Out Professional Employee Network to discuss best practices and personal branding at two-day summit in Dallas
DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
Human Rights Campaign sponsor PricewaterhouseCoopers is holding a two-day diversity summit for members of its LGBT resource group at the Joule Hotel in Downtown Dallas beginning Friday, Nov. 11, in conjunction with Black Tie Dinner set for Saturday night.
The company is headquartered in London, with offices worldwide, including Dallas.
Mark Niehaus, partner chair for the National GLBT Partner Advisory Board, explained that the resource group holds “periodic gatherings of our GLBT members from throughout the country,” and that this year, “We decided to connect it to a national event” (the Black Tie Dinner).
Jennifer Allyn, a managing director in the PwC office of diversity, said that normally a business meeting wouldn’t be held into Saturday. But, she said, the Black Tie Dinner was a good reason for people to stay through the weekend. She said the meeting will include people who are out, visible and successful.
“The group includes some of our highest-performing GLBT professionals,” she said.
Also among the speakers is personal branding expert William Arruda.
He begins the event on Friday morning by discussing how diversity can be what differentiates a person and how to use that to accelerate a career path.
“How do you put yourself out there?” Allyn said, explaining what Arruda will discuss. “Are you being thoughtful about your reputation?”
She said Arruda will discuss managing one’s reputation to succeed at the highest levels.
When he worked for KPMG, Arruda was closeted and spent about 20 percent of his time covering up who he was, she explained. But at PwC, it’s important to be out at work, especially in jobs dealing with clients and building trust.
“Integrity is important,” Allyn said. “When you’re hiding, you come off guarded. To build relationships, you have to build trust.”
She said that building trust is difficult with someone who is closeted because it becomes apparent that person is always hiding something.
In a business environment, people are always coming out. Members of PwC’s Out Professional Employee Network (OPEN) will share best practices.
“A lot of our focus is based on how we fit in the organization,” Niehaus said.
He said the group focuses on strengths and leveraging those individual personal traits.
“What makes you different is what’s important,” he said. “It connects you with clients and makes you succeed. We don’t want to lose what’s unique about each individual.”
The meeting will focus on other issues relating to personal branding and career development as well.
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese will speak along with Point Foundation President Jorge Valencia.
While Solmonese will discuss political initiatives, Allyn said the group is especially anxious to hear from Valencia because “PwC has a big commitment to education.”
Other speakers include New York State Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights Alphonso David, who was involved in the fight to pass same-sex marriage in New York, and LGBT retention and advancement consultant Jennifer Brown, who will discuss career development tailored to an LGBT professionals.
“One of our initiatives is energizing allies,” Allyn said.
In conjunction with that, OPEN published I Am Open. The book complied interviews with 18 gay and straight people at PwC who have built strong working relationships with each other.
In a professional setting, the book suggests inclusive language such as asking if someone is in a relationship rather than if they’re married or invite team members to bring a guest rather than something more specific.
PwC is the first of the Big 4 accounting firms to have an LGBT Partner Advisory Board made up of openly gay partners and managing directors in the company. Many of those partners, including Niehaus, will be at the conference in Dallas.
“We want everyone to leave inspired,” Allyn said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.