LGBT employees score high in technology as workplace equality continues to progress
The year 2011 shows Corporate Equality Index gains among companies that hire large numbers of technology pros as well as among employers overall
"I wanted to be sure I was going into an organization that would not only support me when I'm there throughout the day, but also support my need to be with my family." � Michelle Bates, Rockwell Collins
By Sonya Stinson
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation's Corporate Equality Index (CEI) is considered the most definitive workplace equality benchmark for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees. The 2011 report, released in mid-October, shows gains in companies that hire large numbers of technology pros as well as among employers overall. Progress has been steady since the index was launched.
Each year the CEI rates 590 businesses from zero to 100 percent based on their policies and benefits related to LGBT employees. In 2011 the number of companies with perfect scores rose more than 10 percent over 2010.
When the index was launched in 2001 only thirteen businesses scored 100 percent. In the 2011 study 337 employers earned the top score, more than half the total number in the survey.
Scanning the survey
The study looks at each employer's nondiscrimination policies, diversity training offered, employee and partner benefits, support for LGBT employee resource groups and behavior toward the LGBT community at large.
In several technology-related industries better than fifty percent of employers surveyed scored 100 percent. The top scorers included five out of the eight companies surveyed in aerospace and defense, seven out of ten in chemicals and biotech, ten out of seventeen in computer hardware and office equipment and seven out of twelve in computer software. Thirty-five of fifty-four companies in the banking and financial sector, which makes heavy use of IT pros, also got top scores.
Some technically based industries show room for improvement in the HRC rankings. None of the five engineering and construction companies surveyed scored 100 percent, and only six of the thirty-three in the energy and utilities segment rated top marks.
Intel's winning philosophy
At Intel Corp (Santa Clara, CA), Rosalind Hudnell, director of global diversity and inclusion, explains her company's philosophy. "We seek to attract the best talent, and once they're at Intel, we work hard to ensure that all employees have opportunities to thrive and make it to the top without cultural, gender or racial barriers to impede their progress," Hudnell says.
National Grid offers benefits
LGBT employees at National Grid, one of the six top-scoring energy companies, have access to same-sex domestic partner benefits and membership in the company's Pride US employee resource group.
"While National Grid's leadership is very supportive in addressing the needs of employees, there is still a lot of work to do nationally and globally to ensure that the LGBT community has the same respect and dignity as the straight community when it comes to healthcare," says Neddy Perez, VP of inclusion and diversity.
Rockwell Collins has its Pride
At Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA) SVP/CFO Patrick Allen shows his commitment to diversity by serving as executive sponsor of the company's Pride employee network.
"I think a truly diverse and inclusive environment would have three characteristics," Allen says. "First, it would be an environment where employees had open minds and were receptive to new ideas. Second, it would feel like a community where anybody is comfortable living and working. Finally, it's a place where you can truly build a successful career regardless of who you are."
Kraft Foods supports a rainbow
Kraft Foods offers the same domestic partner benefits to same-sex and opposite-sex partners. It also supports LGBT employees through its Kraft Foods Rainbow Council.
"'Open and inclusive' is woven into how we do business every day, from training and development to accountability in leadership objectives," says Jim Norman, Kraft Food's VP for diversity.
"We require diversity and inclusion training for every employee at key career stages. We foster workplaces that are safe and professional and promote teamwork, diversity, respect and trust."
Mark Dajani, SVP and CIO, adds that "Development and building our bench strength is where our executive team spends the greatest amount of time and effort."
Inclusion at FHLBSF
Gregory P. Fontenot, SVP and HR director at the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (FHLBSF), points to another reason why diversity and inclusion make good business sense.
"Our diverse employee population, which includes members of the LGBT community, reflects the diversity of our customers and the communities we serve, allowing us to serve them more effectively," Fontenot explains.
Scott Holmes, AVP at FHLBSF
At the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, Scott Holmes is an AVP in the application services group of the information services department. Holmes and his team support several business units in the operations of their information systems at the wholesale bank. He began his six-year tenure at FHLBank San Francisco as an applications consultant and has been in his current post for three years.
Holmes began with a 1996 BSCS from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He started in physics but changed his goal after he ventured into CS to choose an elective.
"I took a beginning course in programming, fell in love with it and continued taking more and more CS courses," he recalls. "I enjoyed it, I excelled at it, and one day my advisor suggested that I should change to a CS degree."
Holmes came out when he was in college: "a very liberating experience," he says. But after graduation he ran into some barriers.
"I started work as a consultant with a technology consulting company in Michigan, and I found myself suddenly back in the closet," Holmes says. "I was working in the automotive industry and it wasn't a very open mindset in my area."
After a few years Holmes and his partner moved to San Francisco, where workplace attitudes, along with those in the community at large, were decidedly more open.
"There was no question or doubt of whether you would be out or in the closet," he says. "It's really a non-issue. I can talk about my life, my spouse, my family just as much as anybody else does, and it's not considered different."
Holmes sees himself in a management role in five years, perhaps heading up a larger staff or a larger number of teams.
"Who knows, somewhere down the road maybe a CIO position is in my future," he says. "I'm not at that point in my career yet, but I do like to stay current with technology. I prefer the role where you're bridging the gap between the business audience and technology."
Gregg Stokes: IS at Kraft Foods
Greg Stokes is associate director of IS service delivery at Kraft Foods (Northfield, IL). He's an eighteen-year veteran at the food products giant, where he started in the finance department.
He arrived at Kraft with unlikely credentials for an IT career: a 1985 BS in accounting from Marist College (New York, NY) and work done on an MS in hospitality, with a concentration in finance and asset management, at New York University.
He was thinking about a job in asset management for an insurance company with investments in hospitality properties, but decided that Kraft offered a more secure future.
Stokes moved to IS at Kraft Foods four years ago. Today, as an IS services specialist, he understands not only IT but also the business processes and financial systems where it will be applied. "I work in the record-to-report function, primarily dealing with our financial and transactional global applications," he says.
Stokes notes that the company's domestic partner benefits and nondiscrimination policies have played a major role in his decision to stay. He's seen no negative impact from being out in the workplace in either his career advancement or his working relationships.
"Going through my career I've had the pleasure of working with many people for an extended period of time," Stokes says. "They knew me as a person before they knew anything else about me."
Kraft Foods is actively hiring technical pros who demonstrate strong critical thinking and leadership skills, says spokesperson Angela Zarazua.
"We have a leadership development program for people in middle management that we view as high potential employees, and we've had a lot of success in North America with peer-led manager learning communities," CIO Dajani notes.
Michelle Bates: change management at Rockwell Collins
As manager of the change management office for e-business at communications and aviation electronics company Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA), Michelle Bates helps Rockwell Collins employees prepare for change when business systems and processes are modified or enhanced.
Bates has been in the job since last March, overseeing a staff of eight. She joined Rockwell Collins two years ago as manager of the client strategy team.
She had worked in similar jobs at financial and manufacturing companies, but her IT career path began when she took on the task of implementing a new software program for her family's insurance business. She has a 1990 BS in accounting from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, and she finds that background to be an asset in her current post.
"As I manage my budget and project budgets, it's been very helpful for me to be able to treat a project like a business, or to treat my department as a business," Bates says. "It definitely gives you a different perspective when you understand the impact of the numbers on the bottom line. It also helps if you can speak the same language as the executive staff in terms of translating day-to-day tactical things we do into a more strategic vision."
Bates says Rockwell Collins' diversity and inclusion program, the inclusiveness of its benefits and its understanding of work-life balance issues were important in her decision to work there.
"I'm very involved in my two daughters' activities," Bates notes. "I wanted to be sure I was going into an organization that would not only support me when I'm there throughout the day, but also support my need to be with my family."
Bates is active with the company's Pride employee network, which has nearly a hundred members. One Iowa, an LGBT rights organization, recognized Rockwell Collins and the Pride network with its 2010 Enterprise Award.
Sarah Gunn: software support at Intel
Sarah Gunn, a software support specialist at Intel Corp in Chandler, AZ, is a former archeologist who opted for a career change when health problems made it difficult for her to do that all-important field work.
She arrived at Intel ten years ago and has held her current job for two years. Her work supports the infrastructure that lets Intel update and refresh its databases.
Gunn, who is transgendered, is president of IGlobe, Intel's resource group for LGBT employees. But when she started working at the company its diversity and LGBT policies weren't really on her radar.
"I hadn't come out at that point, and I hadn't done my transition yet," Gunn says. "When I got to the point in my life where I said, 'OK, I've got to do something about this, I've got to make this change,' at first I was terrified about the whole thing. So I started learning more about what Intel does and what its diversity policy is about.
"One of the big things early on was the nondiscrimination clause they have, which covers sexual preference and gender identity. That was very comforting to me right off."
Gunn has a 1991 BA in anthropology with a specialty in archeology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Although she thought she had left those fields behind more than a decade ago, she may get to pursue them again.
"There's a group here at Intel that does anthropological work in terms of how people engage technology," she says with enthusiasm. "There's a lot of market research and studies of people to find out how they use technology in the home. It would basically be a chance to go back and use my anthropology degree, so I'm kind of looking at going full circle!"
Cindi Harper, Greater Americas staffing manager at Intel, notes that "Intel is in the process of shifting from a chip company to a computing solutions company. We need to evolve into new and upcoming markets like mobile video, home entertainment, smart phones and more. That means that we need to grow both our hardware and our software engineering capabilities in embedded devices, wireless, graphics, and system on a chip."
Reid Sprite: infrastructure analysis at National Grid
Growing up, Reid Sprite was a technology whiz kid. In middle school he helped design websites for his local school district. In high school he took his team into the FIRST robotics competition founded by inventor Dean Kamen.
"Unlike many of the more advanced teams, our team was brand-new and had very little engineering support," Sprite says. "So I had no choice but to learn how to wire a robot on the fly. That was when I decided that EE was the field for me."
Today Sprite is a senior engineer in the distribution asset strategy section of National Grid in Reservoir Woods, Waltham, MA. He joined National Grid as an operations engineer in the distribution design department in 2005, after receiving his BS in EE and computer engineering from the University of Rochester (Rochester, NY).
His current job involves analyzing the utility's electric distribution infrastructure. "It's a data-driven role, but it requires a significant amount of operational knowledge to really tell the story," he says.
Sprite has been out from the beginning, and his sexual orientation has been "a non-issue. I am comfortable having the same water cooler discussions about what my boyfriend and I did over the weekend as any of my colleagues. There is a strong sense of mutual respect."
Looking toward continued career development, Sprite is pursuing his PE license to improve his opportunities in management down the road. "I've been watching for opportunities where I can enhance my leadership skills and demonstrate my ability to work effectively with others on various projects," he says.
Stephen Stonehill: systems engineer at Harris Corp
Stephen Stonehill is a systems engineer/operations lead for Harris Corp in Largo, MD. He received his BS from the University of South Carolina in 1991, and although it was in marine sciences, it was good preparation for what he does today.
"My work had to do with numerical models and analyzing climate events: the math and physics side of marine sciences," Stonehill says. "I maintained the lab computers for my own research and to help grad students with their research projects."
Stonehill has been with Harris since 1999 except for a short stint at another company. When he left for that job he explained in his exit interview that the new company's offer of domestic partner benefits, which Harris did not provide at the time, was a primary reason he decided to change jobs. Apparently Harris took notice.
"I stayed with the other company for only about a month," Stonehill says. "When it didn't work out Harris gladly took me back, and at the next go-round of benefits annual enrollment, domestic partner benefits appeared!
"I don't think I actually caused the change," he says with a smile, "but I think folks at Harris were listening and reading why people were leaving."
Stonehill says his being gay has had no impact on his job. "Everybody knows that I've had a partner for fifteen years," he says. "Anytime there's a work function after hours, he comes with me. It just isn't an issue."
Stonehill can see himself in a more senior role in a few years, and he expects Harris to be totally supportive of that goal. "It's a company that lets people stretch and expand their horizons," he says with pleasure.
SOME LGBT-FRIENDLY COMPANIES
Check websites for current openings.
|Company and location
|American Express (New York, NY)
||Charge and credit payment card products and
travel-related services for consumers and businesses
|Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA) www.fhlbsf.com
|Harris Corp (Melbourne, FL)
||Communications and technology for government and commercial markets
|IBM (Armonk, NY) ibm.com/employment
||Hardware, software, components and IT services
|Intel Corp (Hillsboro, OR) www.intel.com
||Computer processing technology
|Kraft Foods (Northfield, IL) www.kraft.com
||Food, beverages and groceries
|National Grid (London, UK)
|Rockwell Collins (Cedar Rapids, IA)
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