Posted by: outandequal | June 10, 2013

What’s Next for Equality in the US Northwest?

Northwest Regional Affiliates at the 2011 National Out & Equal Workplace Summit

by Michael Mattmiller, Out & Equal Seattle Regional Affiliate | What an amazing year we’ve had for workplace equality in Washington state. Since last January, we’ve seen our community rally together to help our legislature pass marriage equality. When a signature-gathering effort referred the legislation to voters, our r corporate leaders joined us to contribute to the pro-marriage campaign, and these leaders proudly took strong, visible stands in support of LGBT professionals. This campaign helped our executives understand how issues like marriage affect our families and our success in the workplace.

So what’s next?

For many of our corporate LGBT professionals in Washington we’ve got engaged leaders, great benefits and diversity programs, and inclusive state laws. Are we feeling the benefit of those laws and programs? Too often we assume that all corporate citizens benefit when an employer announced a great new policy granting same-sex benefits or a new diversity initiative. For many of us that work at corporate headquarters and have the opportunity to interact with our leaders and employee resource groups, we forget that our colleagues in field offices, subsidiaries, or working on factory floors may not feel the benefit of these well-intended gestures.

We also need to think about our colleagues who were left behind during these recent wins. While Washington and five other states have been added to the marriage equality map  in the past year, our neighbors in California, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, and Alaska did not. What knowledge can we impart to the inclusion-minded corporations and professionals in those states who have more work to do? We also need to think about our transgender coworkers who in some cases were excluded from corporate policy and benefits changes. How many of our companies widely-lauded for their leadership on marriage equality still do not offer inclusive transgender healthcare?

These are just a couple of the challenges remaining for us to tackle in our corporates. This list doesn’t include the challenges on which  executive sponsors are now engaging us, such as how their investment in employee resource groups are returning value to the company through increased revenue, retention, and other metrics.

And we thought we were done. Creating a sought-after culture where all professionals feel like valued members of their workplace is still an attainable goal, and through our conversations with ERGs across the Northwest we have found innovative programs that not only tackle these challenges but do so in a way that makes their companies an employer of choice. In the process, many of the LGBT professionals and allies who have developed these programs gained valuable leadership skills, visibility in their companies, and are seeing the benefits in their career.

The Out & Equal Regional Affiliates in Seattle and San Francisco have been working hard to plan a Northwest Regional Summit where together we can discuss “What’s Next” – the challenges, the successful models employed by others, and how to get energized for the road ahead. We have 12 amazing workshops presented by innovative employers from Boeing to Accenture, Starbucks, Ernst & Young, and others. Keynote speakers from Alaska Airlines and Concur Technologies will provide us with executive perspective. Leading organizations in our community including Lambda Legal and Pride Foundation will help us understand the rapidly changing legal and civic landscapes.

I hope you will join us on Friday, June 28th to be part of the Regional Summit. Together, we can be “What’s next”.

Visit the Northwest Regional Summit website to learn more about event programming and to register. Connect with both the Out & Equal Seattle Affiliate and the San Francisco Affiliate on Facebook.

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