Breaking the Mold: These Top Executives Used Their Influence to Help Bring Equality to Their Workplaces-As Well as Their Communities

By Kuhr, Fred | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), March 14, 2006 | Go to article overview

Breaking the Mold: These Top Executives Used Their Influence to Help Bring Equality to Their Workplaces-As Well as Their Communities


Kuhr, Fred, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


DEAN HANSELL

OCCUPATION: Managing partner

COMPANY: LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene, & MacRae LLP

AGE: 53

RESIDENCE: Los Angeles

HOMETOWN: Salem, Ohio

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Partnered with Jason Murakawa for 13 years

Dean Hansell experienced his share of homophobia in the I workplace as a newly minted attorney fresh out of Northwestern University Law School in 1977. Rude and inappropriate comments from colleagues and supervisors included "Well, what time are you going to the bathhouse tonight?" and "Half the people in this office suck dick."

But there was little Hansell could do about it. "I was a lowly associate at the time," he recalls. "If I had spoken up, it would have had a negative impact on my career."

Hansell--a Jewish 53-year-old native of the small Appalachian town of Salem, Ohio--gradually came out and in 1997 was appointed a Los Angeles police commissioner by then-mayor Richard Riordan. (The commission acts as the board overseeing the Los Angeles police department.)

Knowing that the appointment would raise his public profile, Hansell came out to some of his colleagues at his current firm--LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene, & MacRae LLP. "To their credit, they said it made no difference," says Hansell.

Since Hansell had been involved with gay organizations for a long time--he's a cofounder of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and cochair of the board of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center--he made a decision to bring that sense of activism to his professional life. He pushed for his firm to offer domestic-partner benefits. (Hansell and his partner, graphic designer Jason Murakawa, 45, have been together for 13 years.)

Hansell convinced the American Bar Association's endowment arm to cover domestic partners in its insurance programs. As president of Los Angeles's Board of Information Technology Commissioners, a position he has held since 2004, he persuaded the board to adopt a policy that all cable companies doing business in Los Angeles must offer domestic-partner benefits. (Former city mayor James Hahn had appointed Hansen an information technology commissioner in 2001, and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa renewed the appointment in 2005 after Hansell became president of the beard.)

As an accomplished business, environmental, and insurance litigator and former civil prosecutor, Hansell is well-versed in arguing for what he believes is right. But what sets him apart from many of his contemporaries is that he made a conscious decision to use those skills outside the courtroom as well. "I feel that I have an obligation to give back to the community," says Hansell. "It's just part of my life and who I am."

BOB WILLIAMS

OCCUPATION: Director of new business development in the mobile devices retail group

COMPANY: Motorola

AGE: 48

RESIDENCE: Dallas

HOMETOWN: Detroit

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Partnered with Marty Polasko for 18 years

MARJORIE CHORLINS

OCCUPATION: Senior director of international business advocacy in the government relations office

COMPANY: Motorola

AGE: 43

RESIDENCE: Washington, D.C.

HOMETOWN: St. Louis

RELATIONSHIP STATUS: Partnered with Sieglinde Friedman for 12 1/2 years

When Bob Williams, 48, is asked if the corporate environment has gotten better for gay employees since he started at Motorola 11 years ago, he says, "I don't know, because I was in the closet." But eight years ago he got tired of hiding. "I've always maintained that people are good--they're just afraid of what they don't know," he says.

The reaction? One of the company's executives asked him to join the global communications giant's GLBT Business Council, which he now coleads.

Marjorie Chorlins, 43, had a similar experience. She was in the closet when she worked in Motorola's Washington, D. …

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