population. And it can really act as a catalyst for discussions on diversity and inclusion.”
These concepts are key to Viatris’ corporate culture, notes Darren, and are beneficial to the company’s business by providing an advantage in a competitive landscape.
“When employees can be themselves at work, Viatris will benefit from a more productive and motivated workforce, and it’s easier to attract and hold onto valuable talent,” he explained. “A diverse team also means we benefit from diversity of thought, which often generates more creativity and innovation.”
He hopes that the company’s celebration of Pride Month will create more awareness and allyship at Viatris. VIVID, the company’s Employee Resource Group supporting the LGBTQ+ community, is partnering with nonprofit Out & Equal to run workshops on what it means to be an ally.
“Allyship, for me, is absolute kindness with no judgment at all of another person’s life experiences,” Darren said. “This goes just beyond passive acceptance of the community, such as, ‘I don’t have a problem with gay people’ – this is very different to being an active ally.”
He also hopes that all Viatris leaders will appoint a team member to join VIVID to stay aware of the group’s activities and help influence them and make Viatris a more welcoming company to all.
“I really personally hope that the 2022 Pride celebrations at Viatris will remind all of our colleagues that we have a diverse workforce, and some of those are made up of the LGBTQ+ community,” he said. “And at all times, they should be made to feel a part of our family.”