By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON HARBOR — Ana Romero was new at Whirlpool Corp. and looking to meet more people.
The GIS lead analyst joined the Whirlpool Hispanic Network as soon as she began working for the home appliance maker in 2013.
The network, which was created in 2001, is an employee resource group that allows various workers who have Latino backgrounds to meet and socialize through internal and community-centered events.
The group is comprised of about 50 active members. But Romero, one of the network’s co-leads, said they consistently reach out to the rest of Whirlpool’s 500 Hispanic employees in the Twin Cities.
“The main reason I joined was to meet people,” Romero said. “That’s been really useful because you get to know people outside of your department. After I began, I decided I wanted to be involved in everything.”
Three years after joining the ERG, Romero is now co-lead for the network where she recruits people to be either a member or part of the board.
Romero and her cohorts in the network organize social events about every month. The board also meets on a monthly basis for updates on every committee its formed, as well as what progress has been made for future events.
One event in particular has become especially important among network members.
Dozens of members have volunteered for the Hispanic Farmers Project – an event the Southwestern Michigan Migrant Resource Council organizes each December. The Whirlpool Hispanic Network is a main supporter through its funding for food and personal care product baskets and its recruiting of volunteers for the event.
The purpose of the event is to help provide 350-450 families with food baskets that include any other necessary supplies.
Carlos Perez, another co-lead for the network, was a part of a different Hispanic network when he worked for General Mills in Minneapolis.
Perez has been with the Whirlpool Hispanic Network for two and a half years and said its main goal is to fulfill the different needs of the Hispanic community.
“One of the things we try to do is maximize the role of the ERG to make sure we have a good developmental experience for Hispanics throughout the company,” Perez said in reference to the network’s Career Development Day. “The goal is to help people develop and get better at their job. We will continue looking at how to help Hispanics within the company succeed and move up.”
Romero said they are considering a mentorship program through the network. Members would be able to find someone within their area of expertise to help build themselves up professionally.
Developmental capability is not the only thing changing.
The network is in the process of changing its name to the Whirlpool Hispanic & Latino Network.
“A lot of the Brazilian members argue they are not Hispanic, which is true,” Romero said. “Their main language is Portuguese and not Spanish. We’ve reviewed this with our sponsor and got his approval and are in the process of changing both the logo and name.”
The change among group members is apparent to Rosa Keszler.
She joined the network as co-lead of business before switching to the Promote and Development Committee.
The New York native said there were no diversity networks at Whirlpool 23 years ago when she joined the home appliance maker. However, she’s noticed the shift between 1992 and the present.
“Coming here to Michigan, there wasn’t a lot of diversity,” she said. “For me, going to the network was a way to get back to my roots. It’s been exciting to see the change. When we started, it was very grassroots where you got together with folks and socialized. Now it’s much more than that.”