Meet the VP who’s helping make McDonald’s more inclusive

August 28, 2019

If you ask Tim Andersen, he has the “coolest job at McDonald’s.” And he’s thrilled he can bring his whole self to work every day.

(That wasn’t always the case – but he helped make it that way. We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Today, as U.S. Vice President – Operations/Development, Tim gets to work on virtually everything new that’s going into our restaurants. This means he’s constantly in touch with our menu, equipment and technology partners, and he’s had a hand in rolling out our new Culture of Innovation. Ever heard of McDelivery®? He helped oversee its rollout into the first 200 U.S. restaurants in Miami. He was also involved in All Day Breakfast, Hot-Off-The-Grill Quarter Pounders, the initiative that evolved into Experience of the Future (EOTF), and more.

But that’s not all. He’s also the executive chair of McDonald’s PRIDE Network as well as an advocate for employees bringing their whole selves to work. And as he’s made his way through the organization, he’s demonstrated “patience but persistence” in bringing about important change.

Tim grew up on a farm in Badger, South Dakota (Population: 97). He knew early on that farm life wasn’t for him. When he found out the nearest McDonald’s restaurant was hiring, he jumped at the opportunity – despite the restaurant being 32 miles away. He interviewed on his 16th birthday.

Tim holding burger-shaped birthday cake

“The McDonald’s was in Watertown, South Dakota, which had a population of 20,000,” Tim says. “Coming from such a small town, working there really expanded my horizons.”

By the middle of his junior year in high school, Tim had worked at the McDonald’s in Watertown for 1.5 years. He was spending more time in Watertown than in the city where he grew up. With encouragement from his parents, he moved to his own apartment in Watertown – paid for entirely with his McDonald’s wages! – and enrolled in the local high school for his senior year.

Restaurant maintenance competition team

That was the year things really began to fall into place for Tim.

During his senior year, he drove 80 miles to see the musical group Up With People perform – and then he applied to join them. He was accepted (it’s no surprise, as he played piano, mallet instruments and the saxophone). He soon traveled to 37 states and six European countries with the group, living with more than 80 host families along the way. He also performed in the halftime show of Super Bowl XVI. All of this was transformative for someone who, until the age of 18, had only ever been to two U.S. states.

Up With People reunion photo

“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without that experience,” Tim says. For the first time, he’d met people from backgrounds and cultures different than his own. Today, he’s sits on the Up With People Board of Directors. His time as an official member lasted for one year before he moved to Las Vegas to study hotel administration.

That wasn’t the path for him, he soon found out. But he knew what was: McDonald’s.

He rejoined McDonald’s in Las Vegas in 1982, and he’s been employed by the company ever since.

Other than in Las Vegas, he didn’t stay in one place for too long. He moved to Southern California to work at the company’s former West Division, then to Portland, Oregon to be a Regional Manager, and then back to Las Vegas to lead McOpCo.

But the pinnacle of his McDonald’s career was winning the President’s Award in 1993, when he was 30 years old.

Sadly, the moment was bittersweet.

When his team surprised him with the news, many friends and business people were invited – but they hadn’t invited his partner, Randy. They didn’t know Tim had a partner, or that he was gay, because Tim wasn’t out at work. He even took a very good female friend to the President’s Award banquet to avoid any questions about Randy and their relationship. He says it was very common back then for a gay male to take a female friend to a party or an event.

“It was a very different time back then, and long before we had same-sex protection in our anti-discrimination policy,” Tim says.

Today, for many reasons, Tim is passionate about ensuring people are able to bring their whole selves to their jobs. What does that look like?

“It means you’re able to have a picture of you and your partner as the background on your computer. It means you can talk about your family and life experiences like everyone else does, and not just tell generic stories,” he says. “It’s liberating. When people can be themselves at work, they tell me they’ve never been more happy and more productive.”

For years, Tim has helped to make McDonald’s a more inclusive workplace. There was a time, for instance, when McDonald’s employees were taxed $5,000 more if they added a domestic partner to their health insurance, rather than a spouse.

Tim advocated for this to change – and despite the business being in a slump, McDonald’s leadership agreed to provide tax equalization and pay the $5,000 difference for couples in domestic partnerships.

“I think that says a lot about the culture of McDonald’s,” Tim says. “We’ve had some pushback, but leadership has always done the right thing.”

The company has come even farther since then. In 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019, McDonald’s has scored a perfect 100 on the HRC corporate equality index. And the company is attracting more gay and lesbian employees since its move to downtown Chicago.

Wedding and cats

Tim clearly likes the new neighborhood – he and Randy have an apartment a few blocks away, as well as a house in the Chicago suburbs. They’ve been together for 26 years, married for two, and they share two orange tabby cats, Abigail and Star.

Currently, Tim is working to promote McDonald’s inclusion in the Chicago AIDS Walk & Run on October 5. His goal is to have more than 100 people sign up to participate. And through our sponsorship of the Run/Walk, our first float in the Chicago PRIDE parade, and local activations with the Center on Halsted, AIDS Foundation of Chicago and Equality Illinois since we moved into MHQ, he believes we’re showing many people in Chicago that McDonald’s is a great company AND a great place to work.

Tim quote