For some members of Ford GLOBE, being out at work means being a trusted team member, a proud ally and a comfortable employee.
As part of GLOBE’s celebration of National Coming Out Day on Tuesday, Oct. 11 at Ford World Headquarters, a panel of GLOBE members shared their perspectives on why it’s important to them to be out at the office. IT employee and ally Holly Lashbrook moderated the discussion.
Ford GLOBE is Ford Motor Company's Employee Resource Group (ERG) for its gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally hourly, salaried and agency employees. In the LGBT community, “coming out” means the voluntary self-disclosure of one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
“I tend to be someone who is relatively open about who I am with friends, family and in the work place,” said Matthew Gray, who’s worked in Powertrain Purchasing for nine years. “I’d been with my partner (now husband) for 15 years, so when I chose to join Ford Motor Company I wanted to choose a company where I could be out, where I could be comfortable with who I am and talk about what Brad and I did over the weekend. It’s just a part of being a team member.”
Greg Stone, director of Global Manufacturing, Learning and Development, said being out at work makes it easier to relate to people. Bringing his husband to public work-related events has been a non-issue.
Marketing, Sales and Service employee Andrew Massaro said he thinks it’s important for him to be as proud an ally as he can be in a corporate environment. He makes sure his team members know he’s an ally and has invited them to GLOBE and Pride events in the past.
Also on hand for Tuesday’s panel discussion was Rob Matras, a Product Development engineer, who founded Ford GLOBE with fellow employee Alice McKeage in September 1994. Matras, who was not out at Ford when he started working on the group, said he was proud to see how far Ford GLOBE has come. Organizing Ford GLOBE was a years-long process. He credits help from other corporate LBGT groups and Ford’s other ERGs like Ford African Ancestry Network and Ford Hispanic Network with helping the group get started.
“I grew up in Dearborn and my grandfather worked at Ford in the ‘50s. I always wanted to work for Ford, but Ford was not a good place for a young gay person, I didn’t think,” said Matras, who was 25 when he started. “Part of my struggle was considering to leave for another company. I was brand new here, but why stay in a place that’s not very healthy?
“But somehow, maybe with good leadership or good mentorship, it dawned on me that somebody really needs to ask the question: Shouldn’t Ford be a more welcoming place for gay and lesbian employees? Because I can’t be by myself.”
Thanks to Matras and McKeage’s efforts 22 years ago, people like employee Matthew Krause are introduced to Ford GLOBE on day one at corporate orientation. Krause said he came from a previous work environment where he was not free to be himself. He met Stone, who was representing Ford GLOBE, at that orientation in 2013.
“I literally just felt myself jumping out of my skin,” said Krause, a sales zone manager in the Pittsburgh, Pa.-area. “Here was this company that I respected, that my parents had driven their vehicles for years, and I was doing the job that I love doing, and now I get to work for this company and be me. It’s not an issue any longer.
“I remember walking up to Greg afterward and shaking his hand and saying thank you. Thank you for being you and having this group and for making it feel like I just made the best decision I’ve ever made.”