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Diversity update

 

LGBT techies are diversifying the workplace

“Whether it’s a cultural, regional or life experience difference, you get interaction, and this promotes solutions.” – Bonnie D. Evaschuk, Harris

“It’s been a long road for all LGBT employees to conduct themselves openly in the workplace. Even today and at a great company like this I can’t say I’m always fully open.” – Terresa Daniels, National Grid

Benjamin Torres: at Allstate Insurance, becoming an “out-and-open LGBT leader.”Diversity in today’s workplace goes beyond race, gender and culture boundaries to include sexual orientation and preferences. Techies who are part of
the LGBT community are reaching new highs in their careers. They’re also helping their companies expand their commitment to embrace inclusive diversity as a core business strategy.

“Today’s diversity is much more complex than affirmative action and social responsibility,” says
Anise Wiley-Little, chief diversity officer for Allstate Insurance Co (Northbrook, IL). “Today’s diversity is about opportunity gained or lost, depending on what
we do with it.

“Allstate has been in the business of diversity for a long Bonnie D. Evaschuk: at Harris, asset manager on FAA telecom infrastructure.time,” she notes. “Our beginnings were in the urban marketplace, in an era when the issue wasn’t even called diversity. Back then our priority was to help people work side by side and get along. Things have dramatically changed.”

The climate plays a role
The political climate in America today plays a significant role in bridging the gap between inclusive policies for LGBT employees and the advancement of workplace equality for all. Take, for example, the controversial issue of same-sex marriage, which affects the families of LGBT techies and their ability or inability to secure benefits equal to their heterosexual colleagues.

Most of the techies here agreed that it’s still too early to tell what the new administration in Washington will ultimately do for the LGBT technical workforce. But the fact that 305 companies, forty-five more than in 2009, made the top score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2010 Corporate Equality Index (www.hrc.org) means that corporate America,
at least, is moving forward.

Benjamin Torres: environment management at Allstate Insurance
Benjamin Torres.Benjamin Torres is an environment management analyst for Allstate Insurance (Northbrook, IL). He’s responsible for administration, infrastructure and performance of an independent agent data warehouse. A big part of the work is monitoring performance and status of several critical systems and apps to make sure they are performing at optimal levels for the customers.

Torres is gay. He was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Texas and Germany while his father served in the U.S. Army. Then the family returned to Puerto Rico where he graduated from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez in 2001 with a BS in business admin and a concentration in computer IS.

“I went to college with just some experience on our family computer. But I grew up with a very strong work ethic, and really enjoyed researching answers to the many questions I had,” says Torres.

After two summer internships with Allstate, he moved to the Chicago suburbs in 2001 to formally join the company.

“I was excited to be with a company I could continue to grow with and that would invest in me. Allstate’s inclusive environment makes me very comfortable at work every day,” says Torres.

“The opportunity to be involved in an LGBT employee network group, coupled with Allstate’s recognition by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as a best place to work for LGBT employees, motivates me to be part of the Allstate family for years to come.”

Torres is currently working on a rate level indicator project for Allstate’s pricing actuaries.
“This includes analysis of historical data for our independent agencies for auto, property and watercraft lines. I really enjoy the opportunity to interact with multiple teams with a wide variety of skill sets,” says Torres.

“Having a diverse group lets us tackle hurdles and keep the project on a successful track.
It’s challenging and time-consuming, but I welcome the chance to continue to enhance the application so we’re able to report necessary data in shorter amounts of time.”

Torres has not faced many barriers. “The majority of employees and leaders at Allstate are committed to inclusion and diversity, allowing me to develop myself professionally as an out-and-open LGBT leader.”

Torres is president of Allstate Network of Gay & Lesbian Employees & Supporters (ANGLES) and has been involved with the group in various capacities. “It gives me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills and work with a very diverse group of people from many different areas across the company,” he says. He has also taken on more leadership roles in team projects in his regular job. “Diversity here culminates in a dynamic team with a very broad skill set,” he says.

Bonnie D. Evaschuk is a business analyst at Harris
Bonnie D. Evaschuk.Bonnie D. Evaschuk has been with Harris (Melbourne, FL) for five years.
Harris is in RF communications, defense programs, national intelligence, civil programs and IT services, and Evaschuk is the asset manager on the FAA telecom infrastructure (FTI) program.

As a member of the total enterprise asset management group, she’s responsible for keeping the FTI program compliant with the Sarbanes-Oxley(SOX) act. “The act was passed by congress to hold companies financially responsible for their assets,” she explains. “With many millions of dollars worth of inventory at stake, my main goal is to continuously look at all our processes and procedures and constantly test them to ensure compliance. I also try to make people understand why these rules are in place and why not following the process costs more in the long run.”

Evaschuk and her partner have been together for eleven years. They had a commitment ceremony at an inn in Woodstock, VT in 2003. “It was so wonderful to have the full support of our families and friends,” Evaschuk says.

Evaschuk was born and raised in Merrimack, NH. “It wasn’t until I went to work in Boston that I really had any kind of interaction with a diverse community. I felt pretty ignorant about the world, not knowing there was that kind of diversity out there,” she says.

“I started as a computer operator in the late ‘80’s,” she explains. “Since then I’ve held jobs as a production technician, account manager, software support rep, logistics engineer, system support engineer and now a business analyst.” She has worked for a defense contractor, on a newspaper, and as a vendor of software solutions for newspapers.

In 2001 she graduated summa cum laude from Keiser University (Fort Lauderdale, FL) with an associate degree in computer graphics.

Her current project at Harris involves optimizing material returned from the field for SOX compliance. “We organized a team from several business functions: finance, program management, procurement, software engineering and asset management, and came up with a three-phase approach to continuously improve our performance. Phase 1 is working well and now we’re refining requirements for phase 2.”

Evaschuk likes watching the team come together. “In the past I would often be the only woman in a group of men. You have to have a certain amount of courage and believe in yourself,” says Evaschuk. “I think growing up gay or lesbian helps prepare you for that. You want to be judged for your talent, not who you chose to live your life with.”

When she started at Harris in 1997 there was no such thing as domestic partner benefits, she says. “Now Harris has a policy that can be used not only by gay couples, but by straight couples who are not married.

“Harris has always been a well-respected company and I’ve always been proud to say that I work for Harris,” Evaschuk says. And besides, she likes living in Florida: “Coming home to the beach and palm trees and the warmth, it just feels like vacation. And I’ve been extremely lucky to work for and with some of the most amazing people!

“I try to treat people with respect and honesty. I am who I am, and if people ask about my personal life, I certainly am happy to tell them.”

Terresa Daniels: energy manager for a National Grid subsidiary
Terresa Daniels.For twenty years Terresa Daniels has worked for National Grid, an international energy delivery company with HQ in the U.K. and offices in Massachusetts and New York. She works at the company’s Brooklyn, NY location.

Daniels is responsible for regional energy sales and marketing, and development for emergency power, heating and solar energy installations. She’s a lead team member in the company’s solar design and installation efforts to reduce carbon use in the NY metro area. She directs and implements marketing campaigns for all the company’s services, and consults with government, healthcare and commercial customers on energy-efficient options and equipment design.

Daniels grew up on Long Island, NY. She is a lesbian and has had a domestic partner for more than ten years, but she doesn’t talk about her very much at work. “Customers and colleagues need to feel comfortable with you, and I find that just being a woman in the engineering and service field can be challenging enough for them,” she says with a smile.

“It has been a long road for LGBT employees to conduct themselves openly in the workplace,” says Daniels. “I can’t say I am fully open even today.”

Daniels has a strong background in engineering and energy management. “I engaged in continuing education classes with engineering and business associations to develop skills in design and marketing,” she explains. “Field work and my diverse career path have increased my competitive edge for my current line of work.”

Daniels began with a 1982 associates degree in engineering science from Farmingdale University, part of the State University of New York. A scholarship from Grumman Aerospace helped her get a 1986 BS in manufacturing engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In 2000 she completed an MS with honors in energy management from the New York Institute of Technology.

Before National Grid, Daniels worked in manufacturing design and engineering for the aerospace industry. At National Grid she’s managing installation of solar electric systems throughout the NY metro area. “This project gets me into new areas of system design with alternative equipment manufacturers and partners,” she says. She loves it: “Engaging in a new area of expertise is a way I keep myself enthused on the job!”

Daniels’ decision to join and chair the U.S. Pride LGBT employee network at National Grid had a big impact on her career. “I think it’s a way to develop bridges between LGBT employees and straight allies to make us all more comfortable and working together more effectively,” she says. “It provides the company with a competitive edge, new ideas and new business.”

Bill Bollbach, National Grid SVP for HR, adds that “We operate our business in a way that results in a more inclusive and diverse culture, and strive to prevent artificial or prejudicial barriers from getting in the way of our employees’ full development. Fostering diversity is a leadership behavior at National Grid, and everyone’s responsibility.”

Jennifer Donnelly is an engineering manager at Intel
Jennifer Donnelly.Jennifer Donnelly has been with Intel (Santa Clara, CA) for the past eight years. She manages a system validation team responsible for ensuring that Intel processors work properly in a system. Their current product is the Larrabee graphics processor.

“This is a new product for Intel,” Donnelly says. “The challenge that arises with an emerging business is a keen interest of mine. I really enjoy solving brand-new problems, as well as working on old problems in a new way.” The Larrabee project has cutting-edge architecture and may mark a new line of business for Intel, she notes.

Donnelly’s favorite part of her job is interacting with people. ”The team is sharp, skilled, hardworking and dedicated to the project and each other. For me, there’s nothing more motivating than working with people like that!”

Donnelly, who is now living in Palo Alto, CA, grew up in Buffalo, NY. “My mother, a computer programmer, was a great role model for me, showing me that women can and do succeed in male-dominated professions. She encouraged me to go into engineering and has supported me throughout,” Donnelly says.

“My father, a firefighter and union president, showed me how to behave as a leader, specifically focusing on responsibilities from a viewpoint of service. They both have a tremendously strong work ethic that I aspire to match.”

Donnelly is Caucasian, lesbian, and married to her partner of nine years who is half Chinese and half Caucasian. She suffered through the Proposition 8 election cycle in California, which banned gay marriage in the state. “Some people at work and even some I thought were my friends voted ‘yes,’ which really bothered me. I had to stay professional, and I really struggled not to let the subject come up.”

Donnelly received her 1991 BSEE and her 1993 MSEE from Stanford University (Stanford, CA). In 2008 she completed an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley.

She’s at Intel now because it bought the start-up company where she was working. “I wasn’t sure I would like working at a big company, but now I realize I’ve had a lot of opportunity to increase my education, advance my skills and do meaningful work.

“In addition, Intel is a very supportive place for LGBT, both with fair benefits and by creating a safe professional environment. Intel does everything it can under the law to ensure that the treatment of LGBT employees and their families is fair and equal.”

She has also faced barriers simply as a woman in a technical profession. “I’ve been in many situations where I was the only woman out of twenty or thirty folks in a meeting or design group. It’s intimidating for sure and tests your confidence,” she says. But she firmly believes that diversity is especially important in technical professions. “Different perspectives enable unique solutions and unique solutions are the building blocks of the technology industry.”

Mary Jo Baughman is a senior project manager at WellPoint
Mary Jo Baughman.For thirteen years Mary Jo Baughman has worked at WellPoint (Indianapolis, IN). As a member of the portfolio and program management team for WellPoint eBusiness, she develops and manages enterprise, multi-function and multi-year programs. She works to establish program governance and manage relationships with business and IT partners.

She’s specifically responsible for managing several federal and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association mandate initiatives for eBusiness. This involves combining her IT delivery experience and oversight with business and strategic engagement with WellPoint’s multi-portal users and internal WellPoint customers.

An important facet of her work is leveraging technologies to enhance the electronic exchange of healthcare information. “Promoting and delivering the benefits of eBusiness to our internal and external customers helps to advance the overall linkage between technology, people and advancements in healthcare,” she says.

Baughman comes from a small blue-collar and farming community in northeast Indiana. She graduated from Ball State University (Muncie, IN) in 1983 with a BS in communications and political science. In 2004 she decided to work for an MBA in healthcare management to support her IT career path with WellPoint. She received her MBA with honors from Regis University (Denver, CO) in 2007.

Baughman has been in a lesbian relationship for nearly thirty years. “I did not officially tell my family until I was in my senior year of college. While my parents and I continue to have a strong relationship, our engagement on my LGBT lifestyle remains a work in progress twenty-six years later,” she says with a faint smile.

She considers herself fortunate to be working at WellPoint: a company that not only supports the optimization of technology, but also works for a culture that is transparent and collaborative, and promotes a reasonable work/life balance.

Over the years Baughman has become actively involved with the company’s diversity and cultural leadership teams. “Through my personal growth, my willingness to be an open LGBT associate and the evolution of diversity at WellPoint, we’ve all learned from each other, and know that the time has come for our associate resource groups to make a positive difference for all of us,” she says.

Dr Nancy E. Laurie is a product stewardship engineer at Kodak
Dr Nancy E. Laurie.Nancy E. Laurie, PhD, has more than twenty years of experience as a techie. She’s been working for Kodak (Rochester, NY) since 2000.

Laurie currently works in the product stewardship group of Kodak’s worldwide health, safety and environment (HSE) and sustainability organization. She’s in charge of process improvement projects involving data management.

“I’m completing a multi-year project implementing an Internet-based global environmental data management system for handling Kodak product compliance data. I’ve been working
with an outside vendor to develop, test and implement the system,” Laurie explains.

Since Kodak moved from a traditional film-manufacturing business to a smaller digital business, “We’ve used the Kodak operating system, with ‘lean’ philosophy, tools and management style, to recreate our HSE work processes. We’re eliminating waste and creating capacity within our organization to help Kodak commercialize new products faster while ensuring regulatory compliance,” says Laurie.

Right now the system is being rolled out to internal clients. Later Laurie will move on to a new job in the worldwide materials safety group. “I will analyze our work processes with an eye for waste, and redesign workflow in a lean manner.”

Laurie enjoys problem-solving. “There’s always a better way to do your work, deliver it faster with better quality and lower cost, and give your clients exactly what they need,” she declares.

Originally from Massachusetts, Laurie felt “the pressure to succeed that is naturally placed on the firstborn. I was driven to make my parents proud.”

Striving to be the best at everything she did, Laurie graduated second in her high school class and was the first in her family to attend college. She went to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for her 1989 BS in exercise science, with a major in biomechanics. She went on to an MS in ergonomics and in 2000 she completed her PhD in industrial engineering and operations research with a focus on human factors.

Laurie was recruited to work at Kodak while still in the PhD program. “Kodak removed every obstacle I had to accepting the offer,” she recalls with appreciation. “I was worried about moving away from a very progressive and LGBT friendly area of Massachusetts. But when I investigated Rochester I found that one of the longstanding LGBT groups in the area was the Lambda network at Kodak. That clinched the deal.”

When Laurie joined Kodak’s Lambda network her own network of LGBT professionals grew. “I was able to meet people from all across the corporation, from shop floor to senior execs. Soon after I became a member of the network I joined the board of directors. That led to five years on the executive committee as president elect, president and board chair,” says Laurie. “As a network executive officer I had more opportunities to sharpen my leadership skills and meet with Kodak execs, and I believe this experience has indirectly enhanced my career.”

Kodak’s core value, “Respect the individual,” is what first drew Laurie to the company. “When LGBT employees don’t have to waste time and energy thinking about what to say or not say or who is LGBT friendly or not, their creative energy is freed up to do exactly what the company hired them to do, and they have more fun doing it.

“Kodak values diversity, and knows it’s the best way to attract and retain top talent.”

Essie L. Calhoun, chief diversity and community affairs officer and VP at Eastman Kodak, absolutely agrees. “In the long run, diversity and inclusion at Kodak are about getting the best ideas from our employees and empowering them as leaders,” she says. “Our global diversity and community affairs office has made excellent progress in helping Kodak people emerge as champions of diversity and inclusion.

“When employees blend that commitment with their own creativity, they can grow to become even better employees, supervisors, managers and executives.”

D/C


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