June 28, 2021
Kathleen Sykora-Haley serves as multiple listings project handler at UL, and first joined the firm’s Healthcare and Life Sciences division in 2008. She discusses what UL’s evolving stance regarding diversity and inclusion means to her in terms of trust—both on behalf of and for the company.
Could you tell me more about your current role at UL, and how you came to join the company?
I facilitate relationships between original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and other companies who wish to private label the OEM’s products. The Multiple Listings team was first put together about 14 to 15 years ago, and now we’re a global team operating in North America, Poland, India and Asia. We touch every industry that allows multiple listings, and work with external customers as well as our own engineers.
I first came to UL in 2008 through a temporary agency, for our Life and Health Sciences team. My job was calling customers no longer doing business with UL to try to win them back. It was a cross between cold- and warm-calling. I was successful at this, so was eventually hired and moved to inside sales.
Where were you born, and where did you grow up?
I was born in Ventura, California, and my mom still lives in the house where I grew up. I got my BA in theatre arts at California State University at Long Beach (CSULB), and wanted to be an actor. I also grew up playing music—classical piano and flute.
After college I moved to Chicago for my MFA at DePaul University. I lived there for 20 years, and was a founding member of Stage Left Theatre.
Life took its course, though, and eventually I started working at Encyclopedia Britannica as an executive assistant, working with executive management there. Then in 2005 I moved to Washington state and worked as an insurance salesperson. And then I found a home at UL, and have been here ever since. I’ve appreciated all the opportunities UL has offered me, and my acting degree actually helped with my first role here—listening to clients and identifying what they needed to come back into relationships with UL.
In terms of the role trust plays in UL’s mission, how would you say you help ensure that UL lives up to this trust, and how has UL earned your trust in it as a company and employer?
In my day-to-day work, creating trust with my clients means listening to their needs in order to meet them — I try to under-promise and over-produce. Also, maintaining a sense of integrity is key, because supporting a safer world means paying attention to details, especially in the Multiple Listings world. That trust and integrity are key to helping our customers.
In terms of UL gaining my trust, that dovetails with Pride. I’ve become more trusting over the last four years via the business resource groups. When UL started a Pride group, I was happy that UL was embracing this community, and I wanted to be a part of that group. I contributed to the chartering of the Pride group and am an education co-lead for the group.
So, knowing that UL was willing to acknowledge employees who are LGTBQ+ means the world to me. That big D&I push definitely drove more trust. I’m able to come to work and be my authentic self, and UL as a company is just going to become more dynamic and have more depth with these business resource groups.
I also want to mention building trust in terms of psychological safety. When I first joined UL I was in a partnership with another woman. I didn’t disclose my relationship with anyone at work. If I shared with someone about my personal life, I used the generic, they/them. I wasn’t specific about who they/them were. When that relationship ended and I eventually met someone else. and in 2019, I became engaged to be married, and got to share that part of my life with my work colleagues. That had never happened before in my work life, and that would not have happened even four or five years ago here at UL. That I felt safe enough to do this says a lot about UL’s D+I journey.
When we talk about the idea of Pride Month, what does that idea mean to you?
First, Pride Month is meant to acknowledge all the activists’ work it took to get us here, working for things like fair housing, nondiscrimination, health benefits and marriage rights. Pride Month acknowledges all that hard work, sacrifice and death. This awareness may not happen elsewhere during the rest of the year.
Second, in terms of extending this awareness through the rest of the year, individuals can still be supportive by educating themselves, by being good allies. I want to be a good ally to other minority groups, too. I try to be aware of unconscious biases. Even within my own group there are lots of people and “types” to navigate—so educate yourself constantly. That can lead to equitable access to opportunity.
In the US, several businesses have endorsed the Equality Act that would extend workplace fairness principles to LGTBQ employees (if enacted by Congress). What does it mean to you that UL has officially endorsed this proposed legislation?
This says a lot. UL has evolved over its 127 years, and how it’s evolved culturally is quite something. To think UL would endorse this legislation even just a few years ago is remarkable. I applaud UL’s core leadership for doing this, and it shows that they understand that companies don’t live in a vacuum. For companies to put on blinders in terms of how people are affected is so short-sighted. UL breaking that wall and backing this legislation along with other companies says a lot, that making the world a safer place means more than a product. Endorsing this piece of legislation is really part of our mission. We’re not going to accept discrimination of any marginalized community. Jenny Scanlon and the UL leadership are asking us all to think about what we want this company to look like and be—I am proud to be a UL employee.