The Workplace Summit includes CEOs and celebrities committed to workplace diversity
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
Hollywood’s been debating lately about whether or not there could be a gay James Bond. At Out & Equal’s Workplace Summit taking place at the Hilton Anatole on Oct. 6-8, the executive director of the CIA will be in Dallas to let people know there already are gay James Bonds.
Among this year’s other speakers out basketball star Jason Collins, who will keynote the opening brunch, and Mayor Annise Parker will talk about the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance election. The producers of this year’s Tony Award winning musical Fun Home will appear to discuss the show.
Out & Equal is dedicated to achieving LGBT workplace equality and works with corporations and government agencies to provide safe and supportive work environments. It provides resources and support to employee resource groups, a concept that began in Dallas when the first ERG — LEAGUE@AT&T — was formed in 1987.
In 2011, the Workplace Summit was held in Dallas and, among the other attendees, attracted more than 50 corporate CEOs.
Among the plenary speakers were Bravo’s Andy Cohen and actress Candice Cayne, and Margaret Cho entertained at the final gala dinner. Singer/songwriter Cris Williamson is on this year’s entertainment lineup.
This year, 3,000 attendees have registered from 600 companies and 30 countries.
Out & Equal Chief Development Officer Rachel Rubin described the week as an event where people at companies who rarely speak to each other interact and exchange ideas.
“Companies who don’t agree on much, agree on diversity,” Rubin said. “We’re proud of that.”
Rubin added that 90 workshops would deal with a variety of topics, including a number of issues that have arisen as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage-equality decision. While many companies have a commitment to equal treatment for their LGBT employees, some issues are more complicated than simple recognition of a partner as a spouse, she said.
Executives at some companies like Walmart and Dow Chemical that have taken strong stands against so-called religious freedom laws will speak on their corporate positions. Pepsi and Disney executives will share case studies of programs that have worked for them.
Rubin said having the right CEO in place can make all the difference when it comes to equality in the workplace. She cited Frank Bisignano, CEO of First Data. After being hired from Citi, he made a commitment to diversity and raised his new company’s Corporate Equality Index score from 40 to 100. He’s the speaker at one of the convention’s power lunches.
On the government employment side, Rubin said there would be what she called a coffee with Barney Frank and a luncheon that includes a speaker from the state department as well as the CIA.
A new feature for the convention is this year’s AT&T Workplace Summit Career Pavilion. Attendees can meet one-on-one for career coaching to discuss their current career and future goals or have a professional review their resume.
The career pavilion will also provide the opportunity to meet with employers about career opportunities from a number of companies participating in Out & Equal such as AT&T, Thomson Reuters, Hewlett-Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Citi Bank, Northrop Grumman, AIG, Mass Mutual and Texas Instruments.
Rick Wilson, director of talent acquisition at AT&T and president of the DFW chapter of LEAGUE, said he expects people to be speaking with mid- to high-level executives from companies that have already demonstrated their commitment to diversity that includes the LGBT community.
While this isn’t a job fair, Wilson said he expects people may find some good opportunities.
“If we find talent, business cards will be exchanged and we’ll point them to our careers website,” he said. AT&T’s booth in the exhibit hall will alswo have listings of job opportunities.
The career pavilion will be located inside the exhibit hall and will be open to anyone attending the conference on Oct. 7 from 8 a.m.-noon and 2:30-5 p.m.
Texas Instruments is a sponsor of the night out on Cedar Springs Road.
When Out & Equal was in Dallas in 2011, they shuttled about 2,500 people between the Anatole Hotel and Cedar Springs.
“We used that number for our estimates so folks won’t have to wait as long for buses,” said TI’s Paul von Wupperfeld.
This year, Cedar Springs Road will be closed to traffic and booths will be set up along the street like on wine stroll evenings.
He said the evening out is a great way to get people out of the hotel for awhile and introduce them to the community.
To welcome visitors to Dallas and especially Oak Lawn, von Wupperfeld said he’d like to station local hosts on the shuttles from 5-11 p.m. to welcome guests and answer questions about options for dining, shopping and nightlife.
Volunteers can work shifts of one hour or the entire evening. Anyone interested in acting as a host should send their name, time available and cell phone number to von Wupperfeld at email@example.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 18, 2015.