Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-06-26
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Kellogg attorney talks LGBTs, role models
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis, Windy City Times

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Norma Barnes-Euresti has accomplished much in her career.

Among other things, she is currently vice-president and chief counsel at Kellogg Company. She formerly served as an administrative law judge for the Illinois Human Rights Commission, and also served as an attorney for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago.

She is also one of 11 new board members at the National LGBT Bar Association and Foundation.

In an email interview, Barnes-Euresti discussed her job, role models and obstacles for the LGBT community.

Windy City Times: What was the biggest motivating factor in you embarking on a legal career?

Norma Barnes-Euresti: For me, my calling has always centered on justice. I wanted to become a lawyer, because I saw from an early age the power that the law had to right wrongs, to create peace. I wanted to be a part of that magic.

My mother came to the United States from Mexico in search of a better life when she was just 19 years old, and got an opportunity to go to a junior college in Kentucky. In the 1970s, we moved to Utah, where my mom worked as a translator for a migrant assistance center. They did a number of great things, both big and small, for the migrant community, and I was always very proud of my mom for the role she played.

Although I was only in grade school at the time, I was impressed that things could be made right via the legal process and made the decision that I would become a lawyer. My decision was further cemented when later when another civil rights matter happened in my high school. I never wavered from that choice, even when a teacher told me that I could marry a lawyer, but never become one. Ironically, my wife did in fact go to law school, but I don't think that is what they meant when they made that comment.

WCT: At one point, you worked with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. How was that experience?

NB-E: That was a great experience! I am a big believer that everyone should at some point have a job where they are focused on making the community a better place. I also believe that everyone can contribute to a better community, regardless of their job. The work I did at LAFC was very meaningful, and I got the added benefit of collaborating with very talented and committed people. I'm happy to report that the same is true of where I work now.

WCT: What does it mean to be on the board of the National LGBT Bar Association and Foundation?

NB-E: For me, it is a dream come true. When I was a child, I never imagined that such an organization would ever even exist and that I would get to be a part of it. To promote justice in and through the legal profession for our community is perhaps my strongest calling.

WCT: Tell me about KPride & Allies.

NB-E: KPride & Allies is one of Kellogg Company's largest employee business resource groups. We are comprised of members of the LGBTQ community and our supporters and allies. We hold/participate in so many events throughout the year, it would be difficult for me to do justice to all of them.

Some examples include: sponsorship and participation in Pride events in areas where Kellogg employees work and live ( in fact, I was the Grand Marshall for the first ever Battle Creek Pride March ); testifying at a City Council hearing to add sexual orientation/gender identity to its anti-discrimination ordinance; lunch and learns on a variety of topics; hosting the Western Michigan Summit; participating in panel discussions at the Out and Equal conference; and assisting marketing with ideas to connect with the LGBTQ community.

WCT: What do you feel is the biggest obstacle for LGBTs in the workplace?

NB-E: I think the biggest issue is still feeling safe enough to be out and proud. Not being able to bring your authentic self to work greatly impedes our ability to reach our fullest potential. That, in turn, hurts the companies we work for. Kellogg recognizes the benefit it receives when employees are able to bring their whole selves to work. Sadly, not every company has been able to recognize that truth.

WCT: Describe a typical day for you.

NB-E: We are a global company, so my workday crosses quite a few time zones. I partner and collaborate with people worldwide on a variety of employment, labor, benefits, immigration, EEO, employee relations and ethics topics throughout the day. My wife and I make sure that we carve out time to have coffee together in the morning, and that we have dinner as a family every day. Sometimes that means have dinner at an odd hour, but we make each other a priority. Afterward, I catch up on my work email and whatever research I need to get done.

WCT: Who would you say is your role model?

NB-E: I have so many people I admire, so it is hard for me to name just one. A few of them would be Audre Lorde, Barbara Gittings, George Takei, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin, Ellen Degenres and Diana Nyad. I had the pleasure of meeting Diana at Out and Equal last year. It was my birthday, and I got a picture of us with my favorite character, Toucan Sam. Her motto, "Find a way," is a mantra that I often rely upon to get me through the tough days.

WCT: What are the best and worst aspects of your current position?

NB-E: The best aspect of my job is actually when nothing happens. When we can stop the wrong from happening. In prior jobs, like LAFC, or when I was an ALJ for the Human Rights Commission, the story had already happened. Someone had already been harmed/discriminated against. The only remedy was money, but money does not restore dignity.

At Kellogg, we can intercede very early on to prevent risks. Unfortunately, we aren't able to prevent everything. The good news is we can work to bring peace and justice to those situations. We can always work with the person who has been wronged to remedy and heal their situation. We can always work to help people learn what they have done wrong, and get them to make restitution and avoid that behavior in future. That is actually the harder part of the equation.

The natural tendency when someone does something wrong is to simply reject them, along with their offensive behavior. The problem is that they are then very likely to keep doing the same thing, and will continue to hurt others. Even if they get fired and are no longer in your workplace, they might still live in your community, and can have a negative impact on that environment. If we want to see change, real change, in the places where we work, live and play, we have to be willing to help lead people from wrong to right. Otherwise, we will just keep encountering the negative effects of their destructive behavior.

WCT: What advice do you have for LGBT individuals climbing the corporate ladder?

NB-E: I would recommend a couple of easy areas of focus, and one that will be a little tougher. First, technical competence in your role. You need to be an expert at what you do, and you will need to invest in yourself outside of work. That means continuous learning to get better at what you do. Attend seminars, read books and articles on the subject, and don't expect to only do that during working hours. But keep in mind that technical competence is just "table" stakes. In other words, being an expert gets you to the base of the ladder, but it won't help you climb. Lack of expertise, on the other hand, will absolutely prevent you from climbing.

Climbing the ladder requires leadership competencies and your personal brand. Be sure that you know what your company needs from its leaders, what its business strategies and objectives are, and that you are living those values and executing on the strategy.

One thing we all have to consider is whether to be out or not. This is very tough for some, but my advice is to try to be out if you can. And if you can't, think strongly about making a move to somewhere where you can be out. This does not mean you can only live in a state/city that is on the leading edge of diversity. Nor does it mean only work at companies that have a proven track record of walking the talk on diversity. That may make it easier but it's not absolutely necessary.

It's important for us to champion the change we want to see in companies and communities that have not made it there yet. I know this will sound unrealistic for some folks who will read this advice. I get it. I have lived quite a bit of my life in locations that had opportunities to becoming more diverse and inclusive. Keep in mind, when I first relocated from Chicago to Michigan, K-Pride and Allies did not exist. Battle Creek Pride did not exist. There were no ordinances forbidding discrimination. I didn't know anyone at work who was a member of the LGBTQ community. I understand what it feels like to have concerns about safety.

But I offer that advice for several reasons. One, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to hide your true self. That means you have less energy to devote to your work, and that will impede your ability to reach your full potential and shine. Two, people can tell when you are hiding something, which may lead to them not trusting you. Trust is a secret ingredient to making work move more quickly and effectively. The reverse is also true. If people don't trust you, it will inevitably act as a huge anchor, and will hold you back no matter how talented you are. It will also hamper your ability to build a relationships at work in other ways as well.

When I wasn't yet out to everyone, I tried to avoid chit-chat like the plague. I knew that answering a simple question like, 'what did you do this weekend,' would involve having to be thoughtful about names, pronouns and activities. As a result, I would immediately shut down any attempts to engage in small talk with me by moving quickly to the business at hand. People experienced me as being cold and disinterested in them as human beings. And if someone thinks you don't care about them, they will not accept you as a leader. If you can't lead, you will find it difficult to move up the corporate ladder.

However, if you are devoting all of your energy to being valuable at work, and are engaged and engaging, you will quickly reach your highest potential. If you have the reputation as being a trusted individual, who easily establishes good working relationships that enables you to manage others, you will find that you will quickly move up the ladder.

The risk is that you might not be accepted. If you aren't accepted, then trust me, you didn't want to work there in the first place. Because long-term, it will be very difficult to get ahead in that environment anyway, because the negative impact it can have on your energy, trust and relationships will make it very difficult for you to do your best work and reach your full potential.

As more of us move up the ladder, we need to help others do the same. No one is ever entirely self-made. Behind every success story are people who paved the way and made it possible. We owe it to them to do the same for others.

WCT: What's one little-known fact about you?

NB-E: Before I was a lawyer, almost all of my jobs involved working with horses. Although my health now prevents me from riding, I have stayed involved and own several racehorses in partnership. My best horse currently is 2015 Horse of the Year, Wiggle It Jiggleit.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

City salutes LGBT veterans, Army veteran speaks for trans military service 2019-06-26 - The City of Chicago held the annual Salute to LGBT veterans, "Liberty and Justice for All," at Daley Plaza on Tuesday, June 25. ...

Gay News

Bipartisan Stonewall bill introduced in Congress 2019-06-26 - On June 26, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin ( D-Wisconsin ), Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer ( D-New York ) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ...

Gay News

HRC Foundation releases report on child-welfare agencies 2019-06-26 - The Human Rights Campaign ( HRC ) Foundation released "Celebrating Everyday Change-Makers in Child Welfare"—a first-of-its-kind report highlighting more than 70 child-welfare agencies ...

Gay News

Gay tourism group cancels Ethopian trip after death threats 2019-06-26 - Dan Ware, the owner of Chicago-based Toto Tours—which has a mostly gay clientele—has cancelled an October trip to Ethiopia after receiving death threats ...

Gay News

Women's lawyer group installs new leader, has trans-focused program 2019-06-26 - Wochner Law Firm LLC partner Corinne Cantwell Heggie recently became the Women's Bar Association of Illinois ( WBAI ) president, having previously served ...

Gay News

LGBT flags vandalized at Wicker Park church 2019-06-26 - Police are investigating a possible hate crime after a message was spray-painted on an LGBT flag at Wicker Park Lutheran Church, 1500 N. ...

Gay News

The American Psychoanalytic Association apologizes to LGBTQs 2019-06-26 - The American Psychoanalytic Association ( APsaA ) has issued a statement apologizing for its past views that pathologized homosexuality and transgender identities. ...

Gay News

WORLD Mexican marriage bill, Sir Elton John, global Pride events 2019-06-25 - In Mexico, Sinaloa lawmakers voted against a measure that would have legalized same-sex marriage in the state, with 20 votes against and 18 ...

Gay News

Buttigieg faces critical test over police shooting of black man 2019-06-25 - Openly gay Mayor Pete Buttigieg's meteoric campaign to become a top tier contender for the Democratic presidential nomination has been shaken by metaphorical ...

Gay News

Video, other items released in Smollett case 2019-06-24 - On June 24, Chicago authorities released a video of embattled actor Jussie Smollett wearing a noose on Jan. 29, the night when he ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.