by J. Kevin Jones, Out & Equal Deputy Director | At NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC), the department responsible for the agency’s diversity is named “Innovation and Inclusion.” That name immediately resonated with each of us visiting JSC last Friday for a panel discussion organized by Out & Equal Houston and hosted by NASA’s Out & Allied Employee Resource Group.
An important aspect of the “business case” that has driven change in organizational policies and culture is winning the competition for talent. Corporations whose success depends upon innovation, and the ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest, have been the leaders in LGBT workplace equality. Top tier consulting and technology firms recognized this almost thirty years ago. They emerged as early leaders in implementing policies inclusive of LGBT employees. Increasingly, other industries – finance, energy, defense, legal, and others – adopted, or are adopting, inclusive policies designed to improve employee retention and productivity, not to mention their market position.
The value of providing workplaces where all employees are safe and respected is also becoming a clear imperative for federal agencies that compete for talent. NASA, where attracting the country’s finest scientific minds is core to its mission, is one of those agencies. I was not surprised, then, to hear Out & Allied co-chair Bryan Snook talk about presenting a “business case” framework in outlining the value in creating NASA’s LGBT employee group. It is gratifying to see the federal government, in its capacity as the nation’s largest employer, join the leading employers in the private sector to eliminate inequities that prevent LGBT employees from bringing their full selves to work.
Through Out & Equal, I have had the privilege of witnessing many stories of courage, perseverance and leadership in the movement to achieve workplace equality. As I shared in my remarks at JSC, how fitting it is to be working with NASA in striving for a more equal society. They have been a source of courage and inspiration for the United States, and the world, for decades in demonstrating the best that humankind can become. We were reminded of that, both when we toured the amazing facilities at JSC, and in the support we received in discussing workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace.