Personal Reflections from the Out & Equal Workplace Summit

From our Executive Vice President and CEO, Joyce Dubensky:

I am still reeling from the Out & Equal Conference (but maybe that is because I flew out to LA on Thursday and returned Friday night.) Anyway, the Conference – which included a focus on social justice and respect – included sessions on religion and the Lesbian/Gay/Bi-Sexual/Transgender community (the LGBT community). Mark Fowler led one workshop, and it was powerful to hear people’s reactions.

In particular, I was saddened by one participant, who shared that he is leery of deeply religious people, because several times the conversation has gone from cordial to damnation. So, when he hears someone say, “Have a blessed day,” his antenna go up and he is waiting for harassment. It was interesting to be present while Mark led the training, and to observe how people were learning how they often view one another through their own perspectives and values.

That was Thursday. On Friday, we had a pre-panel breakfast with Ana Duarte-McCarthy (visionary Global Diversity leader from Citigroup) and Brain McNaught (renowned leader in the LGBT community on inclusion). Breakfasts may simply be the best part of any conference. The conversation was so quick and the ideas came so fast – I think we all felt energized. Then we had the panel and, even though it was at the very end of the conference, the room must have had over 125 people in it! Ana and Brian shared true experiences, we talked about ERGs (employee resource groups), and about those who are deeply religious and act respectfully of colleagues. One woman shared that she was disconcerted to realize how religious the U.S. is (we talked about the fact that the majority of people in our nation identify themselves as religious – and that includes people with the full breadth of sexual orientations and gender identities).

I admit that I’m tired, but I think we achieved our goal of raising the issues and helping people from global and national companies identify ways to collaborate across differences.

Joyce

P.S. Brian McNaught made one very interesting point – he asked that people not refer to the LGBT community by using the acronym. Instead, he suggested that it is more respectful to use the names for which the letters stand.