In 2007, Alcoa launched Employees at Alcoa for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (EAGLE) to create a safe and affirming work environment, where all employees are empowered to reach their full human and career potential. In recent years, the global group has successfully affected policy, engaged employees, and mobilized the support of allies, helping Alcoa to achieve major milestones, such as revising the Alcoa EEO policy to include gender identify and expression; achieving spousal parity for domestic partners; adding healthcare coverage for transgender employees; publicly supporting LGBT-specific legislation and coalitions; and partnering with Human Resources on recruiting efforts.
How has EAGLE had such impact in such a short period of time? According to Molly McGovern, EAGLE Global Co-lead, the organization hit a turning point when they learned to fully engage their allies in the organization.
“We realized sometimes it’s easier to have people who don’t necessarily have a stake in the game speaking on your behalf,” McGovern says. “EAGLE was always intended to be open to everyone, but for a long time, it functioned mostly as a support group. So we launched a campaign called ‘I support EAGLE’ to bring our allies to the table.”
The passion these allies brought to the movement cannot be understated, McGovern explains. One of the most impactful of these allies was the Director of Global Benefits. “So much of what we were trying to do was change policies, particularly related to health care, and gain parity in domestic partner benefits. Having allies with functional expertise step forward really helped our organization effectively achieve so many inclusivity milestones. Had EAGLE decided to go it alone, we would simply have been a minority population trying to change minds one at a time.”
“What we discovered was that allies have a spectrum of engagement,” McGovern says. “There are those who will march with you on Capitol Hill and be with you every step of the way. Then there are those who simply want to show support for their coworkers and are not really sure how. By extending that ‘I support’ message we let them know that EAGLE values that support.
We even created a standard pledge that says, in part, ‘I will educate myself and lead by example,’ so allies know what support looks like.” Today, EAGLE membership spans 17 US states, 14 countries across North America and Europe, as well as Australia and Brazil, and has more than 300 members, of which 82 percent are allies. The ally model has been so successful that other affinity groups throughout Alcoa have been working to adopt the concept.