By Crystal Proxmire
BENTON HARBOR –
When Noel Dolan moved to Benton Harbor for a job in merchandising and marketing with Whirlpool Corporation, she was impressed with the way they rolled out the red carpet for her and her partner, Jocelyn.
That’s why Dolan gives back to her communities – both employee and LGBT – as one of the co-leads in Whirlpool’s Pride Network. The Network’s leadership has three facets: company, employees and community, and Dolan serves on the business side. She’s been with Whirlpool four years now and said she’s proud to be there for two reasons: the company’s commitment to caring for its employees and the quality and promotion of a great line of products.
Whirlpool was one of six major corporations based in Michigan that was recognized by the Human Rights Campaign for having a perfect score in their corporate equality index. http://www.hrc.org/resources/entry/best-places-to-work-2012. Whirlpool, along with Ford, Chrysler, Dow Chemical, Herman Miller and Kellogg’s serve as models of diversity and equality based on the rigorous standards set by HRC, including coverage for transgender employees’ medical needs. Whirlpool has received a perfect score for the past eight years.
Dolan joined the Benton Harbor office fresh out of grad school. She grew up in Gull Lake near Kalamazoo, and when she moved she brought Jocelyn with her. “She was working as a college admissions representative and it was a big decision for her to uproot,” she said. “They were very welcoming of my partner and even helped her get employment in the area. We were treated equally, like any other couple. They got her a job in the call center and now she works in human resources. We’ve had a good experience.” The couple is now also raising their first child, ten week old Avery.
Daniel Williams is Whirlpool’s senior manager of talent and inclusion. He said his job is, “to find people who are a great fit for Whirlpool and from a diversity standpoint we make sure every employee feels comfortable.” He connects incoming employees with resources in the company and within the community. “A lot of people are transplants from outside of West Michigan,” Williams said. “Benton Harbor and Saint Joe are small towns. We make sure employees have tools. Strong networks help new employees assimilate to the area,” he said.
“It’s especially important because our goal is to create a certain inclusive environment, representative of where we live and work,” said Williams. “Our goal is to systematically remove barriers.” He noted that employees with partners, like Dolan, are offered domestic partner benefits, introduced to the support networks, and are recognized in their Equal Opportunity Employment policy.
“It’s especially important because we’re a large company in a small town area,” said Williams. “All the (employee affinity) networks work especially hard with our office. I’ll give a prime example; if you took a survey and it asks ‘male or female,’ we’ll make sure that it offers other categories or a spot where you can type in your own.”
As part of the Pride Network, Dolan helps with events surrounding Pride Month in June and in October for coming out. The network has a mailing list of over 200 people.
“We try to reach as many people as possible. One of the things we’d like to do is put a quantifiable number on how many employees are self-identified as gay. Not everyone is as vocal as I am. Some people don’t want to talk about their personal life, but I’d like to find out how many of us there really are and how diverse we really are.”
As for Dolan’s other reason for her loyalty to her employer, she is very proud of working for a Michigan-based company with good products she can stand by, openly. She was proud of the fact Whirlpool is reaching out to her community, including the decision to market Kitchen Aid appliances to a same-sex audience.
“The fact that we got an ad in Advocate magazine is huge. This is the first ever appliance ad in a major gay magazine. The community should be aware of how supportive we are,” Dolan said. “Don’t assume because it’s a manufacturing company that we aren’t progressive.”