Metro Weekly

Out & Equal helps companies make their workplaces more LGBTQ-affirming

The organization's 2019 Workplace Summit helps businesses network and promote diversity

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates — Photo: Gooch.

“When we started, less than five percent of Fortune 500 companies had any protections for our community,” says Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “Now, it’s almost the reverse of that — maybe less than seven percent don’t. In the last 18 months, the floodgates have really opened. We’ve seen companies stepping up and out in the sense of corporate activism and standing for their values, even when it doesn’t appear that it would benefit their bottom line.”

A 22-year-old nonprofit focused on workplace diversity and inclusion, Out & Equal works with companies to adopt LBGTQ-friendly policies and benefits through tailored consulting, cultural competency courses, monthly webinars on LGBTQ workplace issues, and conferences for networking and promoting diversity. The organization’s trademark event is its annual Workplace Summit, a day of seminars, workshops and plenaries for professionals. It’s expected to draw more than 6,000 attendees to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor in mid-October.

Uritus is excited that nearly one-quarter of last year’s attendees identified as heterosexual, including a number who work as diversity and inclusion or human resources officers.

“Companies are starting to send their leaders of their other [non-LGBTQ] employee resource groups to our conference, because there’s a lot of synergy in the intersectional approach,” she says. “So, for example, Dell or JPMorgan or Citibank will also send the heads of their African-American, Asian-American, disabled veterans resource groups, because our conference provides a lot of good content that is applicable.”

Companies and professionals from at least 47 states and 38 countries will be represented at the conference, as will nearly 70% of Fortune 1000 companies and five government agencies: the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency, the USDA, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“When you think about seventy percent of Fortune 1000 companies, you’re going to see most of your household names in there, along with major companies who are doing big work, who have super big workforces,” says Uritus. “I think these companies are not only wanting to stand up and do what’s right, but they’re also in a war for talent with each other. They’re trying to attract the best and brightest workforce that they can, and our community is a huge part of that.”

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates’ 2019 Workplace Summit runs from Monday, Oct. 14 to Thursday, Oct. 17 at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., Fort Washington, Md. Visit www.outandequal.org.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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