An ally for LGBT employees

I attended Principal Financial Group’s employee meeting at which they unveiled a video to support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, as part of the national “It Gets Better Campaign.” The room was packed with about 300 employees and it was nice to see senior leadership, including CEO Larry Zimpleman, vice president Gary Scholten and others, lending their support at the event. I wrote a little piece about the event, and included a link to the video, which you can find here http://bit.ly/1gyR5LL.

LGBT issues in the workplace is a topic that the Business Record has rarely dipped its toes into. My intention in attending the event was to see how one of Central Iowa’s largest employers was approaching the topic, to educate myself on the issue and to see how we could best cover the issue in the future.

Nora Everett, senior vice president at Principal and a co-chair of Principal’s diversity council, spoke at the event and I sat down with her after it concluded.

Nora and I had an almost ‘aha moment’ when we realized some of the parallels between the women’s leadership movement and LGBT workplace issues. We had Nora on a Power Breakfast panel last June that examined why women’s leadership in Iowa was lagging behind other states. She said then, that beyond fostering women’s leadership being the right thing to do, there was also a compelling business case that needed to be explained. She thinks that’s the same for LGBT workplace issues and I agree.

The full business case for having a truly open and inclusive workplace will require a deeper look by our staff with a full story, but watching the videos and talking with Nora helped put me in the shoes of an LGBT employee. And I found myself thinking about what it would be like to come to work every day feeling that I couldn’t be myself or had to hide aspects of my personal life. It helped me better understand the potential negative impacts not only on an employee’s work, but the negative impact on the ability to recruit a diverse workforce and the ability to collaborate comfortably in a team environment.

Many businesses (but not all) might be beyond outright discrimination of LGBT employees. But taking it a step further and fostering an open work environment, in which LGBT employees feel truly comfortable and embraced while being open about their personal lives, leads to benefits that likely aren’t being felt in many businesses. I saw the benefits first hand at Principal’s event. The energy and supportive nature of that room would be a powerful thing for a workplace’s culture. Nora talked about being an ally for LGBT issues, and about how Principal encourages its employees to be allies. But, she emphasized the importance of being a “visible” ally, not just a silent ally. 

Point taken. Consider me a visible ally.

If you see Nora…

Ask her about the two years she spent as a minority white girl, after her parents decided to switch her to the school across town. Also ask her about what it’s like to have one of your best friends tell you she’s gay in college. Both experiences changed her and have had a profound impact on her understanding of LGBT issues. Read about those experiences here: http://bit.ly/1gyR5LL. For fun, ask Nora about the unfortunate hair style her mother saddled her with as a kid. She shared a picture of her childhood-self rocking the bowl haircut. It was cut by her mother, who literally put a bowl on her head. The picture was one of many from a series of Principal execs who shared embarrassing childhood photos of themselves at the event as proof, that it does indeed get better.

Betting on the ponies

You might hear a brief minute or two of loud screaming and yelling coming from Flynn Wright’s downtown office on May 2. But, don’t worry. Your ad campaign redesign request isn’t the cause. The Flynn Wright team will be cheering on Executive Vice President Aaron Kennedy’s filly, Sugar Shock, who will compete at the Kentucky Oaks in front of 100,000 people at Churchill Downs and even more on NBC Sports Network. The event features the top fillies in the world, is the sister event of that Saturday’s Kentucky Derby and is the third largest horse race in the country. Kennedy owns the horse along with Wall Lake-native Warren Bush (father of Scott Bush, president of Templeton Rye), trainer Doug Anderson, and Jim Coulter of Gurnee, Ill. The winner takes home $600,000 of the $1 million purse and a garland of lilies affectionately called “The Lilies for the Fillies.” Post time is 4:49 p.m.

Bankruptcy?

Did you catch wind of a rumor that Business Publications Corporation Inc. - owner of Business Record and dsm magazine - is going bankrupt? Well, both our owners and I can assure you that is not the case and that we are, in fact, very much profitable - as we were even through the recession.

The rumor stems from a notice sent to our vendors by the bankruptcy court handling the bankruptcy of our previous owner, Business Publications llc., which was owned by Ohio-based Brown Publishing Company. 

Connie Wimer, our current owner, bought Business Publications llc. in late 2010, renamed it, and paid off most of its debt to local vendors even though that debt was not hers. 

The court is changing the jurisdiction where the old case is being handled, hence the reason for the notice. It has no impact on our current operations.

Us vs. the computers

I tossed my computer mouse in frustration last Friday when our e-newsletter vendor’s technical glitches prevented us from sending out our e-newsletters. It made me think of former Business Record editor Jim Pollock’s painful struggles with technology. The two year anniversary of his passing was last weekend. In honor, here is a gem of Jim’s advice about computers from one of his last columns: “After all of these years of crossed fingers and occasional bouts of panic, here’s what I’ve learned: You can always shut the computer off, wait a while and turn it back on. Sometimes that helps.” Read the column: http://bit.ly/1eWQHvw