GLBT techies move ahead
“An increasing majority of
companies are committed to equal employment
based on sexual orientation or
gender identity.” Selisse Berry, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
“Being out frees me to be myself. I’m not distracted by trying to hide or watch what I say.” Luisa K. Torrielli, DuPont
'Companies are clearly taking gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) issues seriously,” says Eric Bloem, deputy director of the Workplace Project of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC Foundation, Washington, DC, www.hrc.org/workplace).
Each fall since 2002 the HRC has released its Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The index rates the largest and most successful U.S. companies on their policies and practices for GLBT inclusiveness. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of progress,” Bloem declares.
This year a total of 260 companies received a perfect score. This is an increase of one-third over last year. There has, in fact, been a steady trend of gains since 2002, when only thirteen employers received the 100 percent rating.
Catching the eye
In recent surveys the CEI has given greater weight to comprehensive domestic partner benefits and transgender inclusion.
“Transgender inclusion at the workplace caught the eye of diversity experts,” says Bloem. “It’s very exciting. We’ve seen a steady increase in the number of companies who add gender identity to their non-discrimination policies.”
The HRC sees “a continuing trend of growth for the future,” Bloem says. “We will continue to keep
criteria for the CEI in line with best practices in transgender inclusion.”
Attitudes are changing
“We’re definitely moving in the right direction for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity at the workplace,” says Selisse Berry, executive director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates (San Francisco, CA, www.outandequal.org).
“Companies are recognizing that LGBT diversity is the right thing to do and good for the bottom line. Companies want to recruit and retain the best employees.”
Out & Equal partnered with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc and Harris Interactive for its seventh annual survey of attitudes toward GLBT employees.
Feeling more comfortable
“An increasing majority of self-identified heterosexual respondents are committed to equal employment based on sexual orientation or gender identity and to extending domestic partner benefits for same-sex couples,” Berry says.
“We also find an increase in people feeling more comfortable with transgender individuals,” she adds. “More people know a transgender colleague and can see that when people transition to another gender they bring the same skills and experience to the job that they had before.
“Progressive policies are important in companies that are leaders,” Berry says. “It’s essential to continue to create a workplace culture and climate where it’s safe for people to come out. These are the next steps in best practices for LGBT employees.”
These five GLBT engineers, four ChEs and an EE, bring their talents to their companies while enhancing the quality of a diverse workforce. The companies they work for all received “perfect” ratings on the latest HRC Corporate Equality Index.
Luisa K. Torrielli: Lean
Six Sigma black belt at DuPont
Luisa Torrielli received her BSChE from MIT (Cambridge, MA) in 1998 and went directly to work at DuPont (Wilmington, DE).
A Lean Six Sigma black belt, she’s worked for the past two years for the DuPont electronic and communication technology platform in the supply chain transformation center of competency.
Bringing her black belt expertise into the workplace is “the heart of engineering,” she says. “Whether it’s a warehouse, a chemical plant or customer service reps handling orders, I
have to mold theory into solving problems. I feel proud of my work when I’ve been able to help a group.”
Torrielli came out on the job as a lesbian in 2007. “Our diversity network is strong,” she says. Through Bisexuals, Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered and Allies at DuPont (BGLAD, www.dupontbglad.com), she found other LGBT friends in the company. “I knew what the waters were like and I did not have to be a pioneer. That was nice.
“I was surprised by how unruffled everyone was when I came out. It just merged into social conversation with co-workers I was close to. Now they ask me how my girlfriend is.
“It doesn’t come up all the time,” she adds, “and many people still don’t know. But I’m open about it. I have a Safe Space magnet and rainbow flag in my cubicle, and my car has decals
“Being out frees me to be myself. I’m not distracted by trying to hide or watch what I say.”
A secondary bonus of being out, Torrielli says, “is that I feel I can help educate others more. It makes LGBT issues so much more personal for them to actually know someone who belongs to this group.”
People are surprised when Torrielli tells them that in the state of Delaware she could be fired for being gay if she didn’t work for a company like DuPont where she’s covered by a full nondiscrimination policy.
Torrielli sings in a concert choir and says she’s known at work for “really enjoying music.” She also mentors and advises a chapter of the Kappa Alpha Theta women’s fraternity at the University of Delaware. “It gives me a chance to work on soft skills like leadership and conflict resolution. And it gives me a chance to be a good role model and help the women through their university careers,” she says.
Beth Richard: TI senior
digital design engineer
Beth Richard has held her senior digital design engineer post at Texas Instruments (TI, Dallas, TX) for the last five years. Her work focuses on the functional behavior of a product des
ign, she says, including product and implementation specification and register transfer level (RTL) implementation.
Richard received her BSEE from Tri-State University (now Trine University, Angola, IN) in 1985. She started working in digital signal processing at General Electric and moved to Commodore and then Compaq Computers. When HP bought Compaq, “They let our group go and I moved to Texas Instruments.”
Richard came out at work in 1995. “That was the day I met with my management to tell them I was transgendered and about to undergo a transition in the workplace. I had done my homework and I was ready to go.”
That was a long time ago in terms of GLBT inclusiveness. Few companies then considered gender identity and expression in their nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies. “I had no way to know whether the conversation I was about to have with my management would allow my career to continue,” Richard says.
It did. Since then Richard has played a leadership role in Texas Instruments’ lesbians, gays and transgender employee initiative (TI Pride). She’s worked with HR and the diversity team at Texas Instruments and is proud of the company’s 100 percent rating on the HRC CEI. “Today people who are looking to transition do not have to fear for their jobs in companies that have policies and procedures in place. And companies, in turn, can continue to benefit from the contributions of their transgendered employees,” she declares.
“The best thing about being out at work is that it’s a non-event,” Richard adds. “I’m sure there are people who are less comfortable with it on a one-to-one basis, and some may be more comfortable, but it does not interfere with working together.”
Richard has been married for twenty-one years. “My transition was in the middle of that,” she notes. “We stayed together through the whole process. As much as my identity is tied up in being female, it is also tied up in being part of a family and having children and a spouse.”
Richard is interested in Celtic music, playing the harp and tin whistle. She and her family often race their sailboat.
Dr Michael DeAngelis manages
quality and reliability at Intel
For the past four years Dr Michael DeAngelis has been manager of quality and reliability, and of a lab at the Portland, OR manufacturing site of Intel (Santa Clara, CA). Oregon is Intel’s largest site, with five campuses.
DeAngelis received his BSChE from Syracuse University (Syracuse, NY) in 1987, and his PhD in ChE from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY) in 1993. After a year teaching at the University of Illinois-Urbana-Champaign he joined Intel in 1994.
“Intel gave me a great opportunity to solve high-level technical problems rapidly in real time, and to apply engineering to make a better product,” he says. He’s also had the opportunity to teach and mentor new engineers and interns.
In 1997 DeAngelis came out as gay at work and joined Intel Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender Employees (Intel GLBTE, www.intelglbte.org). He is now the Oregon site
contact for Intel GLBTE, coordinating activities among campuses and in the community
around the Portland area. He’s also VP of programs for Intel GLBTE, working to increase support among allies.
DeAngelis was out with management and diversity teams from the beginning, he says, but it was a slower process with his co-workers. “As years went by I put pictures and my diversity awards up in my cube. Even so, I’m sometimes surprised when it’s not obvious.
“The biggest change,” he says, “is that I don’t edit my conversation any more. I talk openly about my partner and things we do on the weekend and refer to him by name.”
Now that he’s a manager at work, he says, “I struggle with what to do when someone new joins my group. Eventually the conversation has to happen, but it’s a judgment call as to when.” He’s involved in the hiring process at Intel as well as recruiting at Cornell twice a year.
From a quality perspective DeAngelis manages relationships among several Intel offshore factories, including those in Malaysia, China, the Philippines and Costa Rica. “Some of these countries are not as accepting of GLBT issues so I do edit my approach a little more with them. It’s important to find mutually respectful ways of building diversity.”
DeAngelis and his partner of eight years have a house, two dogs and a busy social life. They have also become art collectors. “When one of our pieces goes into a museum show we proudly put both our names on it rather than ‘anonymous,’” he concludes.
Rebecca A. Shipman is a ChE
and senior specialist at 3M
For the past two years Becky Shipman has been senior product development specialist at the Maplewood, MN personal care and related products division
of 3M (St. Paul, MN). Shipman started working at 3M in 1990 after she
received her PhD in ChE from the University of California at Berkeley. Her
1980 BSChE and 1983 MSChE are from Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), and after she got them she worked for three years at Cabot Corp, the global chemical manufacturer.
Shipman’s work has focused on polymers and polymer processing. Her first ten years at 3M were involved in environmentally friendly ways to process adhesives, but for the past eight years she’s worked more directly in market research in the products division.
Shipman transitioned from male to female on the job in 2002. “I was well-known around the company and close to a lot of people,” she says. “3M was very supportive about the transition. I never needed to change jobs or go stealthy.”
Shipman has been active in 3M’s GLBT resource group, People Like Us (3M PLUS). She was chair of PLUS at the time 3M added domestic partner benefits.
“The engineering culture is pretty inquisitive,” she says with a smile, “so I gave people permission to ask questions from the beginning.”
She’s found that “Most people don’t care that much. A smaller number of people are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing or use the wrong pronoun. And while there are always a few people who aren’t very accepting of GLBT issues, they behave professionally at work.” She’s also found that “Some people see transitioning as a courageous thing to do. They give you respect whether they understand it or not.”
As a college recruiter at Cornell, Shipman found it meant a lot to the students to see
3M “represented by someone who was trans. The real proof of a company’s position on diversity is when you see people who are like you and who are comfortable and doing well
in their careers.”
Shipman has two children and is an avid motorcycle rider.
Dr Amber Stephenson is a ChE
at Dow Chemical
Amber Stephenson, PhD is a ChE in Dow Chemical’s polyurethanes business group in Freeport, TX. Dow HQ is in Midland, MI.
Stephenson went directly to Dow after receiving her PhD in ChE from the University of California at Berkeley in 2006. She received her BSChE in 2002 from Auburn University (Auburn, AL).
Now she’s working as a reaction engineer in the process R&D group. It’s “a combination of process modeling and experimental work,” she explains. She’s also a project leader, managing small teams and bringing all the information together.
Stephenson openly transitioned as a transsexual woman at Dow this past April. “It’s interesting that people see me as a member of different groups,” she says. “Some people know me as a transsexual, some see me as a lesbian because I have a female partner, and some just see me as a woman.”
She’s found Dow “very proactive on diversity issues. The transition was a really smooth process because of all the support from the HR team, my coworkers, my direct manager and our diversity group, Gays, Lesbians, and Allies at Dow (GLAD).”
Stephenson is part of GLAD’s site implementation team to further promote education and diversity recruiting. “I’m really pleased that GLAD partners with other diversity networks within Dow, and that 75 percent of the members of GLAD are straight allies. We’ve given talks at the Out & Equal annual workplace summit, and GLAD members testified before Congress in the first hearings on transgender affairs in 2008.”
Stephenson has helped with Dow’s diversity booth at several college recruiting fairs. “The booth represents not only GLAD but all our diversity networks. It’s been great to have a whole section of recruiting devoted to diversity.” In fact, Stephenson says she’s seen “a real paradigm shift in the importance of diversity over the last few years.”
Stephenson’s partner has a PhD in chemistry from Berkeley and also works at Dow. They enjoy hiking, walking and being out in nature as well as playing tennis, and they sometimes take their racecar to the tracks.
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