Arts & Entertainment
DOW Chemical employee's quest for LGBT rights
By Crystal A. Proxmire
Originally printed 3/22/2012 (Issue 2012 - Between The Lines News)
"In conservative states, like Michigan, we have more protections when we're working on DOW Chemical property than we do when we step outside the gates to go home."
That's one of the reasons Coastal Crop Field Research and Development Leader Bill Hendrix has been involved in the world-wide company's LGBT rights programs for the 22 years he's been with DOW. He recently turned over the reins after six years of serving as the chair of the company's Gays, Lesbians and Allies at Dow (GLAD) Nework. It is one of seven networks working to promote an increasingly diverse and inclusive workplace. There are 120 local chapters of their group, all growing out of GLAD that started in 2000.
Dow has made Human Rights Campaign's Best Places to Work 2012 list for the eighth year in a row, and The International Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (IGLCC) awarded Dow Chemical Company second place as a leading corporation in the second edition of the International Business Equality Index. The index is a measurement of the performance of multinational corporations in relation to diversity and inclusion issues specifically focusing on LGBT communities in the countries where they operate.
Hendrix has testified before Congress on behalf of the Midland, Michigan-based multinational corporation. First before the House Committee on Education and Labor to argue for ending transgender discrimination in 2008, then again in 2009 to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in favor of domestic partner benefits for federal employees.
The testimony was given to show that not only are human rights an ethical issue, they also make good business sense. Hendrix explained to the Senate Committee, "Specifically, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender policies have been good for our workplace for two main reasons: a) retention of our employees has been enhanced, because they know that they can perform their jobs openly and with full support of their family situation without fear of repercussion and therefore have more reason to be committed to the company in return, and b) better recruitment of allies and younger workers, who often use employee benefits, such as support for domestic partnerships and flexible work hours, as a litmus test for prospective employers."
Dow transgender advocacy
Dow meets the HRC's increasingly stringent criteria because they were at the forefront of advocating for transgender rights and health benefits. Beyond the benefits, the support organizations, and the language of equality in company policy, Dow looks at every process to see if people are being welcomed and treated fairly. "One thing we consider is the idea of parity. For example sometimes families travel on the corporate jet, and we make sure that someone's partner has the same rules and is treated the same as someone's spouse. We give employees support during transitions, like when moving from one city to another. We give plane tickets and moving help for a partner the same as we do for a spouse. We look at all of our policies, perks and situations that could come up and we look to see if there is parity.
"Another thing we do is looking for ways to support diversity outside of the company. We want the communities we operate in to be welcoming and diverse," Hendrix said. Dow is a regular sponsor of the Pride celebration in Midland, and the AIDS walk. Each GLAD site is active in the community they are in. At a national level they are Out and Equal sponsors, which is a great resource for companies. We have been a corporate sponsor for PFLAG for about six or seven years.
"One of the things we're very proud of is that people in the network donate $5,000 each year for scholarships. We make an impact with the students. It lets them know that they can be themselves and go out into the world knowing that there are places where they can work without having to hide. We also give a scholarship to an ally, to help encourage change in the culture."
He said that Dow was leading the way for change worldwide by bringing these values to all places where they do business. "One of our team members and his partner moved to Dubai. They had a very successful two years in Dubai together, because of the way Dow Chemical operates."
Learn more online:
To find out more about diversity at Dow, check out their corporate website http://www.dow.com/diversity/ , or their GLAD Network site http://www.dow.com/diversity/environment/allies.htm, or this video - http://www.youtube.com/dowchemicalcompany#p/u/36/jVPfHJ_w8DY
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