Though now seeing a corporate presence at a pride parade or hearing about an openly gay sports star is becoming more commonplace, it’s important to note that those two worlds have not historically been beacons of LGBTQ-friendliness. In fact, that’s what makes it so notable that this year both fields will be represented via openly gay speakers at the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce Awards co-hosted by Ford GLOBE on its 25th-anniversary dinner on Thursday, June 6, at The Dearborn Inn. This is the first in what will become an annual awards dinner presented by the Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce. In attendance will be former NFL star Wade Davis and former Ford Vice Chairman Allan Gilmour who will both speak about their experiences of being LGBTQ in their chosen fields. Ford GLOBE is the automaker’s LGBTQ employee resource group, designed a quarter of a century ago to serve as a resource for its workers and to advocate for their full equality.
Gilmour will be honored for his decades of contributions to the LGBTQ community in the realms of both business and philanthropy when he receives the inaugural Allan D. Gilmour Award for Outstanding Leadership in Inclusion, presented by The Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
On Inclusion in Business
In advance of the event, Between The Lines met with Gilmour in his Birmingham home to discuss the significance of the award, how the world of philanthropy has changed since he entered it and his hopes for the event. When asked how he felt about receiving the honor, he was modest.
“I’m surprised. I can think of many people who deserve it more and I hope they’re at the event,” he said with a laugh. “I’m grateful of course for this and it’s an opportunity to celebrate success. Not of me, but of Ford GLOBE, of the [LGBTQ] chamber [of commerce], of Between The Lines going back now 26 years and a bunch of organizations.”
Beyond that, he said he’s thrilled that this event will celebrate those who have worked to secure civil rights for the LGBTQ community in the corporate world and beyond.
“And that’s what we’re looking for, to be protected so we can’t be thrown out of the house in the middle of the night or not let in the first place,” Gilmour said. “But [also for the] opportunity to do what, what we’ll call for the moment, ‘the mainstream’ does.”
However, he added, it’s not enough for an organization simply to seek out a diversified staff or clients, it must have “the values of diversity” as well.
“Because unless we bring the diverse people in — and we’re all diverse in some sense — so that we’re all participating, we won’t get the full value of the so-called diversified people and the so-called non-diversified people,” Gilmour said, citing that he sees progress in this aspect, even regarding the buzzwords that companies and organizations have used since diversity has become a focus in the corporate sphere.
“The real word these days is ‘inclusion.’ So, Henry Grix and Howard Israel had been to OutGiving in Florida and came back with two new words: ‘respect’ and ‘dignity.’ And I think that is so true: any of us in an organization want those sorts of things,” he said. “We want to be respected, we want to be recognized with dignity, but I think those are useful words to think about and I think we’re moving along.”
He added that as more and more businesses are provided incentives via skilled employees and growing customer bases to remain inclusive, he predicts this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
“It’s the usual: good employees come in all funny shapes and I’ve got to get my unfair share of good employees. And customers come in all kinds of shapes, the particular shape that can pay for what I’m selling and some of those prove to be gay and lesbian and some of them are Muslim and some are Chinese and some are African-American and some are Episcopalians and I want them all as long as they can pay,” Gilmour said. “And this is somewhat contradictory, I think in the business world, some say, ‘Well, don’t I have enough to worry about already?’ But at the same time, unless I worry about these things and do something about it, I won’t be as successful as I could be or should be.”
“We do have to understand that all of us, everyone in this room in some way needs inclusion and it may be at home, it may be religious organizations, it may be political organizations, who knows what, but please, keep your minds open and see what you can do to make this a better community.”
Philanthropically, Gilmour has been involved with the boards of dozens of organizations since he retired from his Ford position in the ’90s, dedicated to a variety of causes. Perhaps most notably, The Gilmour-Jirgens Fund and The HOPE Fund which targets LGBTQ equality via projects, grant-making and technical assistance. Both funds are housed at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan. When asked how the realm has changed since he first broke into it, he cited that despite fundraising still being a very difficult aspect still, he’s noticed a positive shift in large companies and nonprofit organizations wanting to dedicate time and effort into supporting inclusive causes of all kinds. He also emphasized how vital of a role good fundraising can play in social movements citing an old adage, ‘No money, no mission.’
“[It’s] very important. Now, does that mean that the people who can give the most money should have the loudest voice? No. It should be in general of course that the staff of an organization is the leadership,” Gilmour said. “It’s hard at smaller organizations when there’s sometimes not a very good board and not very good leadership to figure out who should be doing what, but I think in the well-organized ones it’s got to be the staff that does most of the heavy lifting. Now, some of the people who contribute more than others are loud and should we listen? Yes, but that does not necessarily mean agree. Just as those that don’t have money [should be listened to].”
However, despite the progress he’s experienced in the process of raising funds from large entities and organizations, Gilmour said that individual giving is currently at some of the lowest he’s seen. He attributed that partly to a lack of general knowledge of the importance of issues like LGBTQ equality.
“It hasn’t become easier with the run-of-the-mill population and I think that is awareness with all those prejudices mixed in and we try our best to talk with people about that,” he said.
That is also why he said he hopes that the upcoming event will motivate people to become aware of the needs of communities outside of their own like the LGBTQ population.
“I urge the people that are there to please do pay attention to these kinds of issues that this community faces,” he said. “And it’s up to us to pay attention to our own community because charity starts at home and we need that, but we need to reach out to the greater community. … We do have to understand that all of us, everyone in this room in some way needs inclusion and it may be at home, it may be religious organizations, it may be political organizations, who knows what, but please, keep your minds open and see what you can do to make this a better community.”
Detroit Regional LGBT Chamber of Commerce Awards Dinner
Co-Hosted by Ford GLOBE on its 25th Anniversary
Honoring Allan D. Gilmour, former Vice Chairman of the Ford Motor Company
with special guest and former NFL Star, Wade Davis
June 6, 6:30 p.m.
The Dearborn Inn
20301 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn
Tickets start at $50 and available at detroitlgbtchamber.com/Ford25