Black history is an essential part of the history of our nation, our communities and our company. Black associates have been key members of the Rudolph Libbe Group team since our earliest years. In a series of articles this year, we are celebrating the contributions of current associates and retirees, and expressing our gratitude to them for being a part of the Rudolph Libbe Group.
—Bill Rudolph, Chairman, Rudolph Libbe Group
A desire to be an advocate and a voice for others led Heather Hagans to a career in human resources.
“I’ve always wanted to help people and to me, Human Resources is customer service for employees.”
Heather joined GEM Inc. as a human resources generalist in May 2021, after working as a recruiter for substitute teachers. “I’m learning my role and the construction lingo. I am a part of an amazing HR team, a knowledgeable group of women. They exemplify our company culture to the fullest. And so far, there has not been a situation where I couldn’t express how I feel or had to wonder if I was being heard,” she said.
With her family’s support, she recently earned a bachelor’s degree in business, with HR certification. With Rudolph Libbe Group’s support, she is pursuing certification as a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)-Certified Professional. Ultimately, she wants to specialize in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Last year, a college friend asked Heather to help create an organization focused on serving the homeless. A Happy Smile: The Hope Foundation, while still in its developmental stage, will provide food, shelter and other services to those in need. Heather also volunteers with My Sister’s House for Girls in Toledo, a mentorship program.
“I was blown away my first week here at Rudolph Libbe Group. I was asked what my career goals were and what tools I needed to be successful. I’ve never experienced that with any other company.”
In too many workplaces, a Black woman will be labeled “angry” for being assertive, straightforward or just expressing an opinion. It’s a world where, when she was once stopped by the police, she was so frightened that she couldn’t immediately find her license, registration and proof of insurance. “All I kept thinking was, ‘What will happen to my three kids sitting in the backseat if something happens to me?’”
A single mom of three, Heather hopes to raise strong daughters who will be seen as assertive, not “bossy.” She has deeper concerns for her son.
“My hope for my son is that he doesn’t have a target on his back. When does my son stop being cute and when does he become a threat? And he’s only three. There’s a stereotype for Black men. It’s a mother’s worst nightmare to learn that her son had Skittles in his pocket and was shot dead.”
Awareness is the first step toward a better world, she said. “Once you become aware, you have a responsibility to learn how to be the best ally—by actively listening. Not to receive a response, but to learn.”