Out & Equal to host panel on being out at work Thursday at Sue Ellen’s

bookcoverdraftAnyone who has wondered what it would be like to work at a place where diversity is respected and being out at work is just an everyday way of life may be interested in Out & Equal’s Firsthand Accounts of Workplace Leaders.

Out & Equal DFW’s chair Jeffrey Gorczynski will moderate a panel of executives at Sue Ellen’s on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Selisse Berry is founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, the national organization of LGBT employee resource groups. She’s also the editor of the new book Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office. In a video on the Out & Equal website, she said she wanted people to know they are valuable and not alone.

Kayla Shell, executive legal director at Dell, and Bobby Wilkinson, assistant vice president for USAA Financial Services, will appear on the panel.

Also among the speakers will be Louise Young, one of the founders of the employee resource group movement. Young helped organize an ERG at Texas Instruments and when her division was sold to Raytheon, changed that company’s policies and began the ERG there.

When speaking about how Raytheon embraced diversity at other  events, she said the company wouldn’t benefit by increasing sales of bombs or missiles by implementing a nondiscrimination policy or offering domestic partner benefits to employees. The only reason they implemented the changes was to retain and attract the best employees.

Sue Ellen’s Vixin Lounge, Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

Watch a preview of the new book Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office below.

—  David Taffet

Out & Equal to honor Parker, Welts

Mayor Annise Parker

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates will honor Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts at its Leadership Celebration on March 14 in San Francisco.

In October, Out & Equal held its week-long Workplace Summit at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Because of rave reviews, the group plans to return in the next few years. Welts was among the speakers at the Dallas convention.

Now in its fifth year, the Leadership Celebration is a fundraising event that includes a hosted reception and dinner. Parker and Welts will be recognized as role models and inspirations in the movement to achieve equality in the workforce.

To attend the San Francisco event, register online.

The 2012 Workplace Summit will be in Baltimore on from Oct. 29-Nov 1.

—  David Taffet

In LEAGUE with equality

As the employee resource group prepares to turn 25, it celebrates equality gained at AT&T and focuses on anti-bullying efforts

Bates-McLemore.Theresa
Theresa Bates-McLemore

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

As Dallas prepares for the arrival of the national Out & Equal Workplace Advocates convention in October, LEAGUE, the LGBT employee resource group at AT&T, is making plans to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The AT&T group was the original LGBT employee resource group, begun after the first March on Washington in 1987, and is a model that has been recreated since then across corporate America.

LEAGUE held its national convention at the Melrose Hotel in Oak Lawn on Sept. 9, and openly gay Fort Worth City Councilmember Joel Burns spoke at the Saturday night awards program about his “It Gets Better” experience (see story, Page 27). The group is beginning to prepare its own “It Gets Better” materials on behalf of AT&T, and in Burns’ honor, the group made a donation to the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund.

Several awards were given to Dallas LEAGUE members during the convention last weekend.

National Executive of the Year went to Gary Fraundorfer, vice president of human resources, who was honored for re-evaluating all company HR policies to make sure AT&T’s policies treat LGBT employees equally.
Fraundorfer recently joined the Resource Center Dallas board of directors.
“Awards from employees mean the most because they’ll hold you the most accountable,” he said.

But Fraundorfer wanted LEAGUE members to know just how committed to equality the company is.

“We mean it when we say we want things to be equivalent for spouses and partners,” he said. “The goal is complete parity.”

Among AT&T’s 11 latest initiatives to ensure parity is the addition of gender reassignment surgery to the company insurance plan for the company’s transgender employees.

John Cramer, LEAGUE’s national public affairs director, was among the recipients of a “LEAGUE Cares about Bullying” award. He said that the company has rallied around the group’s anti-bullying efforts.

LEAGUE President Theresa Bates-McLemore said she’s heard from employees across the company thanking her for the group’s anti-bullying efforts.

“I’ve heard heartfelt stories from straight people who said, ‘We didn’t know how to do this,’” Bates-McLemore said.

Cramer said that bullying is not just a gay issue and the LEAGUE campaign is helping employees across the company and others outside of AT&T as well.

The new chapter of the year award went to Puerto Rico.

“They took the League Cares About Bullying initiative to a new level,” Bates-McLemore said.

That chapter created an “It Gets Better” public service campaign with Telemundo.

LEAGUE has 45 chapters across the country with about 750 members. Nationally, the group provides scholarships to at-risk LGBT youth and contributes to the “It Gets Better” campaign and has awarded about $150,000.

Locally, LEAGUE supports the community in Dallas with Black Tie Dinner tables. Team AT&T will participate in the Lone Star Ride. And earlier this year the group made a $5,000 contribution to Resource Center Dallas to support its communications technology needs.

And the group supports its members.

For LEAGUE member Mark Carden from Atlanta, the group has had a much more personal impact. He was already working at AT&T when he came out.

“LEAGUE made me feel more secure about myself and the workplace,” he said. “It helped me grow personally and professionally.”

Look for Cramer, Bates-McLemore and other Dallas LEAGUE members in the parade and at the festival in the park. They’ll ride in an AT&T eco-friendly vehicle down Cedar Springs and give out T-shirts and beads.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Out & Equal to Dallas County: You mind adding transgender protections before our convention?

Selise Berry

Fresh to the Inbox tonight is a copy of a letter from Selise Berry, founding executive director of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, to members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.

Berry, a former Dallas resident, writes to thank the commissioners for adding sexual orientation to the county’s nondiscrimination policy a few weeks back — and to strongly encourage them to add gender identity.

Out and Equal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to achieving full equality in the the workplace, will bring more than 2,500 business leaders to Dallas in October for its annual Summit, one of the largest LGBT conventions in the world.

“We selected Dallas for our conference in part because of its combination of a strong LGBT community and its positive corporate environment,” Berry writes. “The Summit brings together executives, human resources and diversity professionals, and openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from the nation’s largest corporations to strategize, network and engage new ways to bring full equality to the workplace for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. When they arrive, we hope they’ll see Dallas County as a model for fairness, with fully inclusive protections that include both gender identity and sexual orientation.”

To read Berry’s full letter, go here.

—  John Wright

Out & Equal convention coming to Dallas in 2011

Largest LGBT national convention should have an $8 million economic impact on city, officials estimate


DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

George Carrancho
George Carrancho

The 2011 Out & Equal convention will be held in Dallas at the Hilton Anatole Hotel, officials with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“We’re excited to host the 2011 Out & Equal Conference in Dallas,” said Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the CVB. “With its more than $8 million economic impact to the city, it will be the largest LGBT convention held in Dallas to date.”

Jones said that convention and leisure travel to Dallas has increased in the past five years.

“We were selected to host this convention in part because of our strong, cohesive LGBT community,” he said. “This community support is essential as we continue to promote Dallas as a top LGBT destination.”

Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is a national organization based in San Francisco advocating from within companies for workplace equality for LGBT employees. They provide a variety of services to companies and employee resource groups and offer diversity training specific to LGBT workplace issues.

There are 18 regional affiliates, including ones in Dallas and Houston.

Tony Vedda, executive director of the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, said his group partnered with the Dallas CVB to bring the convention to the city.

“They were looking at several cities,” he said. “We’re thrilled they chose us.”

Earlier this year, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force held its annual Creating Change conference in Dallas for the second time.Officials estimated the impact of that conference at about $4 million for the city.

Vedda said that successfully hosting one LGBT event helps bring the next one.

“It shows the rest of the world that Dallas is a welcoming city,” he said.

Vedda said that the GLBT Chamber works well with the city. When the area was bidding on this season’s Super Bowl, the GLBT Chamber was asked to send a letter supporting the bid.

Vedda said that these events are very important to the city’s economy and has a positive effect on LGBT-owned businesses, especially in Oak Lawn.

“When we bring in conferences, those people leave lots of tax money for us,” he said. “That’s money that local residents don’t have to spend for services themselves.”

Veronica L. Torres, director of diversity and community relations with the CVB called the convention a big win for Dallas. She said this was the largest LGBT convention the city has booked.

Each year different groups partner with the CVB to stage events, like the Dallas Bears who host the annual Texas Bear Round Up and Dallas Southern Pride which holds its annual black gay Pride each fall, Torres said.

In addition to Out & Equal, the CVB helped book Reaching Out MBA for Oct. 2011 at the Fairmont Hotel. Torres said that 500 to 1,000 people are expected for that convention. In Sept. 2012, the Gay and Lesbian Band Association will meet at the Melrose Hotel.

Torres said she is hoping a small meeting of GALA choruses managers in Dallas next month translates into the convention of LGBT choral association booking the city. They would take over the all of the performing arts venues in the Arts District.

“Dallas is our hometown,” said George Carrancho of American Airlines Rainbow Team. “We’ve been a partner of Out & Equal for at least eight years.”

Carrancho worked with the CVB and GLBT Chamber to bring Out & Equal to Dallas.

He said Out & Equal recognizes the work of the airline. American’s chief commercial officer, Virasb Vahidi, will be the opening speaker of this year’s convention in Los Angeles, and Denise Lynn, vice president of diversity and leadership strategies, is up for the Out & Equal’s Champion Award, given annually to an ally.

To help Dallas win the convention, Carancho said he offered the convention an aggressive discount program.

“This is a big win for American and a big win for Dallas,” he said.

Vedda said that a number of things work in favor of the city of Dallas including the annual press tour for travel writers.

“We get beaucoups of great coverage,” he said. “We’ve done a good job of showcasing Dallas and Fort Worth as welcoming cities.”

Vedda said groups are impressed by the corporate support the local LGBT community gets.

“And not every city can call the mayor, ask him to come to help us sell the city and he does,” Vedda said.

Vedda said the GLBT Chamber continues to work with the Dallas CVB and they have their sites set on several additional conferences, conventions and LGBT sports groups.

“We’re always working on bringing new stuff to Dallas,” he said.

Officials with Out & Equal declined to discuss the 2011 convention, saying they do not announce the coming year’s convention until the end of the convention for the current year.

The 2010 Out & Equal Workplace Summit is scheduled for Oct. 5-8 in Los Angeles.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens