Sebastian at pride event

Growing up in a small progressive arts community south of Toronto, Canada, Novo Nordisk employee Sebastian Parlee, who identifies as gay, never gave a second thought to being a member of the LGBTQ2+ community, especially when he had the support of family members.

“It wasn’t until I moved to the upper Midwest region of the US to work as a post-doctoral fellow that I realized things in this part of the United States were different from where I’d grown up,” he shared. “The science industry isn’t always an equal playing field for minorities, and I was warned by a former faculty member that this was something I would have to consider as I moved up in my career. I knew I’d have to hide part of my identity to protect myself. Unfortunately, it’s just something I had to deal with at the time.”

After finishing his fellowship, Sebastian accepted a scientist position for Novo Nordisk at a small R&D research site in Indianapolis, Indiana.

“At first, my family was concerned with my moving to rural Indiana and the challenges I could face as a gay man. We weren’t sure what to expect. I remained closeted for the first year, but I continued to look for a way to connect with my community. Novo Nordisk’s LGBTQ2+ employee resource group (ERG), NovoEqual, really spoke to me. I quickly realized it was a safe space. My boss and his wife even joined me at a Pride event in Indiana which meant so much to me.”

As he became more involved with the ERG, Sebastian realized he had the opportunity to help build and grow the NovoEqual community within his research site, connecting to the network at the larger U.S.-based and global headquarters. 

“The goal is to connect and expand our communities at the different sites across the US, not only within the NovoEqual groups, but across other ERGs. Our Hispanic and Latin American group is hosting a Pride event soon, focusing on Latinx members within the LGBQT2+ community. It’s that kind of alliance that I love – I get to learn about other communities and celebrate my own.”

When it comes to the successful expansion of NovoEqual to Novo Nordisk sites across the US, Sebastian credits the growth to all the allies, community members and leadership teams across NovoEqual.

“We actually just launched our first ever employee resource group at our Clayton, NC site,” he shares.

From providing LGBTQ2+ community resources to inspiring dialogue around creating equality, Novo Nordisk’s NovoEqual groups strive to create a culture where employees feel they can bring their full and authentic selves to work every day. “It’s incredibly scary to put yourself out there. People in the LGBTQ2+ community have to come out to different people every day. Even if someone isn’t comfortable or quite ready to come out, they can still join NovoEqual as an ally to learn from others, and find support privately. Allies are such an important part of our community,” Sebastian said.

“Our company is a strong ally for our LGBTQ2+ community, and embraces opportunities to learn and grow. As the world changes, we are taking steps to evolve with it.” 

"By supporting and maximizing the potential of our employee resource groups, we all benefit and see first-hand the value of bringing in a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds,” he shares. “I’m simply a small piece of the puzzle to the great work we are doing.”