Thousands converge on Dallas for Out & Equal

Executives from major corporations meet in Dallas to discuss LGBT equality on the job

Keeton.Elyse

Meredith Baxter

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

LGBT executives, employees and allies from hundreds of companies around the world met at the Hilton Anatole Hotel this week for the annual Out & Equal Workplace Summit to discuss equality in a corporate setting. Among the top issues discussed were transgender equality and equality around the world.
People from about 30 countries attended.

One attendee from Italy was gathering resources for a new Out & Equal organization he has formed that already is affiliated with 10 companies.

Local companies such as JC Penney, Kimberley Clark, Texas Instruments and Frito Lay were well represented. Even ExxonMobil, notorious for its 0 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and for stripping Mobil employees of benefits after their merger, paid for several employees to attend the conference.

Louise Young said her company, Raytheon, underwrote 50 employees who attended from around the country.

Houston-based Chevron brought in employees from around the world. Nick Thomas is a project manager for a $220 million water-purification project in Kazakhstan. He said he works 28 days on and then 28 days off the project and lives in Amsterdam when not in the Central Asian country.

With him was Erin Myers, a geologist, who is moving from Houston to Perth, Australia next week.

Chevron’s 100 percent rating with HRC gives the company a competitive edge, Thomas said, referring to Dallas-based ExxonMobil. But he preferred nondiscrimination and benefits equality over competitive advantage.

Tracey Ballard began working on employee equality at work in the early 1990s. Ballard works for the Central Intelligence Agency, which, she said, has a very diverse workforce and is always looking for the best and the brightest.

She said that the agency decided to start attending conferences like this one, “because we don’t need people self-selecting out.”

And change has come to the CIA both from the top down and from the bottom up. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta and current chief David Petraeus were very progressive with employment policies, Ballard said.

With Ballard was Michael Barber, who said that if an award was given at Out & Equal for best job title at the conference, he’d win: Barber is community outreach and LGBT liaison program manager for the CIA. The Agency Network of Gay and Lesbian Employees, “that includes allies, Bi’s and T’s,” is known as ANGLE and has about 200 members.

Barber said he was there to dispel myths about the CIA, like “Everyone drives sports cars with machine guns in the tailpipes,” and that the agency is homophobic. Barber didn’t say what type of sports car he actually does drive, however.

Barber said ANGLE has made some positive steps. Partner benefits are limited by the Defense of Marriage Act, just as at all federal agencies, he said, but a CIA employee being transferred overseas can take a partner.

All employees of the agency must report if they are cohabitating with someone who is a foreign national and offer a letter of resignation. But they also may register an intent to marry. ANGLE intervened in the case of a gay employee who reported his domestic partnership with a foreign national but was unable to marry.

Virginia, where the agency is based, has no relationship recognition. But the gay employee was allowed to retain both his job and live with his spouse.

Among the celebrities attending was Meredith Baxter, who played Elyse Keaton in the 1980s sitcom Family Ties. She spoke at the morning plenary on Wednesday about coming out on The Today Show last year.

“When my partner and I left the NBC studio that morning, I felt free, unburdened and so calm,” she said. “I had faced the devil and I survived quite nicely.”

Geri Jewell played Cousin Geri on the sitcom The Facts of Life. Born with cerebral palsy, she was the first actor with a recurring role in a prime time television show with a disability. She spoke at the Women’s Leadership Luncheon along with Sheriff Lupe Valdez.

“Being gay, having cerebral palsy, being blind are not disabilities,” Jewell said. “Prejudice, hypocrisy, false pride and hatred are the real disabilities.”

She signed copies of her book, I’m Walking As Straight as I Can at the Anatole. Baxter, who also recently released a memoir, signed copies at the hotel and that evening at Nuvo on Cedar Springs Road.

Rick Welts, the former manager of the the Phoenix Suns and recently hired president of the Golden State Warriors in Sacramento, is the highest-ranking male sports executive to come out.

“We’re afraid of things we don’t understand,” he said at the conference.

Welts spoke about breaking down barriers for the LGBT community even in professional sports.

“Before the story came out in the New York Times on the front page, I had no idea what to be prepared for,” he said. “I certainly was not prepared for the absolutely overwhelmingly positive response I got.”

Welts said that putting a human face on being gay made that difference.

Comedian Kate Clinton emceed Thursday night’s gala, which featured Margaret Cho and Wilson Cruz (Rent). JC Penney presented a fall fashion show. Speakers included Northrop Grumman Chairman, CEO and President Wes Bush and Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns.

The conference concludes Friday afternoon.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Creating equality in the workplace

12-year-old Out & Equal brings its annual summit to Dallas, home of workplace equality advocacy legend Louise Young

Young.Louise

Louise Young

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

To Out & Equal Executive Director Selisse Berry, Dallas activist Louise Young is a workplace equality advocacy legend.

Young worked at Texas Instruments and helped found the employee resource group at that company. Texas Instruments added benefits for its gay and lesbian employees commensurate with its straight employees and nondiscrimination became a way of life at the company, due in no small part to Young’s efforts.

Then Texas Instruments sold the division in which Young and a number of other LGBT employees worked to Raytheon, a company that did not have the LGBT-related policies and benefits that TI had.

So Young made an appointment with top Raytheon executives. She explained to them that she worked hard to gain her equality in the workplace, and that former TI employees now moving to Raytheon would expect the same at their new company.

And she did it all long before Out & Equal was ever created.

Raytheon GLBTA Global President Gib Murray said, “They were very receptive to having an inclusive workplace, allowing employees to be their complete self and recruit and retain the best and brightest.”

And he said that the company was pretty thorough when it looked at employee benefits.

“It’s just kind of handled,” Murray said. “When a situation comes up, it’s addressed.”

He said that once Raytheon embraced diversity, it jumped to the head of the pack to become the first defense contractor to receive a 100 percent rating in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index.

Out & Equal’s mission

Equality has become the norm at large U.S. corporations, despite one very large local exception — ExxonMobil. But even in a category like defense contracting, Raytheon is no longer alone in ensuring equality.

Northrup Grumman also rates 100 percent and its CEO will speak in Dallas next week at the national Out & Equal Workplace Summit being held at the Hilton Anatole Hotel.

Out & Equal is the national organization committed to ending workplace discrimination for LGBT employees. It works with employee resource groups, or ERGs, from major corporations to encourage best workplace practices for all LGBT employees. The Oct. 25-28 conference will be the largest LGBT meeting Dallas has ever hosted, with 2,500 people expected to attend.

Max Rippetoe of JC Penney Pride said ERGs have three purposes — to attract and retain the best talent, to get the most out of those who are here and to reach out to the community.

At his company, he said having the Pride group may attract a designer that wouldn’t go to a cross-town, upscale rival — Neiman Marcus, which scored 30 percent in the CEI guide — that doesn’t have a similar group. He said having the group was simply good for business.

LGBT customers feel welcome shopping at a place that  maintains its 100 percent rating with HRC, Rippetoe said.

When the Out & Equal Workplace Summit comes to Dallas, JC Penney will be a “titanium sponsor.” The company will present a fashion show, and retiring CEO Mike Ullman and Liz Sweney, executive vice president, senior general merchandise manager and the executive sponsor of JC Penney’s Pride, will participate as plenary speakers.

Daphne Avila is a JC Penney company spokesperson and a member of Pride. She said, “Since this is the first time Out & Equal is coming to Dallas and this is our home base, it made sense for us to sponsor.”

She said that she was proud of how the company has transformed internally.

“The company made inclusion and diversity part of our turnaround,” Avila said, crediting Ullman with the company’s commitment to diversity.

Ullman himself has disabilities and has adopted two daughters with disabilities. The Penney’s group for associates with disabilities is one of the most dynamic of the company’s ERGs, Avila said.

Over the past few years, Avila said, associate participation in resource groups at JC Penney has grown. The groups contribute to “training programs that keep store employees cognizant of diverse customer needs.”

LEAGUE@AT&T, created in the late 1980s, will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, according to its president, Theresa Bates-McLemore, who called her group the original employee resource group.

She said that her company encourages its employees to come out, because staying in the closet at work takes up too much time and energy and is counterproductive to a healthy work environment.

She said that Gary Fraundorfer, vice president of human resources,  is so committed to  ending workplace discrimination that he recently joined the board of Resource Center Dallas. Because the current AT&T is made up of various phone companies that have merged, Fraundorfer is currently reviewing policies inherited from each entity to make sure that there is no discrimination company-wide.

Incoming LEAGUE@AT&T President John Cramer said that if a situation comes up, being a member of LEAGUE helps, since the group has direct access to top management.

He added that employees can’t get domestic partner benefits if the company doesn’t know about the partner.

Paul von Wupperfeld is a member of TI’s employee resource group and heads the local Out & Equal regional affiliate. Many companies are beginning to address transgender discrimination and benefits. He said the biggest argument against adding those benefits is cost.

“But no company was ever bankrupted by gender reassignment surgery,” von Wupperfield said.

Adding that benefit, he said, “sends a powerful message that they care about employees’ well-being.”

Von Wupperfield said that other area companies are working with is benefits equality.

A company may offer health insurance for domestic partners just as it is offered to married spouses. However, the federal government taxes the benefit given to a same-sex partner, but not toa heterosexually married spouse — even in states that have marriage equality.

“We’d rather see it fixed at the government level,” he said, but some companies have begun paying employees the amount they owe in extra taxes. Bank of America announced this month that it would pay that differential to its gay and lesbian employees.

TI is looking into this form of compensation as well, he said.

Von Wupperfeld said that the ERGs at his company work well together.

“No employee resource group can exist in opposition to any other,” he said.

So when the Christian Values Initiative formed, his group made a point of working with them.

This summer the two groups were among the co-sponsors of an exhibit on Nazi treatment of gays at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. Members of the Christian group were at the museum when the exhibit arrived in crates, helping to unpack and assemble the displays.

 

2011-OE-DFW-Council

OUT AT WORK | The 2011 Out & Equal DFW council spent the year preparing to welcome the largest conference Dallas has ever hosted.

The Summit

Selise Berry said the Workplace Summit is inspiring. In little more than a decade, Out & Equal has grown into one of the largest LGBT organizations in the country.

A graduate of University of North Texas, Berry was a teacher in Dallas before moving to the San Francisco Bay area to attend Presbyterian Seminary. Because she was lesbian, she could not be ordained, so she went to work for non-profits and did diversity training.

In 1999, Berry created Out & Equal, pulling together the various employee resource groups around the country and regional groups of groups.
For three years she worked alone. Today, Out & Equal has 17 regional affiliates, including ones in Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston.

The Workplace Summit is the organization’s big annual event, but the staff of 20 works throughout the year to create resources for healthcare providers, nonprofits and corporations of all sizes that do not have their own ERGs.

Berry said that one of the themes at this year’s conference is taking LGBT benefits global. Among the issues is whether a company would take a contract in a country where its LGBT employees would not be safe, and if it does, how does it deal with that discrimination.

Out & Equal is becoming an international organization. Among the attendees at this year’s conference are people from a number of companies around the world.

One measure of Out & Equal’s success is the lineup for the conference.

“It took us a number of years before a CEO agreed to speak,” she said. “This year we have two.”

The conference will feature 140 different workshops and a number of featured panels. CNN’s LZ Gunderson will interview Golden State Warriors President and CEO Rick Welts, the highest-ranking person in professional sports management to come out. Entertainers such as Meredith Baxter, Margaret Cho and Kate Clinton will attend.

Dallas will contribute to the entertainment with Turtle Creek Chorale, Dallas Black Dance Theater and Ballet Folklorico performing.

Online registration has closed but registration will be accepted at the door beginning Tuesday, Oct. 25 at 8 a.m. at the Hilton Anatole. Three-day registration is $1,195. One-day rate is $400.

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Rosetti.Roseann

Roseann Rosetti

QUILT DISPLAY

The Collin County-based AIDS education group C.U.R.E. will display 18 blocks from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Dallas this weekend. In addition, there will be a signature panel for people who have viewed the quilt to sign.

Group founder Roseann Rosetti said many of the panels are in memory of people from Dallas.

The quilts will be on display at the Hilton Anatole in the Tower Building in the hall and rotunda and outside the Trinity Ballroom where the lunches and dinners for the conference take place. Rosetti said everyone is welcome to come view the panels.

— David Taffet

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Celeb Sightings
For a list of celebrities appearing at the
Out & Equal summit, Oct. 25-28 in Dallas, CLICK HERE.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WORKING FOR EQUALITY

RAISING FUNDS  | Out & Equal DFW Council held “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at Times Ten Cellars on Aug. 18. The event was the organization’s fifth fundraiser to support its educational programming in the DFW area and to support scholarships to attend the 2011 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, set for Oct. 25-28 at the Hilton Anatole. Pictured are Gib Murray of Raytheon, left, Jeffrey Gorczynski of Citi, center, and Paul von Wupperfeld of Texas Instruments.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

CROSSPOINTS panel to address opportunities, pitfalls of being out at work

Dennis Coleman

The opportunities and pitfalls of being out at work will be discussed at this week’s CROSSPOINTS panel discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 1 at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center. Equality March Texas is coordinating the six-week series, which will take a break next week for the holiday.

Union organizer Mike Lo Vuolo will moderate this week’s panel discussion.

CROSSPOINTS organizer Latisha McDaniel said five people are tentatively scheduled to be on the panel.

Dennis Coleman from Lambda Legal will offer a legal perspective on what rights people have to be out at work and what rights employers have to discriminate pending passage of the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Laura Martin, LGBT community liaison officer for the Dallas Police Department, will give her perspective on being out in an organization with few other out employees.

Binet’s Andi Reis will talk about being an out bisexual.

Louise Young and Rafael McDonnell will talk about Out & Equal employee groups. Young formed the LGBT groups at Texas Instruments and later at Raytheon when they purchased her division from TI. McDonnell is strategic communications and programs manager at Resource Center Dallas.

“There are plenty of pitfalls to being out at work,” said McDaniel. “But I hope they talk about some of the benefits. Being able to concentrate on your work rather than on people finding out about your personal life.”

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which McDaniel described as the biggest example of workplace discrimination, will also be discussed.

—  David Taffet