In celebration of Pride Month, throughout June we will be spotlighting employees across Molson Coors. This week, we are featuring Tony Cofield, world-class supply chain lead at our Shenandoah Brewery in Elkton, Va. A former secretary of our LAGER employee resource group for LGBTQ+ community members and allies, Tony has been involved in the ERG for about 20 years. He is also the executive sponsor of our Black Employee Voices (BEV) ERG chapter in Shenandoah.
Why is Pride Month special to you? How do you celebrate/recognize the month?
Pride has been special to me for many years. With Molson Coors as a sponsor of the local Shenandoah Valley Pride, I’ve seen it grow over the years from 30 or 40 people in a park to an amazing 2 to 3 thousand in Court Square in the middle of Harrisonburg.
For me, it means establishing a sense of pride, acceptance and normalcy for people who often don’t get the chance to feel comfortable in their work, home or personal lives. Pride establishes a safe (and fun) zone of total equality, where everyone is welcome to come and be their true selves in the company of others.
As we emerge from the pandemic era, how have things changed over the last two years among the LGBTQ+ community?
I’ve seen the focus shift – at least locally – from external advocacy for and celebration of rights, to internal support for the community. The community has shifted more to creating safe spaces and support for each other. Mental health issues are often overlooked or downplayed in our society, including in the LGBTQ+ community, and it’s been inspiring for me to see the shift towards self-care and the care for others.
What motivated you to join LAGER?
The desire to give and receive support and connect with our workforce. Our chapter was small in the 90’s, only about 8 or10 members, mostly allies, and I felt the need to both help my fellow LGBTQ+ employees create a sense of community and support, and simultaneously, I enjoyed the collaboration with like-minded folks on important issues. It became very important for me, over time, to support the LGBTQ+ issues in our community, and at the same time, engage our workforce in meaningful demonstrations of how diversity within an inclusive environment helps us all.
How do you and other members of LAGER show their pride in the workplace?
Our local LAGER chapter sponsors both independent events throughout the year, as well as collaboration with our other ERG’s in support of diversity. While supporting the local Pride events is the most exciting, often the most fulfilling LAGER events are the local sponsored Pub or tent events to sit with our employees, all our employees, and Celebrate Together.
Molson Coors is a longtime supporter of the community – going back to the 1970s. Why is it important for companies to support their LGBTQ+ workers and in the community as a whole?
I was hired in 1996, and couldn’t believe that I was an employee of one of the first employers in the Shenandoah Valley, and across the United States, to offer domestic partner benefits when the concept was unfathomable to most companies. I felt at home at work when I realized that I was truly appreciated by the company, and my co-workers, for my abilities and my accomplishments.
In times of division, it may even more important that Molson Coors continues to rate 100 on the HRC index year after year, promoting a positive culture of diversity, inclusion and equity when some of those values seem to be in question. If we assemble teams of diverse, creative people who ideate and collaborate as equals, we will succeed in business and develop a culture of excellence for decades to come. It was part of my decision to become a sponsor BEV. After years of receiving the support of allies in LAGER, I felt I owed our people a stronger support of allyship for all people. I’m delighted to learn more and support BEV in continuing to build a culture that Puts People First.
Who is an LGBTQ+ leader or role model you look up to and why?
My first role model was probably Mark Mitchell, who worked in a variety of leadership roles across the entire facility up until his retirement a few years ago. Here was an openly gay man in the mid-90’s, proud of his partner, loudly advocating for and praising domestic partnership benefits, and modeling every day that LGBTQ+ people have the same capabilities for leadership, compassion and decision-making as anyone. He tirelessly worked to the best leader he could be, regardless of sexual orientation, and was widely respected all for his intelligence, compassion, leadership and approachability.