Mike Boughton has been with Blue Yonder for a decade and is also the associate resource group (ARG) lead for the new Blue Yonder ARG BYourself (our ‘BY’ ‘take’ on Be Yourself – BYourself!). This ARG aims to bolster support, affirmation, and equality for our diverse family of LGBTQ+ associates, partners, and neighbors to express their true selves in our communities. Learn more about Mike’s journey and vision and aspirations for BYourself!
As lead for the new BYourself associate resource group (ARG), tell us a little about yourself and why you raised your hand to lead this new ARG.
Earlier this month, I celebrated 10 years with Blue Yonder. I started to think about how the world has changed in 10 years for the LGBTQ+ community. One of those things that has changed is marriage equality. Seventeen countries have legalized same-sex marriage in that decade. I was finally able to get married to my husband, and we have been together for 20 years (married for 8).
I think about my work environment, how acceptance of LGBTQ+ colleagues has increased since I entered the workforce. Is that true in every company or country? Absolutely not! And that is why I wanted to get involved in this new ARG, to make sure that open and accepting environment is what we all feel, no matter where we are located in the world. Everyone deserves the same sense of security, well-being and belonging.
What drew you to get involved in DIVE and our ARGs in the first place?
I have always been supportive of the other ARGs and part of Blue Yonder’s DIVE Council. It felt like a logical next step to get involved in this ARG and a privilege to be in a supportive environment.
What inspires you most about BYourself and the participants who have joined this new ARG so far?
We are a small but mighty group. I am happy to share that we have a good footprint around much of the globe so far, including the U.S. United Kingdom, Monterrey and Singapore. We have a lot of room to grow and hope with this launch, we’ll get more interest from around the company.
What are your goals for BYourself?
I would love to incubate regional chapters for the group because the challenges are different regionally. Representation across the Western countries is a great platform to jump off and grow. I want BYourself to be full of education, sharing information about the community, what we experience, and ultimately, how we are not that different from outside the community.
Do you have any personal goals related to BYourself or DIVE that you’d like to share? For example, for me, I’d like to get out of my comfort zone and get in front of the camera for one of our LinkedIn Live series’ discussions for DIVE (usually I’m behind’ the camera so to speak!).
I can talk all day about Category Management topics. But this is the first time I’ve done something more personal around my own experiences and gotten out of my comfort zone. I want to learn to be as open as I can about me and not just about the technology I’ve centered my career around.
I also recognize that I am not an expert on all things LGBTQ+. I have more to learn about transgender issues, or challenges for others who are not a cisgender gay man like me. I just want to make sure BYourself is a place to openly share ideas and informational resources. I personally want to grow and become more self-aware as part of this ARG.
Any misconceptions you’d like to rectify when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community?
I think the biggest misconception is that LGBTQ+ is more than just one group of people – it is a very diverse community! It’s not just one big bucket with one challenge. The challenges among each group are very different. We need to consider the group as a whole, but can’t make the mistake of lumping everyone in the same bucket. We have to pay attention to each space singularly. Each community of individuals within LGBTQ+ are equally important.
How do you personally define being an ally?
Someone is an ally if they recognize and seek out information about inequality or prejudice. For example, it is more than just supporting LGBTQ+ people. Do you seek information? Do you listen? Do you ask questions, share perspectives? After building understanding and self-awareness, then you can stand on the side of equality and inclusion. Not just in the workplace but beyond that as well.
What are three things you’ve learned over your career that apply to today’s need for a more diverse, inclusive workforce environment?
I worked for a company before Blue Yonder that had a corporate pillar statement: inclusion makes us stronger. It was everywhere and really connected everything they did and was part of their culture. Inclusion helped decision-making be more vetted, solution designs better, with less 11th hour problems. It really fostered inclusion of all perspectives. Inclusion is huge for me. It’s how I prefer to work and how I’ll work with BYourself.
An opposite culture I have experienced is microaggression. It’s easy to miss the signs of microaggression related to LGBTQ+. Early in my career before coming out I worked in a grocery store where some colleagues gave me an alter ego gay persona nicknamed ‘Renaldo.’ That grocery crew had no shortage of masculinity, and the line between harassment and fraternizing was sometimes blurry. I brushed it aside for a while, but it later became my first experience speaking up to address a workplace issue.
And finally, no one I worked with has ever had an issue after learning that I am gay. Not everyone in my personal life was accepting. But I have found that for those closest to you, it doesn’t bother them, they just support you. They care about you, but your sexual orientation or gender does not change who you are to them.
Looking back, is there anything in your career that surprises you or that you’d change?
I wouldn’t have waited so long to come out – in general and at work. I grew up in a small rural community where conservatism wins the day. My family involved me in the church. It wouldn’t have been as welcoming when I lived there but even when I moved away, I kept it to myself a long time.
For example, at that grocery store I mentioned, I had a workplace injury and had to be transported by ambulance. (Just needed a few staples to close a cut, in the end I was fine). But instead of having the store call my boyfriend, I handled the situation at the hospital because I didn’t want anyone to know I had a boyfriend.
What are three key words to describe you?
Fair, pragmatic, methodical