Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Out & Equal Excellence Award IBM Acceptance Speech and Presentation

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Note: Originally posted on the EAGLE online community site, behind IBM's firewall on 10 October 2001, at 6: 30pm, and posted here on 24 May 2007:

I was honored to represent IBM in accepting this year's Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award and was advised to focus graciously on the people conferring the award, and not on IBM.

Selisse Berry, executive director of Out & Equal and the award giver, stated a number of the highlights that distinguished IBM and that earned it the award, including that IBM provides more than just basic health domestic partner benefits and the specifics, that IBM held a Leadership Conference with attendees from eight countries, and that IBM recently formed a dedicated GLBT Sales and Talent team. I said the following:

Excerpt of Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award IBM acceptance speech:

I am thrilled that IBM has earned this year's Out & Equal Workplace Excellence Award.

Standing here, I knew I'd be reminded of being in 7th grade. When I was 12, I entered a science fair project in the Connecticut State Science Fair. It was 1977, and the project won an award for being on a popular theme, namely, providing an alternative energy resource; I made the case for wind power.

Standing here reminds me of that first important award of my life, and the recognition feels similar: Out & Equal is acknowledging IBM for its efforts in supporting the case for tapping alternative energy.

Everyone in this room whom I've had the pleasure to meet is an exciting energy resource, and the most compelling energy of all is that of Selisse Berry, the Executive Director of the Out & Equal...powerhouse....

* * *

During the conference, IBM was also well-represented, since Paul Carey held a session on GLBT employee recruiting and I served on a panel along with Rhona Berenstein of PlanetOut Partners and Wes Combs of Witeck-Combs Communications on being effective employees and employers online. Rhona spoke of IBM, Capital One and US Airways and Wes spoke of American Airlines, Coors and HRC's Worknet. Here's the transcript and visuals from my section of the presentation:

Top 5 Tips for Being Effective
LGBT Employees and Employers Online

Delivered at Out & Equal Workplace Summit 2001
by Sarah Siegel, Program Director, GLBT Sales and Talent, IBM

The following tips work for us in reaching lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender employees online and we believe they can work for anyone interested in appealing to this remarkable group; if you plan to inform, recruit or motivate LGBT employees:

1. Endure; have stamina
2. Be credible
3. Find a role model
4. Join a professional LGBT organization
5. Inspire loyalty.


I'm grateful to have a history of being effective online.

My previous manager, Jeanine Cotter, the VP of Web Strategy and Design, gave me an seven-year anniversary T-shirt that reads, " seven years, 11 versions," which reminds me of my first tip: Endure; have stamina.

Typically, these days, when customers hear the story of how the company transformed itself into an e-business, they marvel and want IBM's help to do the same for them, which reminds me of the reactions I get when I talk to people who are impressed with IBM's achievements in the LGBT arena.

It's sort of like the occasional writers, painters or musicians who seem wildly popular all of a sudden, but who, in fact, have been practicing and honing their art for years. IBM coined the term e-business in the mid-90s and has been inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and heterosexual employees since 1984, when it added sexual orientation to its equal employment opportunity policy.

That leads me to my second tip, which is: Be credible. If you are not with an organization that was born on the Web, then it's key to have a good offline story that you can tell if possible. Offline gestures, such as Domestic Partnership Benefits for employees, feed online success. It is much easier to build LGBT employee commitment when the organization has a solid record of treating all employees fairly.

I hope that all of us here today discuss lessons learned and best practices, so that we can collectively shrink the amount of time needed for each of our organizations to be more effective, and even wildly popular among LGBT employees.

Like a number of us here who've worked for corporations for the past decade or longer, I have had e-mail access courtesy of my employer for my entire corporate career.

I've been using e-mail, the Web, and more recently instant messaging, to be effective in helping IBM and myself reach lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees, with positive results, and I'll provide examples of some.

Ten years ago, I found Kathleen Dermody, the leader of LEAGUE, AT&T's LGBT employee group. Her e-mail address was in an article I read -- I can't even remember where -- and when I contacted Kathleen online, I was the only out LGB or T person I knew of at work; I was based in Schaumburg, Illinois at the time.

Kathleen was entirely generous in sharing with me her experience of leading LEAGUE. She was a friendly face, no, a friendly voice, no, a friendly screenful of words to me in my isolation then.

As it turned out, my partner Pat and I moved to New Jersey in '96 for Pat's job, and coincidentally, we live one town over from Kathleen and her partner Karen, and we get together regularly.

Kathleen was a role model for me, along with AT&T; they demonstrated that employees and employers could be visible effectively among the LGBT community. So the third tip is: Find a role model.

Of course, it's a special pleasure to find kindred spirits in your own organization as well. The online directory of NOGLSTP members led me to Rob Shook, the first openly-gay IBMer I was able to identify.

NOGLSTP is the National Organization of LGBT Scientists and Technical Professionals and I was a member electronically, since the organization is based in Pasadena, and since most of the conferences where members got together were scientific, rather than technical.

Rob was based in Boca Raton at the time, so like Kathleen, Rob was another friendly screenful, rather than a colleague whom I could meet in person, at least initially. I was still in Schaumburg, with a joint venture of IBM and Sears at the time, and I was so glad to know that I was no longer the only openly-gay person I knew of who was affiliated with either company.

The fourth tip, then, is: Join a professional LGBT organization. The Out & Equal consortium did not exist back then, and now it does. Nearly a decade ago, NOGLSTP helped me affiliate with an organization where I could meet others online who were interested in advancing LGBT people in the workplace and marketplace.

Rob and I did get to meet in person when IBM first sponsored the National Gay and Lesbian Business Expo in New York City. Together, we presented "Cruising the Information Super-highway," which included our top 10 tips for creating successful Web sites.

We also enabled IBM booth visitors to create their own home page. This was in 1995 and we hosted the home pages of nearly 50 LGBT people on for more than a year, including a number that were created by LGBT IBMers, who were IBM product demonstrators at the Expo.

As more LGBT IBMers saw the content, they were excited that IBM was hosting it, that IBM was so visibly welcoming LGBT customers. That enthusiasm reminded me of the fifth and most important tip, which is particularly for employers: Inspire loyalty.
The rest of what I have to say relates to the importance of inspiring loyalty in current and future employees. I believe it's the secret to succeeding in attracting, retaining and motivating LGBT talent and it's what makes any employer popular in the LGBT workplace and marketplace.

Before we had diversity network groups in the United States, where U.S.-based IBMers from diverse constituencies could get together in person, LGBT IBMers joined the Friends of Dorothy electronic distribution list. Carol Vericker, who just retired from IBM, started the anonymous list in 1993 and it spread by word of mouth.

It had 100 U.S.-based members and served as the foundation for EAGLE, the LGBT employee group that would form three years later.

I specified the United States because IBM in Canada started its LGBT employee group in 1991, five years before the U.S. chapters of EAGLE were formed. And now, there are EAGLE chapters that have begun in Australia, the U.K. and Mexico as well.

All of us who are members, plus a number who prefer to remain anonymously interested parties, are able to meet electronically more actively than we could through the distribution list because now we've got an electonic bulletin board and repository for our self-created profiles.

The profiles include LGBT IBMers from all over the world, whether or not a formal EAGLE chapter exists in a particular country yet. For example, here's one that I like of Mikael Boe Larsen from IBM in Denmark especially because it features two photos of him with his husband at their wedding.

Here's a poignant one of a necessarily anonymous gay IBMer from Singapore, where it's illegal to be gay; his photo shows him going into the surf in full scuba gear, so that he's unidentifiable, yet still registering his presence.

Here's mine. When you scroll down, which I won't do here, you can see that I've included a selected autobiography in pop music.

You might wonder how I had the time to put together such content and that's the beauty of this database: All IBMers can access it and all can add to it on our own time. An IBMer from the UK contacted me to let me know that he also loves "Illusion" by the British R&B group, Imagination. An Australian colleague told me that she also loves Sandra Bernhard as a singer.

The only unique challenge I see in informing, recruiting or motivating LGBT employees online is the periodic anonymity requirement.

LGBT employees at IBM are making progress in their willingness to be out in proportion to gestures made by IBM to demonstrate repeatedly that it welcomes LGBT employees. Friends of Dorothy was a list of 100 people. That was in 1993. Now, there are 850 members of EAGLE worldwide. And this month marks the premier issue of an online EAGLE newsletter, which will be debuting on National Coming Out Day, I'm happy to e-mail it to anyone who gives me his or her card.

This past summer, Bruce Brothers, an EAGLE member in Boulder, was moved to organize three online teams of openly-LGBT IBMers for IBM's seasonal fitness challenge and published a weekly motivational e-zine that was a hit with the IBMers who joined the teams.

Sharon Lum from San Jose led another team and Michael Batal led the third one from LA.

It didn't matter that teammembers were from all over the country, since they were online teams.

The teams charted their progress online as well, and knowing that my team was counting on my participation led me to getting into the best shape I've been in in a few years.

I even made a new friend and recruited an additional EAGLE member; Frank was fairly new to IBM and contacted me because he saw that we were on the same team and both worked in the same Manhattan office building.

We've had lunch a few times and I don't know that I'd have met him as soon without Bruce's team bringing us together. Among other terrific benefits of working for IBM, all of the freedom that IBM provides its employees online yields remarkable loyalty, as I've described.

Here's a very recent, profound example of being an effective employer online: My manager Mike Fuller specified Gay and Lesbian and GLBT in the listing he created for our team on IBM's internal job postings. Nearly 100 people from Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. responded to it.

Like the LGBT Web content that hosted in 1995, the GLBT job posting generated energy, excitement and best of all, still further loyalty among LGBT IBMers worldwide.

It was historic for an IBM job posting to contain the terms Gay and Lesbian and GLBT, even though it wasn't the first time IBM was dedicating headcount to the LGBT market.

Four years ago, my IBM Procurement colleague Irwin Drucker went to his management with the idea of being a program director for Gay and Lesbian Supplier Relations, since IBM had established a similar program for companies owned by other historically-underrepresented groups, such as women-owned businesses.

Irwin's management saw the wisdom of the idea and said yes right away.

This time, Mike thought it would be a good idea to post the position and see who emerged. Within a day of posting it, he received more than 40 requests for an interview.

And the credit for that huge, swift response goes to David Chase, a leader of EAGLE, for e-mailing it to the EAGLE Council of Delegates; it fanned out through the network from there.

That was a recent example of being an effective employer internally and I look forward to Rhona telling you how PlanetOut Partners helped IBM demonstrate externally its effectiveness as an employer of GLBT talent worldwide.

[IBM in France employee recruiting portal -- IBM posted a recruiting banner on that linked directly to this page.]

Earlier, I mentioned instant messaging. It has become still one more tool for IBM to engender LGBT employee loyalty. In July of 2000, we hosted the first IBM Gay and Lesbian Leadership Conference.

Nearly 100 IBMers from eight countries participated. It was an intense few days of warm community and we needed a way to sustain what we had begun building at the conference. So we created the GLLC instant messaging list and all of the attendees imported it. More than a year later, when asked, "You there?" I still answer my IBM colleagues with pleasure, "Yeah."

No comments: