HOLLAND – As new pride events pop up across the state, one striking thing about them is the amount of corporate support that goes into making them happen. West Michigan-based Herman Miller is one of the leaders in this trend, sponsoring both West Michigan Pride and the upcoming Holland Pride on June 29.
Nicole Mayer is a 42 year-old team leader in one of Herman Miller’s chair manufacturing plants. She’s also the leader of the LGBT Inclusive Resource Team for the company. Her pride as a lesbian is equaled by her pride in working for a company that puts equality first.
“I’ve been a participant since we began,” she said about the group that started eight years ago. “It was our senior leadership, top down, that wanted to make resource teams happen. They came out and said we want to be more inclusive of everyone. We know we need help to improve the work conditions and environment, and find out what employees need to feel good on the job. What makes Herman Miller great to work at?”
Mayer explained that the company created several teams, including teams based on race, a team for veterans, one for employees with disabilities, and even a multi-generational team to encourage connections between age groups.
Being with the company since 1995, Mayer has seen the effect of cultivating an openly inclusive culture. “It’s really changed a lot knowing that we have top down support that really believes in this. It’s not just a ‘let’s try this out because other people are doing it’ thing. They believed these groups were important, and they made them a priority.
“I’ve been more comfortable with who I am. It’s kind of a non-issue most of the time. I haven’t heard anything negative in years. I don’t think much about it anymore, except when we get involved with events and things where the public is. But even then, most people are accepting.
“When I first started, you didn’t talk about it. You stayed behind the line and you let it go when you were at work. Now I can just be myself.”
Herman Miller has scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index for the past six years. Mayer and her partner have taken advantage of domestic partner health benefits through the company in the past, and she says that partners are treated like any married spouse would be at any company function or in regards to any company benefit.
When it came time to lobby for an inclusive human rights ordinance for the city, Herman Miller stepped in to help the Holland is Ready campaign. They have partnered with Grand Valley State University for programming on National Coming Out Day. They have provided furniture for The Network in Grand Rapids, and they’ve helped with both West Michigan Pride and Holland Pride.
Within the company, Mayer says, the LGBT Inclusive Resource Team “helps to educate and engage other members who may not understand what it means to be LGBT.”
Find out more about Herman Miller’s inclusive business practices at http://www.hermanmiller.com/content/hermanmiller/english/about-us/our-values-in-action/inclusiveness-and-diversity.html. Also read a previous BTL article about the company’s recognition by HRC here..
Learn about Holland Pride at http://hollandareapride.com.