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Fostering an Inclusive Workplace is Top of Mind for André Silva

André found comfort in sharing his identity at work and now helps to ensure that colleagues — near and far — receive support too.

A close-up of André Silva’s face. Silva wears glasses and squints one eye. A number of colors appear on his face, evidence that he participated in a Holi celebration.

June 12, 2023 | 4 min

For many, keeping their professional life separate from their personal life works. Not for André Silva.

He’s a world traveler, foodie and science geek who weaves his passions together in his role at Merck. Silva works as a field marketing specialist, developing content and strategies to promote products. One key aspect of his work centers around food — including supporting the production and testing needs of customers in the alternative protein and new food markets. When he’s not connecting with customers in the field, he’s supporting his LGBTQ+ colleagues, serving as a leader in an Employee Resource Group that assembles LGBTQ+ community members and allies.

For Silva, bringing his full self into his job makes workdays more fulfilling and interesting. This didn't happen overnight, though. Pretty quickly, his colleagues knew about his love of travel, food and science — but it took some time for André to come out to them. He was fortunate to develop a close relationship with his team outside of work, which made him feel safe and allowed him to be himself. As soon as he did, he started feeling more confident at work.

“Even though I knew my colleagues would accept me and welcome my boyfriend at our group activities, it was hard to shake off the feeling that an awkward silence might follow the introduction,” he says.

Around the same time, he saw a Brazilian colleague post on LinkedIn about the Rainbow Network — one of the company’s largest and most active Employee Resource Groups, which aims to create a more inclusive work environment to attract and retain LGBTQ+ talents. He reached out to learn about how she got involved in Brazil’s Rainbow Network and felt invigorated.

“I knew that I didn’t want to just be a part of [the network] — I wanted to help drive it. I wanted to support my LGBTQ+ colleagues and ensure they felt safe and included the same way I did,” Silva says. Soon, he became the co-lead for MerckUK and Ireland Rainbow Network.

On top of their daily efforts to create an inclusive environment, the group also coordinates company participation and sponsorship in Pride festivals and parades. In 2023, employees plan to march together in three parades across the UK and Ireland, spanning from June to September. Rainbow Networks across the globe organize similar activities and, this year, employees are gathering for Pride activities in cities around the world. The networks aren’t just active during Pride celebrations, though. They meet year-round and host events, hold discussions and build relationships between LGBTQ+ employees and allies.

Silva respects that some people prefer not to share their sexual orientation at work. Others would like to be open but are unsure how to approach the topic and apprehensive as to how people will react. But, to Silva and other Rainbow Network leaders, acknowledging these complexities is critical to help meet colleagues where they are.

A group of about 30 employees holds up a banner that reads “Vibrant and Proud” with a rainbow flag on the side. They hold rainbow flags and many are smiling.

A group of Merck march in the 2022 parade together.

In 2022, Silva helped organize the first conference for the UK and Ireland Rainbow Network, bringing together local LGBTQ+ employees from across the network. Senior managers who were not members of the Rainbow Network also joined for programming. These sessions helped managers gain skills to ensure they build inclusive and cohesive teams, equipping them with resources to be better allies and advocates. A second conference is slated for 2023.

It takes organization and hard work to plan conferences and facilitate discussions but, at the end of the day, being approachable, welcoming and warm are among the most important traits for Rainbow Network leaders. A few months back, a colleague came out to Silva for the first time in a professional setting. For Silva, moments like this make the meetings and planning sessions worthwhile.

Silva’s energy and efforts are visible in interactions like these and the incredible growth of the UK and Ireland Rainbow Network, which, in the last few years, grew from five to 100 members. For him, the uptick in memberships is a testament to the fact that more people are learning about the efforts of the Rainbow Network, want to feel included in the community and are eager to support its mission. Clearly, his experience of gaining confidence after coming out to accepting colleagues resonated with others.

So, whether it's food, travel or identity — Silva is a staunch advocate for bringing your full self to work. For him and many other LGBTQ+ community members, it may make the workplace more comfortable — and might even boost confidence, inside and outside of work.

Uplifting Diverse Voices

At Merck, we foster a culture where employees can bring their true selves to work. We are committed to promoting a strong sense of inclusion among our employees. Therefore, we approach Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DE&I) with the same purpose as our other global business objectives and aspirations. While we have always been a diverse organization – we currently span 66 countries and have over 64,000 employees from 139 nationalities – we recognize that our success depends on our ability to foster an environment that champions equity and inclusion.

One important way that Merck supports employees from diverse backgrounds and identities is through Employee Resource Groups. These groups connect employees with others who share similar backgrounds and beliefs and/or support their communities.

We work to showcase employees across our company, providing a space for them to share their perspectives and personal stories.
Learn more about our commitment to DE&I.

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