Pride Month Spotlight: Jake Palenske, Raytheon

Jake Palenske
Senior Manager, Digital/Social Marketing & Analytics
Raytheon

June marks the beginning of Pride month, which celebrates the LGBT community nationwide.

Jake Palenske is a member of the IIS Communications leadership team and manages the business’ digital marketing and analytics function. He’s been with Raytheon for seven years and formerly served as the communications lead for GIS and Business Development.

Here, Jake discusses his career with Raytheon, and what pride, diversity, and inclusion mean to him.

Q: What do you like about your current job?

JP: There is always something different, interesting and new going on. That, for me, is the overwhelming reason why Raytheon is such an attractive place to work. I also love that because of our mission and our customers, my jobs lets me indirectly serve the country. That I like my colleagues and the people I work with is icing on the cake.

Q: What do diversity and inclusion mean to you?

JP: The idea of diversity and inclusion means a lot of things to me. It certainly encompasses the “usual suspects” like people of different genders, races, nationalities and backgrounds. But I think we need to better understand that the idea also applies to traits that can’t always be visually identified. You can’t see if someone is LGBT just by looking at them. It’s also impossible to visually identify people with learning disabilities like attention deficit disorder, Asperger syndrome, or other special needs. We all need to be more cognizant of how people learn and communicate in different ways so everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

Q: How do you foster inclusion in your life?

JP: I try to listen more than I talk. I don’t always succeed, but I try! I make a conscious effort to pay attention to what others think and listen to their inputs. Listening to understand instead of to reply leads to more diversity and inclusion all around. Being inclusive also doesn’t mean just avoiding offending someone. It’s not a passive role. You have to take action, be proactive and advocate for the right people. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Q: What does Pride month signify for you?

JP: I’ve had an interesting journey when it comes to pride parades and pride month. When I was younger, it really wasn’t my thing. I’d never really experienced the struggles that people like me had gone through in the past, and in my mind, my sexual orientation was very low on the list of things that make me interesting. As I’ve gotten older and learned more about the history of the equality movement, pride month has taken on a lot more meaning. It’s a reminder of the work done and the sacrifices made by everyone who cleared the path and made it much easier for people my age to be more open about who we are. Pride month signifies that, yes, we’ve made progress but also that there’s still a long way to go.

Historically speaking, the only way minority groups have made progress and escaped oppression is with the help and support of people in the majority. So I think Pride month is also an occasion to say thank you to our straight allies and celebrate the role they continue to play in our lives.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

JP: Just that I think it’s really great we’re doing the pride flag ceremony this month. To know that Raytheon is going to raise the flag is very impactful. It shows the company cares enough about people like me to do something like this, despite knowing they could potentially be bashed for it. To see Raytheon say very publicly that this a safe place for members of the LGBT community is huge.