Ask Me Anything about being LGBT Diversity Consultant / Trainer / Entrepreneur!

Jun 13, 2018

Hello - I am Stan Kimer!  After a successful 31-year career at IBM, which included being IBM's Global Corporate LGBT Diversity Manager for 4 years, I retired and started my own consulting practice, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer.  I work with companies and organizations who need help forming and executing a robust LGBT diversity and inclusion program.  Lately, I have also been working with companies who need a process for working with transgender employees who undergo gender transition while staying on their jobs.  Feel free to ask me questions about being an LGBT entrepreneur or about LGBT diversity issues where you work!  Link to my website that includes self-assessment, videos and more!

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If given the chance to work for a huge corporation again, would you do it?
Jun 19, 7:23AM EDT0

I am laughing Jason, not now, at 63 years old I would not want to go back.  Sure, if I was 20 years younger.  However, many of my clients are very large corporations and I enjoy working with them and being back  that environment.  And I also feels it helps me with those clients since I understand the nuances and culture of huge companies.

Jun 19, 8:14AM EDT0
As head of the LGBT diversity department, do you ever feel there’s a need for a third bathroom in the office?
Jun 18, 9:29AM EDT0

Not necessarily, but that is one option.  There are a few different good bathroom configurations to support transgender and gender fluid people.  One option is to make all restrooms gender neutral with all the individual stalls within the larger room being private - like on the US television show Ally McBeal which aired about 15 years ago.  Another option is to have some single stall restrooms in addition to the traditional men's and ladies' rooms that anyone can use.  When there is no flexibility nor the ability to retrofit and you only have men's and ladies' restrooms, a person should feel free and safe to use the restroom that best corresponds with their gender expression.

Jun 19, 7:16AM EDT0
Would you say it is best for an LGBT individual to say outright during a job interview about his gender or is it best to keep it at first?
Jun 18, 5:33AM EDT0

It really depends upon the situation.  If the company embraces diversity, identifying as LGBT may even be looked upon favorably.  If you really need the job and the firm is small or conservative, it may be best to not mention it.  The best situation is to simply let the interview evolve and disclose it if it is naturally a part of the conversation.

Jun 18, 7:03AM EDT0
What’s the worst LGBT discrimination incident in the workplace that you have witnessed first-hand?
Jun 18, 4:28AM EDT0

As recently as last month, a good friend of mine was fired from his job in the second week for being gay.  I have witnessed other people pushed out of their jobs for being gay and the dishonest and nasty way companies do this is disgraceful.

Jun 18, 7:04AM EDT0
Is there still truly discrimination in the workplace for members of the LGBTQ community?
Jun 16, 11:14PM EDT0

Absolutely Yes!  I continue to hear stories of people being discriminated against in their jobs simply for being LGBTQ.  This especially happens in those US states that do not have laws protecting LGBT employees and smaller companies that do not include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscriminations policies.  In fact last month one of my good friends, who is an outstanding professional, got fired from his new job on his second day when he disclosed he is gay.

Jun 17, 9:25AM EDT0
Do you ever regret leaving such a stable job at IBM to become a consultant?
Jun 16, 8:13AM EDT0

Great Question - absolutely not!  Fortunately, I was in a very good position and it was time.  I was at IBM 31 years and purposefully lived well below my income level so I could save and be ready to leave when I wanted  (e.g. take early retirement.)  Fortunately, I do have other sources of income (my pension and savings) and so do not have to rely on my consulting practice to live.  One key lesson - before going off on your own, make sure you are financially prepared!

Jun 16, 8:33AM EDT0
Did you feel scared at all not knowing whether you will be just as successful as a consultant compared to when you were in IBM?
Jun 16, 7:04AM EDT0

I love this question!   Interestingly enough, each time I changed roles at IBM, I always asked myself, "Is this going to be the job where I don't succeed?" but after a few months when I realize that with determination and hard work, I can succeed, I am OK.  The same thing happened with the consulting practice.  At first, it was a little scary but then I stayed it, I realized that I have the right skills and the work ethic to succeed.  And on top of that, I was doing something I was passionate about which always has a higher rate of success.

Jun 16, 8:35AM EDT0
How did you develop the tests that are shown on your website? Do you have scientific evidence that confirms their accuracy?
Jun 15, 12:17AM EDT0

I developed those test myself based on my years of experience working with LGBT and career development both within IBM and as a consultant.  They are not really scientific per se but the questions do tie back to typical indicators that show commitment to the subject areas.

Jun 15, 7:02AM EDT0
How big is the change that your consulting company makes for LGBTQ diversity ? What are the things that reflect that change?
Jun 14, 12:31PM EDT0

I do strongly feel that big change is made within each of the clients I work with.   It is rewarding when people tell me that now that they know more about the LGBTQ community, it isn't something they fear and that they will feel more comfortable interacting with the LGBT community.  One of the largest impacts has been assisting some companies with the smooth transition of employees from male to female while remaining engaged and productive on their jobs.  And finally, for some clients, I got them started on the journey of virtual unawareness of LGBT issues in the workplace to setting a strategy with processes in place to support LGBT employees.

Jun 14, 1:19PM EDT0
What are the challenges that LGBTQ people usually face in the workplace?
Jun 13, 10:37PM EDT0

I would say full respect and understanding from all coworkers.  Great progess has been made in the workplace, especially at the largest American companies.  A vast majority now have protections in place for LGBTQ people and other supportive activities like LGBTQA employee resources group.  In most cases, the managers and leaders get it.  But there can still be a number of coworkers who do not respect their LGBTQ coworkers and can create a hostile work environment for them.

Jun 14, 7:05AM EDT0
Which is the most useful advice you would like to give to an LGBTQ young person at present?
Jun 13, 8:14PM EDT0

1)  Find a support within the community - try not to be isolated,  Find an LGBTQ youth group at your school or community.   Find your people!   2) Be proud of who you are and realize there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQ.  Don't feel you have to hide or change yourself.

Jun 14, 7:03AM EDT0
Why do you feel your work is needed when there are laws that protect LGBTQ employees rights and prevent discrimination against them?
Jun 13, 7:45PM EDT0

Great question.   Two reasons.  1)  There are no national laws that protect LGBT people against job discrimination, and less that half the US States have laws.  That means a majority of LGBT are not protected by non-discriminations laws.  2)  In addition to protection laws, much more is accomplished in a society when people are education and start to understand and embrace diversity willingly even without laws.  Greater progress is made when the hearts and minds of people shift.

Jun 14, 7:01AM EDT0
What the biggest challenge facing HR professionals in terms of diversity right now?
Jun 13, 2:35PM EDT0

Great question.  I would say the largest challenge is true end-to-end engagement with diversity across all employees from the rank and file to the senior level.  Sometimes HR feels they succeeded if they get managers to "say the right words" when often it is the non-management employees that can chase a co-worker off or ruin customer relationships.  HR needs to assure there is a comprehensive program for diversity and inclusion across the entire organization and then make sure they tie it back to quantifiable business results.

Jun 13, 4:40PM EDT0
What are the types of company you usually work with and how has their work environment and productivity changed since your consultation?
Jun 13, 9:18AM EDT0

I have worked with a wide range of companies from large to small across various industries - healthcare, manufacturing, research, non-profit, etc.  In almost all case, my clients provide me feedback that their work environment has become more welcoming, people work better together and productivity in enhanced.  Employees for the most part really seem to welcome training in areas they may feel somewhat uncomfortable with.

Jun 13, 12:39PM EDT0
How do you create an environment where other sexual orientations are understood and accepted?
Jun 13, 9:04AM EDT0

I start with the base concept that every single person is unique and has their special set of diversity attributes.  Every person is part of the diversity discussion, even if you are in the majority.   I also convey the value of diversity and how each individual can bring their unique combination of attributes to contribute their unique insights and skills to the business.  I establish as baseline of "We,"  not "us and them."  From that base as people appreciate  their own diversity, they can be much more open to understanding and accepting others', including sexual orientation.

Jun 13, 12:42PM EDT0
Why you think historically, LGBT people didn’t discuss their sexuality openly at work?
Jun 12, 11:10PM EDT0

Historically, especially the 1990s and earlier, LGBT people were very much oppressed my society as a whole.  Organizations would fire someone simply because they were gay - that is what happened with Dr. Frank Kameny, working for the US Map Service, was fired from his job with the US government in the 1950's.  Dr. Kameny, one of the early leaders of the LGBT rights movement, took his case all the way to the Supreme Court and lost.  Link to wikipedia listing about Kameny:  Many people then feared for their jobs and chose to remain in the closest so they could keep their income.  Over time, companies are now much more supportive of LGBT employees so they can come out at work, but even now there are still cases of people being fired when their managers find out they are gay.

Jun 13, 7:06AM EDT0
What motivated you to do what you do for the rights of LGBT community?
Jun 12, 7:00PM EDT0

I came out to myself as gay in 1990 and then more publicly in 1996.  Then I started getting involved in the LGBT community, including speaking on panels at IBM as an out fairly high level senior professional.  Then three years later, the IBM VP of Diversity asked me to join his team to coordinate IBM's LGBT diversity initiatives.  As I got more involved in this work, I saw the great needs and issues within the worldwide LGBT community and was excited that I could make a differnce.  And now I have been doing this (in IBM and now on my own) for over 20 years.  I have also gotten involved in LGBT affirming faith ministries too like the Metropolitan Community Church.

Jun 12, 7:32PM EDT0
What are some reliable mental health resources for LGBTQ+ people?
Jun 12, 6:07PM EDT0

I encourage people to first try their local LGBT center if there is one in your city.  They often have a great list of these kinds of resources that you can access locally.  If that fails, or if you are in a much more remote location without a center, this article offers 10 good alternatives:

Jun 12, 7:34PM EDT0
Do good employers really care if you are LGBT? Do you think it is important to disclose one's sexual orientation during an interview?
Jun 12, 5:46PM EDT0

Employers may not care if you are LGBT or not, but they should and many do care about providing an accepting open environment where people should feel free to be themselves without hiding.  That builds good employee morale.  In some cases, yes, it may be important to bring up your sexual orientation so you can inquire about benefits and to gauge how truly open and affirming the culture is.  And furthermore, some companies may want to use the interviewee's LGBT expertise to more effective reach diverse markets, provide better client service to diverse clients, etc.

Jun 12, 5:59PM EDT0
How can workplaces make sure that LGBT inclusion is something they continually strive towards than something they just achieve and then leave?
Jun 12, 10:22AM EDT0

Great question ... First, there needs to be ongoing measurements of success and progress for the HR team and company leaders to assure they continue to enhance diversity efforts.  Then also form an LGBT+Allies Employee Resource Group or Diversity Council that can continue efforts and hold leaders accountable.

Jun 12, 10:32AM EDT0

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