Rodney Tow remembers when Michelin North America’s headquarter was being built in Greenville, S.C. in the 1980s. He knew back then, even as a high school student, that he was destined to work there! After spending over a decade in France as an adult, Rodney moved back to South Carolina, where he eventually joined Michelin as a bilingual Customer Service Representative. Growing up gay in South Carolina was difficult for Rodney. “One of the reasons I moved to Europe was the appeal and freedom to live authentically for the first time in my life. When I moved back to South Carolina, I promised myself I would no longer live in fear of the judgment of others, but instead be honest and true to who I was,” Rodney said. On his first day of new-hire orientation, Rodney learned that Michelin offered same-sex health benefits. “When asked to go around the room to introduce ourselves, I decided that my Michelin career was going to be built on honesty and integrity so I told my story openly and was emboldened by my decision to speak up,” said Rodney. Three years after joining Michelin, Rodney moved from Customer Service to Personnel, where he was responsible for hosting events at Michelin’s North American headquarters, including those organized by the Business Resource Groups. Rodney inquired about a LGBTQ Business Resource Group and learned one did not exist. “That was all I needed to hear,” said Rodney. “I started right away to gather a list of employees that I knew would be interested in participating.”
At that time, Anderson Abernathy was considering a move to Greenville from Atlanta. As he started the interview process at Michelin, he tried to get a sense for how inclusive it was. “While there were hints that Michelin was an inclusive Company, information was limited,” said Anderson. “I was worried about the prospects of moving to a smaller town. Would Greenville be a safe and welcoming city for a gay man? Would I have to worry about placing a picture of my boyfriend on my desk at work? Would being gay limit my opportunities?” Thankfully, Anderson took the leap and quickly realized most of his fears were non-issues. Both Greenville and Michelin were incredibly welcoming and became places Anderson could thrive, build a life and call home. “I had to learn first-hand that Michelin’s culture was welcoming and inclusive,” said Anderson.
Anderson joined Rodney and co-founded the LGBT & Allies Business Resource Group (BRG) in 2014. “In eight years, we have been able to make tremendous strides through the support of our current and past members and Company leadership,” said Anderson. The LBGT & Allies BRG aims to increase understanding of key topics, build an inclusive and welcoming workplace, and harness the potential of a fully engaged workforce that will drive business value for the Company. “I think the moment it came full circle for me was at the end of 2017 when meeting with the then-Chairman and President of Michelin North America,” said Rodney. “I shared the work done on the Ally campaign launched earlier that year and he congratulated me on making a difference at Michelin. I knew part of my purpose was to ensure every LGBTQ employee can live as openly and honestly as I have.” “Of all the achievements, I’m most proud of the momentum we’ve created,” Anderson said. “I am not saying we have arrived, but I can acknowledge how far we have come. There is still plenty of opportunity for growth and improvement, as I suspect there always will be. What is clear to me is that where there is heart, empathy, self-reflection and commitment to a better way forward, it’s simply about doing the work. At Michelin, there’s no shortage of people willing to do the work.”
Since its founding in 2014, the LGBT & Allies BRG has led many initiatives at Michelin and within local communities. It collaborates with the recruiting team to help candidates feel welcomed and included, and with the Benefits group to discuss inclusive policies that represent a variety of lifestyles and households. The LGBT & Allies BRG has members that serve on boards outside Michelin to help advance inclusiveness in the community. It actively participates in many Pride events and activities in various locations like Montreal, Canada, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, Tuscaloosa, AL, Lexington, SC and the Upstate of SC .