GE Aviation engineer Karen Morgan was recognized by the Cincinnati Reds with a Community Advocate Award
Editor’s Note: June is recognized as Pride Month by the LGBT+ community all around the world. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Pride Month commemorates the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City on June 28, 1969, which most historians consider to be the birth of the modern LGBT movement. Karen Morgan, an engineer at GE Aviation, was recognized this month by the Cincinnati Reds with a Community Advocate Award. Read her story below.
I started my career at GE in 1984 as an engineer on the Edison program. I married a young man I had met in college and over the next 10 years I worked as a design engineer on the F101 and F110 engines and had three children. I left GE in 1994 to be a stay-at-home mom. In 2004, I returned to GE and my roles evolved from being technically focused to working directly with customers. Today I work with engineering, services, commercial and digital teams to develop short and long-term solutions to make engine configuration data available and accessible to our business.
While I was a stay-at-home mom, I met the woman who today is my wife. For two years before re-joining GE, I worked at a company where I couldn’t be my authentic self. I was worried that if the leaders knew I was gay, I would be fired. I lived in fear the entire time I worked there. I realized I wasn’t bringing my best self to work since I was hiding who I was. I value integrity and it didn’t feel good to be hiding who I am.
I came out of this experience with a passion for helping others embrace their authentic self. GE had the right protections in place like a fully-inclusive fair employment practices policy that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, so when I returned to GE, I knew I could be honest and open about who I was. What a relief! I could focus on my work without looking over my shoulder. I could acknowledge my partner and bring her to events. In 2005, the GLBTA Alliance was launched at GE Aviation. I attended the first event and became co-chair of the group along with the founder, Heather Apple. I co-led the Aviation group for four years and then went on to lead the Alliance at the cross-business level for three years. It wasn’t always easy or comfortable being one of the visible LGBT faces in GE, however it was important for me to be the change I wanted to see, which was for LGBT employees to be visible and valued for driving business success.
Fairly early on we realized that education of the broader GE population was going to be important to help create an environment and culture that would allow LGBT people to feel it was safe to be their authentic selves. We started creating education workshops – GLBT 101 sessions that evolved into our current Ally Workshop. I started leading these sessions in 2007 and have continued to this day. Over the years we have educated thousands of GE employees at all levels.
I continued my focus on the power of education to change hearts and minds when I became exposed to the work the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) was doing with the Corporate Equality Index here in Cincinnati. The CEI measures Fortune 1000 companies on their LGBT policies, benefits and practices. I joined our local HRC steering committee in 2010 and started planning education events for area companies, to help them raise their CEI score and advance an inclusive culture. I’m committed to HRC because I see the difference HRC is making across this country and right here in Cincinnati. HRC is working to create an environment where LGBT people feel that they can be their authentic selves. And I’m proud that GE has joined HRC’s Business Coalition for Equality, which is a group of leading U.S. employers that support the Equality Act, federal legislation that would provide the same basic protections to LGBTQ people as are provided to other protected groups under federal law.
Being our authentic selves, without fear, allows each of us to bring our best selves to our daily work. Even though I’ve probably led a hundred or more education sessions, I never lose that feeling of satisfaction of engaging with people, and hopefully raising awareness that will allow them to be better allies, not just for the LGBT community, but for everyone.