by Kevin Jones | The Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Seattle in 2000 was my first. I have not missed that amazing annual event since (of course, not showing up for the Summit these days could be grounds for dismissal…). That first experience was transformational for me. It set me on a journey to make a difference. Every year, I get excited seeing the people who experience the Summit for the first time and those returning participants who leave re-energized, knowing that we are on the same journey to achieve workplace equality. I truly enjoy seeing attendees who represent companies that have never before been to a Summit. I know that the possibility for positive change at those companies has suddenly increased significantly.
And while the number of companies represented at the Summit increases each year, it needs to happen faster. Many companies whose employees would benefit from attending the Summit are not yet showing up — the companies that have more work to do to create inclusive environments for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. Well, we do not want to wait any longer for those companies to figure it out; we want to identify LGBT or allied employees at those companies and make it possible for them to experience the Summit and help them accelerate change at their workplaces.
We think this “seek, invite and support” approach to leveraging the Summit has the potential for expanding significantly the event’s already big impact. Therefore, we are establishing the Out & Equal Workplace Advocates Scholarship Fund. While we hope over time to expand this fund to incorporate other ways to support underrepresented communities, our initial focus will be on providing support for employees from targeted companies to get to the Summit — from the U.S. and around the world.
Here is how you can help. Include a donation to the Scholarship Fund during registration for the 2011 Workplace Summit or contribute at any time via our registration website. The more we collect, the more support — including travel and housing — we can provide. Also, if you know of potential scholarship recipients — employees who need our collective support to achieve equality in places that still have work to do, please let us know. Among the thousands of attendees who have been to the Summit – we have the resources and the network to make workplace equality a reality faster or more people. Let’s do it.