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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Out and Equal 2008

This past week I attended the 2008 Out and Equal Workplace Summit which is the largest GLBT business event in the country. The Summit was attended by over 2200 GLBT business professionals, mostly from Employee Resource Groups (ERG) of the major Fortune 500 companies.

The Summit took place in Austin, Texas this year and boy was it hot and humid. Us Angelenos are not accustomed to such humidity so it sure was a shocker. Fear of Hurricane Ike loomed over most of the attendees heads and was a major topic of conversation as the event progressed. I personally cut my trip a day short to prevent a prolonged stay out of the office.

But aside from the weather, the Summit went off as usual without a hitch. It has been running now for over 10 years and the organization leaves no stone unturned. The Summit consists of many workshops that focus mainly on how to improve one's ERG. However, there are also other topics including marketing and human resources.

I attended 2 of the workshops from the event's menu. The first was hosted by Matt Tuminello of Target 10 and Dan Whitman of the New York GLBT Center. The workshop focused on how corporate America can become more involved with non-profit organizations and how they can really benefit from the incredible branding opportunity while supporting great causes. The second was hosted by MergeMedia's Dawn Meifert and her client Doug Sanborn of Coors. Dawn and Doug made a great business case for marketing towards the GLBT community and discussed some of their market research to back up their facts.

Summits like these are the seeds for change in the GLBT business community.
There were two individuals who stuck out in my experience there. One was a gentleman who I met at the airport. He told me how he was the only "out" employee in his regional office of a major financial company. He discussed how uncomfortable he was in his working environment but was determined to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness. The second individual was a young lady from an aerospace company who revealed that she was made fun of in her office for attending the Summit. The perpertrators were not teasing her for being a Lesbian, but for just being so involved.

Author, Keith Boykin was one of the keynote speakers at one of the morning plenary sessions. What a great speaker! He regaled us on his experiences working for the Clinton administration and also revealed that he was a classmate of Barack Obama at Harvard. Boykin was also really proud to have his mother in the audience as he spoke.

So if you are involved in the GLBT business community on any level, I definitely recommend that you attend a Summit at some time in your career. It is amazing to be around so many like-minded individuals and is a fantastic networking event.