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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 21, 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 25
A vision of true workplace equality - Out & Equal to host regional summit in Seattle
Section One
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A vision of true workplace equality - Out & Equal to host regional summit in Seattle

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On June 28, the nation's leading workplace advocacy organization, Out & Equal, expects more than 200 participants at its first-ever Northwest Regional Summit, to be held in Seattle. This daylong event will educate and develop professionals passionate about advancing corporate diversity, according to organizers.

The Out & Equal Northwest Regional Summit is expected to draw participants from San Francisco to Vancouver, B.C.

'The Northwest Regional Summit will bring together hundreds of LGBT professionals and straight allies to share innovative strategies to enhance workplace inclusion, visibility, and diversity. Attendees will participate in workshops and hear from business leaders who pioneered welcoming workplaces for diverse professionals,' Out & Equal officials said.

CHANGING THE CULTURE
For anyone who might ask, 'What does it take to have an inclusive workplace where LGBT and allied professionals can grow and succeed?' Out & Equal officials answer, 'Inclusive policies and benefits are a start, but creating a sought-after culture where all professionals feel like valued members of their workplace requires more effort.'

The main focus, say officials, is to teach participants how to create more inclusive workplaces and advance workplace equality for LGBT people around the region.

Playing host to The Northwest Regional Summit is the Out & Equal Seattle Regional Affiliate, who say they are dedicated to helping employee resource groups (ERGs) foster an inclusive environment for all Pacific Northwest companies by fostering cross-company communication, sharing best practices, providing professional networking and development opportunities, and engaging our communities.

'Our Affiliate began when a group of LGBT employees from leading employers in the Northwest region met in 2007 to discuss the state of workplace equality and how best to collectively effect change,' Out & Equal Seattle officials say in a message on the group's official website. 'The meeting was led by representatives from the Starbucks Coffee Company and Microsoft, but quickly engaged interest from across the spectrum of Northwest companies. This group helped spur many of the changes that have made our workplaces more supportive of LGBT professionals and their families, including protections for LGBT employees, same-sex domestic partner benefits, and Transgender-inclusive practices.'

Currently, the Seattle affiliate continues to educate, strengthen, and inform ERGs and professionals across the region. They welcome new companies and individuals to join and help make Washington state employers the best workplaces for LGBT professionals. Visit www.outandequalseattle.org for more details.

LEARN WHAT WORKS
By attending workshops, summit participants will gain an understanding of what it takes to promote workplace inclusion and advance their own careers.

There are a few workshops that seem to stand out, including 'Supreme Court Review: Marriage Equality, DOMA, and What They Mean for the Workplace,' conducted by Tara Borelli, staff attorney for Lambda Legal.

'With the Supreme Court poised to rule on marriage equality and Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, we have reached a watershed in the movement for equal treatment of same-sex couples,' says an online description of the workshop. 'The Court's decisions will have a profound effect on the lives of same-sex couples, and define the next chapter of work to secure equal treatment everywhere, including the workplace. This workshop will review what we might expect from the Court this month, and the impact its decisions may have on workplace issues such as equal employment benefits for same-sex couples.'

Another workshop worth noting is 'Driving High Performance with Inclusion and Diversity,' led by St├ęphane Mead and Tim Garippa of Accenture.

'Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) in the workplace may be the right thing to do, but does it have a business case? Accenture is at the global forefront of I&D practices, supported by the LGBT Employee Resource Group (ERG). The ERG has driven adoption of leading policies, benefits, and practices affecting LGBT employees, ensuring high engagement and reducing LGBT attrition. Join them as they discuss their journey utilizing a metrics-driven approach to measure the value created by a more equal and diverse workplace. In this workshop, Accenture's LGBT ERG will discuss several aspects of their journey including policies, benefits, and practices that helps attract and retain high-performing talent while creating high-performance operations and organic growth for the enterprise.'

'A GREAT RESOURCE'
Andy Riffle is Out & Proud Seattle's social and events coordinator. He also serves as the vice president for his Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Alaska Airlines. Riffle told Seattle Gay News he joined Out & Equal because it gives him a 'great resource to help grow my ERG and help give ideas to other ERGs in our community.'

'Being able to help others just comes naturally,' he said.

Riffle tells SGN the regional summit is a big deal because, 'in short, it's important for our community to understand 'what's next,' because we still have work to do making our workplaces inclusive places where all of our LGBT professionals can succeed, and we need to stay focused and motivated.

'We need to empower LGBT corporate employees with the knowledge they need to successfully drive change in their organizations,' added Riffle. 'We want to continue empowering the next generation of LGBT corporate leaders and give them the guidance to be successful in their careers.'

Lambda Legal will be part of the day, helping attendees understand how recent Supreme Court decisions on marriage equality will affect employers.

The Northwest Regional Summit is presented by Perkins Coie, with support from corporations and nonprofit organizations that champion diverse and inclusive workforces.

Some space is still available at the Regional Summit. Riffle says that any LGBT professional or ally can join them June 28. Register now at http://outandequalnwrs.org.

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