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Diversity update

GLBT: not a factor in the enlightened workplace

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation reports that forty-nine of the Fortune 50 companies take a formal GLBT-friendly stance

Eight GLBT techies spoke to D/C about careers, corporate culture and whether their orientation affects them at work


Jane Icenogle, distinguished member of tech staff and Equal! at Lucent.

Jane Icenogle, distinguished member of tech staff and Equal! at Lucent.

In politics it's still a charged and polarizing issue, but sexual orientation is fast becoming a non-factor in the workplace. Good engineers and clever IT folks are more and more valued for their contributions to the well-being of their companies, with no reference to their home lives. More and more companies are walking the talk with progressive corporate cultures, clearly stated diversity policies, domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) networking groups.

National advocacy and the Workplace Project
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC, Washington, DC) is the largest national GLBT advocacy organization. Its Workplace Project (www.hrc.org/worklife) collects, analyzes and disseminates information that helps companies formulate policies and procedures to ensure that they treat GLBT workers the same as anyone else.

The Workplace Project reports that as of March 1, 2005, nearly 83 percent of the Fortune 500, a total of 414 companies, include sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies. Forty-nine of the Fortune 50 companies do the same.

This is great news. "Corporate America knows that fairness in the workplace means more productive employees and better work products, and is good for the bottom line," says Daryl Herrschaft, director of the project.

Best of all, the trend is still upward. Forty-three percent of Fortune 500 companies provided domestic partner benefits at the end of 2004, a nine percent increase over 2003. After the first quarter of 2005 the number had grown by another thirteen companies. Almost every company that offers domestic partner benefits at all includes same-sex partners.

SunGard's Debi Kahn: a challenge and a relief
SunGard service programs manager Debi Kahn, left, and her partner Sherri Boxer.

SunGard service programs manager Debi Kahn, left, and her partner Sherri Boxer.

The first week following Hurricane Katrina, many companies in a widespread area declared data center disasters. Fortunately, many of them were signed up with SunGard Availability Services (Wayne, NJ), which helps ensure the availability of business-critical IT systems to more than 10,000 customers in North America and Europe.

Debi Kahn and the rest of the SunGard team were ready to offer support. The client companies could use SunGard facilities until their own were back in operation. They could bring their own data with them or access it through backups already in place at SunGard.

The company offers info availability services for thirty-plus technology platforms. They range from traditional tape-and-truck recovery to high-availability infrastructure, co-location and electronic vaulting services. The company also provides technology and systems management for application and data center outsourcing, business continuity consulting services, planning software and the like.

Debi Kahn is manager of service excellence programs for SunGard, working in the company's internal customer service group and tech service business in Carlstadt, NJ. She trains SunGard tech service providers and is also responsible for Web development changes: tools to help the company and its clients do business together. She and her staff run quarterly user group meetings across the U.S.

Kahn has a 1985 BSCS from Tufts University (Medford, MA). She started her IT career at a Cambridge, MA software company, worked for Harvard Management Co and Prudential Insurance, and joined Comdisco in 1995 as an account support rep. She moved up to systems integration manager and then North American customer service manager. SunGard acquired the company in 2001, and Kahn took her present job in 2002.

"I like working directly with customers, enhancing their websites and offering training and support," says Kahn. "I get a sense of accomplishment from what my team produces. Customers and internal staff appreciate it."

This is Kahn's first job where she's out at work. She says it was both a challenge and a relief to be herself. "People don't realize how much socializing takes place in business conversation, how careful you have to be if you're not out," she explains.

Kahn says her orientation has had no effect on her career at SunGard. The company provides domestic partner benefits and has been extremely supportive. Kahn has pictures of Sherri Boxer, her partner, on her desk and has brought her to company events.

"I like the business, I like the company and I'm treated well," says Kahn. "Why go anyplace else?"

Paul Koenig: supported, not excluded, at Ford
Paul Koenig

Paul Koenig

Paul Koenig is an infrastructure architect at Ford Motor Co (Dearborn, MI). Assigned to enterprise systems management, he provides architectural guidance on tools for the corporate helpdesk, change control, configuration management and systems monitoring.

His job involves planning for systems management technologies, reviewing vendor tools and resolving architectural issues.

He joined Ford in 1993, after working there as a contractor for more than six years. He's been on his current assignment since 2004, working with people from Ford data centers worldwide and enjoying the global aspects.

Koenig has a 1984 BSME and a 1986 MSME from the University of Michigan. He studied IT on his own after college, and after being laid off from an engineering job, decided that IT offered steadier work than engineering. He began in software development and QA at Ford, but five years ago he moved to the data center to do storage management and high availability planning.

One of his early jobs at Ford was designing a global website for regulatory information. The site is still running today, he notes proudly.

"I'm supported, not excluded, at Ford," says Koenig. His orientation doesn't impact his job, and being out has had no effect on his career development, he says. He's always been out to his supervisors and co-workers and has a photo of his partner on his desk; they attend company functions together.

Koenig actively participates in Ford Globe, Ford's gay and lesbian resource group. Ford Globe provides worldwide networking, with meetings, lunches, socials and support for community events.

It's a great group, says Koenig. "If your company doesn't have a GLBT group, find people to help start one. It shows community commitment."

Frank Jania: an envelope of safety at IBM
Frank Jania

Frank Jania

Frank Jania is a software engineering manager for IBM (Armonk, NY), working in Research Triangle Park (Raleigh, NC). His group designs and develops user interfaces and management software for IBM's server systems. He says his favorite part of the job is solving problems, whether he's managing people or writing code.

Jania attended Cooper Union (New York, NY), where he earned a 1997 BSEE and a 1999 MSEE. He focused on signal processing software, and interned with IBM for two summers while he was a student.

The day after he received his MSEE he started full time at IBM. In nearly seven years there he's worked in New York City, nearby Westchester County, Sydney, Australia, Connecticut and now Raleigh. He has ten patents on file.

Jania has always found IBM's culture open and progressive. His former supervisor was a lesbian and made no secret about it, helping pave the way for Jania to come out.

There was a huge benefit to coming out at work, Jania notes. "There are no more pronoun games or hiding my personal life," he says. "I can be honest and comfortable, and I think people appreciate it.

"The tech industry won't turn against good leadership because of race or orientation," he adds. In fact, he finds IBM's GLBT group a great career booster. "I feel an envelope of safety at IBM because of the company's commitment," says Jania. Partners are invited to company functions and made to feel welcome and accepted.

Intel's Josh Phillips: his co-workers knew before his family
Josh Phillips

Josh Phillips

Josh Phillips is an information security specialist at the Folsom, CA site of Intel Corp (Santa Clara, CA). He works with Intel's encryption products, providing engineering-level support and interfacing with vendors. His duties revolve around identification, directory and authentication services, mostly for internal use.

Phillips joined the company after graduating from high school in 1999. "I had more experience coming in than most folks with degrees," he explains. In fact, he helped manage an entrepreneurial computer sales and service company while in high school.

He started at Intel's call center and helpdesk and quickly moved up. Now he's working on a BS in IT from online Capella University (Minneapolis, MN), taking a class at a time with Intel providing tuition reimbursement.

One career peak to date, says Phillips, was traveling to Malaysia to train Intel's call center folks there. He did it for two summers, and says it helps him now when he works with Intel people in Asia.

Phillips has never hidden the fact that he's gay from colleagues at work. In fact, he says, his co-workers knew before his family. He finds Intel very supportive, going beyond the legal requirements for diversity and equality.

Being gay might even open some doors for him, he thinks. He's showcased his leadership potential as president of Intel's GLBT employee group.

Lucent's Jane Icenogle: a liberating and stress-reducing process
Jane Icenogle

Jane Icenogle

In the Naperville, IL facility of Lucent Technologies (Murray Hill, NJ), Jane Icenogle is a distinguished member of technical staff. Her job is the equivalent of an engineering architect team leader, she notes.

Icenogle works as a software construction problem solver on SoftSwitch, a telecom switch. She integrates products and is responsible for software architecture written in Java, C and C++.

She started with AT&T; Bell Labs in 1982, after completing her BS in math and CS at Loyola University (Chicago, IL). She also has a 1983 MSCS from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

After years at work, Icenogle came out in 1989, a very liberating and stress-reducing process, she says. "Hiding takes a tremendous toll. You spend so much time filtering what you say. Over and over again I've seen people blossom when they come out and can be themselves." She admits it did take some courage to put up photos and bring her partner to company events.

About the same time she came out, her group at work was starting to pay attention to GLBT issues. Icenogle helped launch League, an employee group to address the issues. AT&T;'s nondiscrimination policy had been in place since 1975, so League had no trouble becoming an officially recognized support group, although domestic partner benefits took a while longer.

Icenogle continued her work at Lucent after it was spun off from AT&T; in 1996, and became a member of Equal!, Lucent's GLBT employee group. Lucent has since added gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy, she notes.

Icenogle and her partner of nineteen years own a house together, and plan to be married in Canada. "One of the reasons I've stayed at AT&T;, and now Lucent, is that I feel supported and comfortable," Icenogle says.

Michael Daly of Raytheon: "a quiet, subtle thing"
Michael Daly

Michael Daly

Michael Daly is corporate director of information security for Raytheon (Waltham, MA). Raytheon is involved in defense and government electronics, space, IT, tech services, business aviation and special mission aircraft.

Daly went to work for Raytheon in 1996. He's been responsible for info security since 2000, including Internet access, anti-virus efforts, policy and compliance, as well as protecting info, data labeling and determining how to communicate with Raytheon business partners.

More than thirty people report directly to him, and he also chairs the information security council across the company. He reports to and works with senior corporate management.

Daly's 1989 BSME is from Boston University (Boston, MA), and he has completed his Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification.

In college he ran a security dispatch center, wrote software and expanded the service. He never practiced ME after school, but moved into info security. He worked first for a private security agency, and then for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC, Washington, DC).

He began at Raytheon as network manager, then senior manager of apps. In 1999 he became info security manager and helped establish the security function. He also helped build the security aspects of the Orion project, a global communications network.

Fifteen years ago Daly came out to a few people he worked with. "It's a continual process, not just a date on the calendar," he says. "It's a quiet, subtle thing."

Raytheon is supportive and offers domestic partner benefits. Daly is comfortable bringing Alex, his partner, to company events. He's also active in Raytheon's GLBTA, an orientation-centered alliance established in 1999.

He likes Raytheon's variety and many business units. "I keep running into cool new things," he says. For now, he's driving toward CIO or CTO, and remains focused on security.

Brigitte Lefebvre: out on the job at Xerox
Brigitte Lefebvre

Brigitte Lefebvre

Senior field engineer Brigitte Lefebvre works in the Henrietta, NY location of Xerox Corp (Stamford, CT). She's been with the company for almost twenty years in Canada and the U.S. Lefebvre grew up in Montreal, speaking French at home. She perfected her business and technical English on the job in Toronto.

Lefebvre supports a range of the company's DocuColor print server digital front-end equipment. She helps field technicians with repairs, and is called in throughout the U.S. and Canada if the local folks are stumped. "I'm their last resort," she says.

In calmer times, she makes sure the field technicians are equipped with the right information and documentation. "I serve as the liaison between the field and Xerox," she says.

Lefebvre has the Canadian equivalent of a BSEE and an MS in computer and logical science. In 1979, when she completed the BS, engineering jobs for women were hard to find in Canada. She worked as a security manager for a large department store chain until the happy day when she learned that Xerox was hiring women engineers.

Since then she's taken many courses through Xerox University (Leesburg, VA), and also developed some. A major part of her job is keeping up with new technologies and certifications. She's a color specialist, a significant credential in the printing industry, and also an admin for a Microsoft network and a Novell network, plus Front Page and Solaris System.

She supports seventeen different Xerox digital front-end platforms based on Microsoft NT/2000, XP and Unix, and has supported fifty other platforms over her career. She's also trained to be a trainer.

Lefebvre is out on the job. Her partner, Flow Hicks, is also a Xerox field specialist and works in a different department in the same office.

Flow Hicks: Xerox is caring and supportive
Flow Hicks

Flow Hicks

Flow Hicks is a field engineer technical specialist II for Xerox in Henrietta, NY. She's the only hardware-trained woman field engineer in the U.S. and Canada for the Xerox iGen3 digital production press, a printing giant that can be seven feet high and up to seventy-seven feet long.

Hicks takes care of the hardware and digital interface and helps field technicians with hardware problems. She's also the retrofit expert, making sure the iGen is compatible with existing equipment. "I like knowing the machine," she says. "The best way to do that is to tear it apart and put it back together."

A native of New York City, Hicks was taught mechanics by her older brothers, and got her EE training while serving in the Navy. After her discharge she was in a four-year apprenticeship program at Norshipco (Norfolk, VA), a shipbuilding and dry-dock company, and took courses at Old Dominion University (Norfolk, VA).

Hicks joined Xerox in 1982, working in Texas. In 1995 she took her present job in New York State.

Hicks met Lefebvre through mutual friends at Xerox. The company has no rules about office romances, and they became a couple in 1997. The next year they formalized their relationship with a civil union ceremony in Hawaii. Xerox offers full partner benefits, and does not permit its managers to use a double standard.

Both women are members of Galaxe Pride at Work, an organization for GLBT employees and others who support them. The group provides an official point of contact between its members and Xerox management, as well as with GLBT groups at other companies.

There are about 120 people working in the Henrietta office, and Lefebvre and Hicks find almost all of them caring and supportive. "There will be some people who feel uncomfortable, but once they get to know you it's usually OK," says Lefebvre. The two women attend social functions together, where they're treated like any other couple.


Jon Boroshok is a freelance writer in Groton, MA.

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