Workplace Equality September 2019

Sep 16, 2019 | Life | 2 comments

Workplace Equality – How does Iowa stack up against other states?

The State of Iowa is one of the best places to live in terms of statewide legal protections prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Iowa is one of only 21 states and the District of Columbia that fits these criteria. This fact is often overlooked or not believed by those people living on either coast.

John A. Lundell Mayor of Coralville recently told GoGuide Magazine “In each of my six years as Mayor of Coralville I have proclaimed June as Pride Month in our city. This celebration began across the country as a collective freedom in expressing gender identities of our LGBTQ+ individuals. I am very proud that our City of Coralville truly welcomes and accepts people of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions and celebrates the contributions and culture of these citizens. We love Coralville Pride.”

There is more than just selecting the right job. It’s also important to select the right community

ICC Fusion – A diversity and inclusion committee comprised of hoteliers, business owners, community leaders and voices from our LGBTQ+ community.

By Tim Nedoba, September 2019

Did you know that Iowa City has a committee to help market the local area to members of the LGBTQ+ community? If not, you now know. Of course, this is welcome news. It’s also not a surprise. The Iowa City area is a leader in enacting positive human rights city ordinances and is comprised of many like-minded people. Think Iowa City! or maybe better known as Iowa City/Coralville Convention & Visitors Bureau is the local organization that sponsors ICC Fusion.

Why is ICC Fusion important to job seekers? It’s vital when looking for a job to not only investigate the business but to also look at the local community to discover if it shares the same “values” you do. In the Iowa City area Think Iowa City! and ICC Fusion are the resources.

Dee White, Director of Sales at Think Iowa City! had this to say about the committee, “As the Director of Sales at Think Iowa City, I am tasked with presenting our community as a premier meeting and event destination through cooperative efforts with the local hospitality industry, DMO partners and community members. When accepting this role, I was ecstatic to learn that as an organization, Think Iowa City has identified a need and set a goal to market to and bring more diverse groups, conferences, and events to the Iowa City/Coralville area.

With this goal in mind, I have organized ICC Fusion – a diversity and inclusion committee comprised of hoteliers, business owners, community leaders, and voices from our LGBTQ+ community. The purpose of this committee is to examine current practices, necessary improvements, and to identify and connect with groups/planners that represent diverse groups, conferences, and events.

Iowa City has been in the forefront of many LGBTQ movements and civil rights overall. This is evident in our MEI Score (Municipal Equality Index) of 100 out of 100. Think Iowa City is doing our part to keep it that way!”

Company Focus – Collins Aerospace

by Julia Freeman

Who you are and who you work for is not always aligned In the instance of employee resource groups (ERG), their aid has helped earn Collins Aerospace and Transamerica in Cedar Rapids consistently high Workplace Equality ratings by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. According to representatives of each company, the visibility of LGBTQ+ employees is what sets them apart from other workplaces in the Corridor.

In 2005, Collins was one of the first major corporations to offer Domestic Partnership benefits. This played a major role in recruitment of talent from across the country for the organization. Also the influence is not lost on any level of Collins Aerospace as Collins Aerospace is the largest single employer in Cedar Rapids. “We serve as role models and set the competitive bar for other corporations, both inside and outside of our industry. This means, when the public hears that Collins is the main sponsor for CR Pridefest, or they see our rainbow flags displayed on every building for Pride Heritage Month, they see our values. We get many compliments from the public, including other companies, thanking us for setting a positive, inclusive example for our community & our youth,” explained Lead Tech and cofounder of Collins’ Pride ERG Green.

Q&A with Amanda Green co-founder Collins Aerospace Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG)

Opening remarks (what separates you from other well rated businesses/companies) What is your role within the company?

My name is Amanda Green and I’ve worked at Collins Aerospace for over 17 years.  I helped cofound our Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2008 and we officially launched in 2009.  Since then, I’ve served in almost every capacity / role as needed, including letting others lead whenever possible.  Currently, I’m serving as the Cedar Rapids Chair.  However, this is a supplemental position to my full time title, of Lead Tech.  Collins was one of the first major corporations to offer Domestic Partnership benefits to same-sex couples, back in 2005.  This inspired me to become more engaged in helping my company not only recognize but protect & celebrate ALL employees, regardless of queer or any other identities.

Why is your employee support organization important?

We receive questions weekly if not daily from employees, inquiring as to resources, benefits, and information related to themselves or their LGBTQIA+ family members.  Because our Pride ERG exists, we’re able to provide a compassionate, educated response to the inquiries and if we don’t already have the information they’re seeking, we find someone who does.  In addition, because Collins Aerospace is the largest employer in Cedar Rapids, we serve as role models and set the competitive bar for other corporations, both inside and outside of our industry.  This means, when the public hears that Collins is the main sponsor for CR Pridefest, or they see our rainbow flags displayed on every building for Pride Heritage Month, they see our progressive values.  We get many compliments from the public, including other companies, thanking us for setting a positive, inclusive example for our community & our youth.

What is something that Collins Aerospace does well that many other companies can learn from?

Collins has dedicated themselves to listening to the experiences of real employees and then keeping their word when they promise to make improvements.  This not only keeps current employees engaged and bringing their whole selves to work, but also helps recruit top talent from across the country.

What is an aspect that proved to be more difficult than you anticipated it being?

As a historically conservative corporation, we have often found the fear of anticipated backlash exceeds any actual negative feedback we receive from less diverse, less equality minded folks.  Therefore, we’re often challenged to not only demonstrate a need & business case value for our requested improvements in benefits, protections, and resources, but also asked to help prepare a response for pushback if said improvements are introduced.  In addition, all of the ERG positions here are in addition to our formal titles at Collins.  This means that we are still expected to contribute as much as any other full time employee, and then also donate our time and effort toward improving our workplace and company’s image.  This can be very challenging at times but has always proven worth the extra effort & sacrifice.

What does workplace equity mean to you? Why is it essential, if at all?

Workplace equality means equal benefits and protections for all employees, period.  It really is that simple.  However, it’s also incredibly vital to remain aware of cultural and public influences that continuously change.  In this way, no company or organization can ever truly “arrive” at final equality.  It requires perpetual & intelligent engagement & action and based on human history, always will.

How can Collins Aerospace improve even more in equality of all clients and employees alike?

The largest area of improvement I see across all groups is increasing ally engagement.  Equality in the workplace is everyone’s responsibility, not just those immediately impacted by any given benefit or protection.

Closing comments (how can people connect/engage further with your company/business?):

We offer regular Heritage Month events every June, social and educational events throughout the year, and send out a pulse survey to encourage active participation and to continuously progress as an entity within our company.  We are always interested in feedback and diverse contributions, this is truly what makes humanity shine.

Company Focus – TransAmerica

By Julia Freeman

PROUD is just one of nine ERGs within TransAmerica that target specific populations of employees. They are DIMENSIONS (Diverse Abilities Partnering Together), GENS (Generations Network), PROUD (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender & Allies), RISE (Asian Affinity Network), SALUTE (Veterans Network), SPECTRUM (Multicultural Network), TECH (People Using Technology), WIN (Women’s Impact Network), XPATS (Expatriate Network). “Employee Resource Groups are intended to foster connections and a sense of community that assists in attracting, building, and retaining an inclusive workforce,” added Cindy Nodorft,Transamerica’s inclusion and diversity program manager.

The premise of ERGs are spaces where “employees can meet together and offer support, insight, and suggestions with each other and to the company’s management team,” said Matt Van Maanen. The visibility of groups such as Transamerica Proud make him feel embraced beyond just his role as a lead data security analyst.

Workplace equity to me is the ability to come to work as your authentic self, realizing that you are valued as you are, and that your perspective matters and is appreciated just as much asanyone else’s perspective,” commented Van Maanen.

To Nordorft, Transamerica is a ‘company that goes beyond just having policies inplace.’ “Workplace equality means equal benefits andprotections,” added Green, “for all employees, period.”

If you want to join a company that embraces inclusion and diversity, including scoring a perfect 100 on the HRC Corporate Equality Index, check out Transamerica’s jobopenings at http:/ Collins offers regular Heritage Month events every June, in addition to social and educational events throughout the year.

Company Focus – Barilla USA

Charting a New Course

Barilla USA is a shining example of how a company can change the culture of a company and become a positive force within the LGBTQ community

By Tim Nedoba, Des Moines metro editor, September 2019

Barilla USA likes to say in their human resources brochure, “…we can’t travel alone.” Barilla headquartered in Northbrook, IL, and also operates a plant in Ames, IA, with 214 employees is the “Volunteer Zone Sponsor” for Ames Pride 2019.

Barilla, once identified as a non-inclusive and non-friendly LGBTQ company, became the target of a national boycott in 2013. The path from a boycott by the LGBTQ community to Pride sponsor has been a long road.

Barilla released the following statement to GoGuide Magazine, “Over the last several years, Barilla has made significant progress in our diversity and inclusion journey. We believe that diversity and inclusion is not only the right thing to do – it is also fundamental to our way of doing business. We value the opportunity to engage with the Ames community during Ames Pridefest..”

You probably know Barilla as the maker of the spaghetti you buy at your local grocery store or supermarket. If you’re like me, you had long ago forgotten this boycott. 

In an interview with Barilla Vice President Human Resources Laura A. Birk, she talked about how the company did not forget the charge and instead took it upon itself to change course. She also spoke about the need to bring about positive change in company culture, and the process would take a company-wide effort.

The first thing Barilla needed to do was to identify that a complete change in culture was required. As a company, they developed a plan and worked very hard to implement the needed changes. They continue to implement change, and every year they feel they’re better and more inclusive than the previous year.

It’s been a long road, but Barilla has now received a perfect score from HRC as a “Best Places to Work” for five consecutive years. 

Ames PrideFest is the benefactor of Barilla’s newfound commitment to inclusiveness. Ames PrideFest also deserves credit for recognizing that Barilla has made the necessary positive changes and now is a positive force in the Ames, IA LGBTQ community.

Ames PrideFest released the following statement to GoGuide Magazine, “We understand that Barilla hasn’t had the most LGBT friendly past, however, as an organization we believe that people and corporations have the ability make change (see HRCs 2019 corporate equality index). Our local Ames plant does have an LGBT employee resource group who has been involved in our festivals in various ways over the last two years. We look forward to working with our local businesses on policies and practices that lead to a more LGBT inclusive workplace culture.” [Joel Hochstein – Co-Chair]

The record speaks for itself. Barilla has changed course and is a worthy corporate Pride sponsor.




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