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October 11, 2002 - Image 38

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-10-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

This Week

Insight

`Married To Ford'

Gay automotive executive shares his views on diversity in the workplace.

A

tion. But he worried that public disclosure would focus too
much public attention on him and detract from the impor-
Copy Editor/Education Writer
tant work he was doing.
If the truth had been known, "I would have always been
Ilan Gilmour shatters nearly every stereotype
referred to as 'the gay Gilmour,' he said. "Just as, for a while
about gay men.
there, we thought the first name of Chrysler was 'the troubled.'"
A neatly shorn, buttoned-down kind of guy
If he were a young executive today, he said he would
who grew_up on a Vermont dairy farm, Gilmour
likely handle the situation differently.
proved his business acumen over 34 years at Ford Motor
"As time has passed, the corporate culture has become
Co., advancing from financial analyst to president of Ford
more accepting of homosexuality," Gilmour explained.
Automotive Group and executive vice president of
"But, especially then, it was a controversial subject and
International Automotive Operations.
businesses don't want their executives to be controversial."
Although he never married — when asked, he said he was
Also, companies cannot afford to ignore their homosexu-
"married to Ford" — Gilmour kept his homosexuality an offi-
al customers — there are just too many of them, he said.
cial secret until he retired in 1994. J ast May, the company
Gilmour cited national polls from the 1998
called him back to clean up a financial mess
and 2000 presidential elections that showed
that had left it with losses of nearly $5.5 billion.
about 5 percent of those polled identified
Now Ford's vice chairman and chief finan-
themselves as gay or lesbian.
cial officer, Gilmour, 68, has a "bully pulpit"
"You might say: 'That's not very much; why
to promote equal rights and opportunities
should we pay attention to them?' Well, in the
for everyone — almost.
same polls, about 2 1 /2 percent identified them-
"I'm not a believer that an organization
selves as Jewish and 2'12 percent as Asian
should reflect the population at large," he
American. Is anyone planning to leave them
said. "There are enough dumb people at
out?" he asked.
Ford as it is."
The subject of sexual orientation never was
Gilmour spoke about attitudes toward gays
openly discussed at Ford in his previous
in the workplace, and how these attitudes are
tenure, and Gilmour heard very little in the
changing, before an audience of about 325 at
way of anti-gay remarks.
the Jewish Community Center in West
JEWISH
COMMUNITY
"I had an unusual experience, being in the cor-
BlOomfield. The Oct. 2 program, first in the
CENTER
porate office, though," he said. "I certainly under-
JCC's "Hot Topic" series, also inaugurated
the Michigan Jewish AIDS Coalition's 2002-
Corporations cannot a ord stand it's different in some other Ford facilities."
Since coming out, Gilmour has made about
2003 ECHO (Educating Our Community
to ignore the homosexual
30 speeches about his experience. He oversees
About Homosexuality Through Outreach)
population, either as
the $4.3 million Gilmour Fund, which includes
series, "Being Out in the Workplace, in
employees or as customers,
School and at Home."
numerous gay charities among its beneficiaries.
said Ford CFO Allan
"I want this [sexual orientation] to be irrele-
The program's sponsors include
Gilmour.
vant," he said. "I want us to be valued and
Congregation Shaarey Zedek, the Jewish
respected not because we're gay, not because
Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the
we're thin', but because of what we can contribute.
Jewish Women's Foundation, Temple Israel and the Between
"We are not asking for special consideration. To live and
the Lines newspaper.
work in an atmosphere of fairness, of equity, of safety —
Arthur and Gina Horwitz of West Bloomfield were hon-
these are not special rights."
orary chairs. Arthur M. Horwitz is publisher of the Jewish
After his talk, Gilmour answered questions and gave
News and president of its parent company, Jewish
advice, both publicly and one-on-one, about how to sur-
Renaissance Media.
vive as a gay person in the corporate world.
Event chair Dr. Don Spivak of Birmingham, a psychia-
"I thought he was incredible," said audience member
trist and MJAC board member, called Gilmour "a force to
Ron Elkus of Huntington Woods. "He showed a lot of
be reckoned with."
honesty and humanity."
"Coming out is both an internal and external event," Dr.
"In my experience," said Josh Cohen of Birmingham, "it
Spivak said in his introduction. "Whom do you come out
doesn't matter if you're gay or what, as long as you can play
to first? Yourself."
corporate politics."
The Corporate Culture
Said Kim Roth, ECHO program director: "Now that
Realizing he was gay was a gradual process that started after metropolitan Detroit's gay community is more organized,
we're moving from negative issues — discrimination, sui-
he turned 40, Gilmour said.
cide — to more positive messages.
During the executive's 34-year career with Ford, he said
'Allan Gilmour is an excellent role model to gay youth." ❑
some in the company speculated about his sexual orienta-

DIANA LIEBERMAN

10/11

2002

38

Remember
When • • •

From the pages of the Jewish News for
this week 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60
years ago.

1992

Chamah Jewish Home and
Educational Center, serving
orphans and underprivileged chil-
dren, opens in Moscow.
Yad Ezra, Michigan's only kosher
food bank, holds its first Youth Walk
to help raise money for the hungry.

1982

Thirty-five Detroiters will partici-
pate in a show of unity with Jews
from the U. S. and Israel as 1,200
Americans meet for a leadership
rally in Israel.
Detroiter Harry Laker, president
of the Pinsker Progressive Aid
Society, receives an award for 53
years of dedicated service.

1972

George Bush, U.S. permanent rep-
resentative to the United Nations,
will be honored by the Zionist
Organization of America.
Congregation Beth Abraham-
Hillel dedicates a six-branched
Martyrs Memorial candelabra.

.,11111111111111Mir

Hebrew is now being offered as a
foreign language at Hampton
Middle School in Detroit.
To improve relations between the
two groups, interfaith luncheons
for Christians and Jews commence
at Boesky's Restaurant in Detroit.

Bernard Isaacs, superintendent of
United Hebrew Schools, issues an
urgent appeal to Jewish parents to
enroll their daughters as well as
their sons in a Hebrew school; the
ratio formerly was equal, but now is
15 girls to 85 boys.

Menorah, official -publication of

B'nai B'rith Pisgah Auxiliary Lodge
No. 122, has won national recogni-
tion. It takes first place in the
women's division of the 4th annual
B'nai B'rith Lodge and Auxiliary
Bulletin Contest.

— Compiled by Holly Teasdle,
archivist, the Leo M Franklin
Archives, Temple Beth El

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