What Was Lambda?

Forming a Network

Emily Jones, employed as a chemist at Kodak, navigated the professional landscape as an LGBTQ individual during a time when many felt compelled to keep their identity concealed at the workplace. The sense of isolation from colleagues and superiors was a shared experience among LGBTQ employees. However, a turning point occurred for Jones during the 1990 Vancouver Gay Games, where she serendipitously connected with another Kodak employee who, like her, understood the struggles faced by the LGBTQ community within the company. Together, they envisioned the establishment of a support group upon their return to Rochester.

During this period, various identity groups were emerging within Kodak, gaining public recognition with the encouragement of the company's management. The Women's Forum of Kodak Employees was the pioneer, followed by Network Northstar, an African-American network designed to underscore Kodak's commitment to diversity. Buoyed by the success of these initiatives, David Kosel and Joe Moliere, partners in both life and work, saw the potential for a gay and lesbian network.

In 1992, Kosel and Moliere attended a workplace diversity conference in California, where they crossed paths with Susan Connelly. Engaged in Kodak's Human Resources Diversity Initiative, Connelly became a vital link between the emerging LGBTQ group and Emily Jones's existing support network. Together, they laid the foundation for what would become the Lambda Network at Kodak.

Initially functioning as a monthly mutual support group, Lambda Network evolved significantly. The pivotal moment came in 1993 when the group organized and hosted its inaugural public event, featuring Deb Price, the first nationally syndicated columnist on gay life, as a guest speaker in Rochester (Washington Post).

The event's success propelled Lambda Network forward, and by 1994, the group formalized its structure by adopting its first bylaws. Drawing inspiration from the successful models of the women and African American networks, Lambda Network's mission was clear: to foster "a supportive work environment for all individuals regardless of their sexual orientation" through "support and education." In 1995, the group took another significant step by electing its first board of directors, dedicated to pursuing this inclusive and supportive vision.

Employee Networks at Kodak

The inception of employee networks can be traced back to Xerox, with CEO Joseph Wilson establishing the first such group after the Rochester Race Riots of 1964. This group comprised Xerox employees committed to addressing racial discrimination within the company, setting a precedent that many other companies would adopt in subsequent years to address workplace inequalities.

Employee networks, resource groups, or similar collectives typically refer to groups of employees who come together based on shared interests, aiming to enhance self-development and boost productivity within their workplace, often with the backing of corporate management. To secure support from corporate leadership, specific criteria are established to align the interests of these employee networks with the overarching goals of the companies they represent. In 1993, Kodak delineated the essential attributes expected from its employee networks, including:

  1. Consistency with Kodak values
  2. Contribution to Kodak's business objectives
  3. Facilitation of self-development and increased productivity at work
  4. Avoidance of formation around employment categories, religious, social, or political movements
  5. Possession of a charter, a mission and vision statement, goals, and objectives
  6. Financial self-sufficiency

LNAK exhibit audio · David Kosel recalls an example of Kodaks's anti-union behavior

Given Kodak's anti-labor union stance, the company's employee network policy permitted employees to organize within the corporate structure without disrupting its fundamental framework. Consequently, the strategies employed by these networks did not involve demands or forceful advocacy; rather, education and mutual support became their primary tools. As Kodak underwent changes and its employee networks expanded, the guidelines governing them evolved accordingly.