Out Leadership grew out of two industry-specific business initiatives — Out on the Street® and Out in Law — and three cross-industry talent accelerators for LGBT+ leaders: OutNEXT, OutWOMEN, and Quorum. We began in 2011 with 6 founding firms and now count more than 65 of the world’s leading companies across 13 industries as members.
In every global business sector, Out Leadership has been instrumental in making LGBT+ equality a priority in global C-Suites. Through executive events, talent initiatives and periodic communications, we lead the conversations that inspire Out Leaders and multinational companies to grow business through inclusion.
To create Return on Equality, we provide global businesses with the tools for innovation and transformation. Change begins at the top, so we create Summits, Talent Accelerators and Strategic Insights for CEOs who seek to realize the positive business impacts of inclusion.
When Todd first established Out on the Street in 2011, Out Leaders were just mobilizing as a business voice. Through Return on Equality, a concept he introduced in his first summit, he has helped them become a cultural force.
Todd has worked as an investment banker, financial advisor and diversity leader. He created the first team of financial advisors on Wall Street to focus on the LGBT+ community, bringing $1.5 billion in new assets to Merrill Lynch. Todd has also led pioneering equality initiatives for Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse.
He serves on the non-profit boards of the Williams Institute of UCLA, The Palette Fund, the Global Equality Fund of the United States Department of State and Lambda Legal, and on the National Advisory Council of the Stonewall National Archives & Museum. Todd was founding chair of Jeffrey Fashion Cares, which he ran for 10 years; he is a graduate of Duke University.
Out Leadership wouldn’t exist without a generation of change-making CEOs. We’ve successfully made the business case for LGBT+ equality a guiding principle for many of the world’s most influential business leaders — and they helped us built the world’s most influential LGBT+ network.
Todd Sears is the Founder and Principal of Out Leadership, the global LGBT+ business network trusted by CEOs and multinational companies to drive Return on Equality®.
Out Leadership creates executive events and insights that help businesses realize the economic growth and talent dividend derived from inclusion, and convenes three groundbreaking talent accelerators: OutNEXT, the first global leadership development program for the next generation of LGBT+ talent; Quorum, which seeks to advance the conversation around LGBT+ diversity in corporate governance; and OutWOMEN, which convenes and celebrates LGBT+ women in business.
Todd began his career as an investment banker before moving to Merrill Lynch to become a Financial Advisor, where he created the first team of financial advisors on Wall Street to focus on the LGBT+ community and brought $1.5 billion of new assets to the firm. Todd then moved into diversity leadership, pioneering equality initiatives first at Merrill Lynch and then at Credit Suisse.
Sears serves on the non-profit boards of the Williams Institute of UCLA, The Palette Fund, the Global Equality Fund of the United States Department of State and Lambda Legal, and on the National Advisory Council of the Stonewall National Archives & Museum; he was the founding chair of Jeffrey Fashion Cares, which he ran for 10 years. He is a graduate of Duke University.
Wes Werbeck joined Out Leadership in September 2013. As Chief Operating Officer, he works closely with the Founder and Principal on Out Leadership’s corporate growth and strategic plans. Wes leads the team and our client services functions, and also oversees our information technology and business process systems.
In his previous role as Director of Advisory & Client Services, Wes led significant revenue and membership growth, as membership expanded from 19 corporate members to the 65+ members we count today. He has managed key consulting engagements and assisted in the launch of OL-iQ. In 2018, Wes was recognized as one of Business Equality Network’s (BEQ) inaugural Top 40 LGBTQ Leaders Under 40; he also sits on the NYC Young Leaders Council for Lambda Legal. He has over 10 years of experience in professional services; in his prior role as a Tax Senior Accountant at EY, he helped lead the firm’s LGBT ERG in Boston, MA. Wes holds a BS in Business Administration from Northeastern University. In his free time, he enjoys traveling and cooking with his partner, Jasen.
Marco Martinot joined Out Leadership in 2017; as Chief Financial Officer he is responsible for the overall financial direction at the company, and works closely with the Founder and Principal on Out Leadership’s corporate growth and strategic plans. Within finance, he leads the financial planning and projections process, as well as controller, treasury, accounting, tax, and internal audit functions. Marco has over 20 years of experience in corporate and investment banking and in his prior roles he was Managing Director at Centerview Partners and Investment Banking Director at Barclays. Marco holds an MBA from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. An avid sports and traveling enthusiast, Marco is also passionate about diversity inclusion and equality.
Dave Hughes has run our communications efforts since 2014. In this role he works closely with our Founder and Principal to guide messaging strategy, manages our website and social media content, coordinates communications around our global events, and leads insights projects including OutNEWS, #OutLEADER, and the CEO Business Briefs. In previous roles, he learned about the financial services industry at D.E. Shaw and communications strategy at Penn Schoen Berland; he holds a B.A. in English Literature from New York University. Passionate about social justice and human rights, Dave also loves live music, reading, and meditating.
Luigi Lewin joined Out Leadership in March 2018 as Director of Sales. In this role, Luigi works closely with our Founder and Principal on further expanding Out Leadership’s roster of global member firms, with a particular focus on new countries and industries. He also partners with our Founder and COO on select business development opportunities. Luigi spent 25 years in the financial services industry prior to joining Out Leadership, at Morgan Stanley, Barclays, and Credit Suisse. He holds an M.B.A. in Marketing from Fordham University and a B.A. in Political Science from Oberlin College, and is a member of the National Board of Governors at the Human Rights Campaign. Dedicated to working to further human rights, gender diversity, and social justice, Luigi also loves traveling, cycling, and Latin American history and culture.
Rufus Gifford is a former U.S. Ambassador, senior aide to President Barack Obama, civic leader, public speaker, and an advocate for Democratic causes.
He is currently focused on promoting civic engagement, particularly among youth, supporting Democratic candidates across the country, and issue areas ranging from U.S. public diplomacy to renewable energy.
From 2017 to 2018, Rufus was a Democratic candidate for Congress in Massachusetts’ 3rd District. His campaign focused on restoring trust between people and government and standing for something aspirational and positive, instead of solely against the Trump presidency. He also led a campaign fellowship program, training nearly 200 young people in community organizing.
From 2013 to 2017, Rufus served as the U.S. Ambassador to Denmark where he led efforts to address the effects of climate change, build international coalitions, and invest in clean energy. Rufus also helped modernize the transatlantic relationship through people-to-people diplomacy, youth engagement, and a never-before-seen public diplomacy strategy, which included the award-winning documentary series “I Am the Ambassador.” He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark for his meritorious service.
His pioneering tenure as Ambassador has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, CNN, and Vice News, among many other national and international outlets, and he has spoken extensively across Europe and the United States about his efforts to break down walls and humanize the work of government
At home, Rufus was the National Finance Director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, responsible for the record-breaking $1 billion budget. During Obama’s first term, Rufus was the National Finance Director at the Democratic National Committee and supported passage of a number of Obama policy initiatives. Before that, he was an aide on Obama’s historic 2008 presidential campaign.
An openly gay man, Rufus has been a longtime advocate for LGBT rights, and commentators have referred to him as Barack Obama’s informal “ambassador to the gay community.”
Rufus started in Democratic politics as a volunteer and then a staff member on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. He subsequently started his own consulting business, advocating for progressive causes and advising Democratic candidates across the country. He began his career as a producer in the entertainment industry.
A native of Massachusetts, Rufus holds a bachelor’s degree from Brown University. He is married to veterinarian Dr. Stephen DeVincent and they live in Concord, Massachusetts with their Golden Retriever, Argos.
French Smith-O’Connor joined Out Leadership in 2015. As Director of Global Initiatives, French is responsible for our programming, content curation and speaker engagement, working closely with our partner organizations. She produces our annual summits in New York, London, Hong Kong and Sydney. A New Yorker at heart, French has over 10 years of experience in international affairs, and has worked or lived in as many countries. With prior experience at the United Nations, in human rights, gender equity and social justice, she leverages an extensive network in service of Out Leadership’s mission. French holds an MA in International Affairs from the New School and a BA in Anthropology and Latin American Studies from Wesleyan University. When she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find her gardening, DIY-ing something or deep in the latest feminist literature.
Kate Kendell is Co-Chair of OutWOMEN, Out Leadership’s talent accelerator engaging and celebrating LGBT+ women in business.
Until the end of 2018, she led the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.
Growing up Mormon in Utah, Kate learned about the complexities of religion and politics from an early age. After receiving her J.D. from the University of Utah College of Law in 1988 and a few years practicing corporate law, she pursued her real love—civil rights advocacy—and became the first staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Utah. There she directly litigated many high-profile cases focusing on all aspects of civil liberties, including reproductive rights, prisoners’ rights, free speech, the rights of LGBT people, and the intersection of church and state. In 1994 she joined NCLR as legal director, and was named executive director two years later.
Under her leadership, NCLR’s programs, budget, and impact grew exponentially, and the issues facing the LGBT community – from homophobia in sports to immigration policy – have taken center stage in our nation’s discussion of civil rights and justice. Kate is a nationally recognized spokesperson for LGBT rights and has an active voice in major media, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Advocate, NPR, CNN, and many others. Despite the national success of NCLR under her tenure, her most rewarding responsibilities still include fostering alliances on the community and organizational levels, and advocating from a grass-roots perspective on issues concerning social justice.
Follow Kate on Twitter and LinkedIn, @KateKendell.
Lisa “Lee” A. Schreter is Co-Chair of OutWOMEN, Out Leadership’s talent accelerator engaging and celebrating LGBT+ women in business.
She is also the co-chair of the Wage and Hour Practice Group of Littler Mendelson. Lee focuses on representing employers in complex class and collective actions involving overtime and other wage-related claims and specializes in helping employers to develop forward-thinking compliance measures that reduce wage and hour disputes and other employment-related issues.
Lee also specializes in representing management clients in negotiations with the U.S. Department Labor in national matters that involve such issues as the exempt status of employees and compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Lee represents and counsels clients in connection with many other labor and employment matters arising under federal and state laws such as The Equal Pay Act, The Service Contract Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state law wage and hour requirements.
Prior to becoming an attorney, Lee worked in human resources where she gained extensive experience in wage and hour issues, employee relations, salary and benefit administration and general employment matters.
Paul Wendel joined Out Leadership in 2017 as Manager, Talent Accelerators. In this role he is responsible for the planning, coordination, and execution of OL’s programs and talent initiatives – OutNEXT, the world’s only global leadership development program for the next generation of LGBT+ leaders; OutWOMEN, connecting and supporting LGBT+ women in business; and Quorum, focused on increasing LGBT+ representation at the corporate board level. Paul holds a B.A. in International Studies and Theology from Boston College and an Ed.M. in Higher Education Administration from Harvard University. A lifelong soccer player, Paul plays with the New York Ramblers, the first LGBT+ soccer club in the world.
Liz Pappas joined Out Leadership in January 2019. She works directly with Todd Sears as his Executive Assistant & Office Manager for the firm. Previously, Liz supported C-Level executives at CBS, Voya Financial, Unicef and Chanel, and she has extensive experience working on Diversity & Inclusion initiatives, particularly those focused on creating opportunity for LGBT+ people and women. Liz also has a long history working with 501c3 organizations including (but not limited to) to mentorship, sponsorship, and employee engagement. Liz is a graduate of Jersey City State College, here she majored in Art. For a change of pace, she also acquired her Gemology degree from Gemological Institute of America. Aside from her daughter, her passions include anything that gets her on her Bianchi bike, pilates and taking up everything NYC has to offer.
Kenya Simon joined Out Leadership in 2018. In her role, Kenya is a primary point of contact for our member companies, overseeing Out Leadership’s customer service processes and facilitating engagement opportunities to maximize member’s ROI. Kenya holds a B.A. in Music Industry and Public Relations from Monmouth University, and has a background in the entertainment and fashion industry. After a decade-long career working for music industry giants such as Sony and Warner Music, Kenya received an opportunity to join PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP), where she was most recently part of the Marketing & Sales team focusing on client entertainment, alumni relations, and client experience reporting. During her time there, she found a passion for diversity & inclusion work, and notably secured the first ever official sponsorship of NYC Pride and WorldPride from a “Big 4” financial services firm. When she isn’t working to further Out Leadership’s global mission, you can usually find her on the way to a concert or obsessing over the looks at a local drag show.
Teela is the Events Coordinator for Out Leadership. In this role, she works closely with the Director of Global Initiatives on the execution of the Global Summits, and also provides logistical support for the Talent Accelerator and internal events. Previously, she worked in Investment Banking Operations. Teela graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2013 with a B. A. in Communication Studies and loves reading and traveling and is an active volunteer with Cheer New York.
Christine joined Out Leadership as an intern in the summer of 2018 and has moved into a full-time role as Associate. She works closely with our Director of Communications to produce insights content and support events communications, and with our Manager, Talent Accelerators to plan and coordinate Out Leadership’s Talent Accelerator projects, including OutNEXT, OutWOMEN, and Quorum. A recent graduate with previous roles in direct-services non-profit work and research; she holds a B.A. in Psychology and Minor in Economics from Duke University. She is passionate about diversity and mental health advocacy, and enjoys cooking, rock-climbing, and puzzles.
Margaret Lu joined Out Leadership in December 2018. She works with our Director of Sales to further expand Out Leadership’s global member firms, as well as multiple members of the team to assist with various strategic project deliverables. She began her career in insurance strategy with C-Suite executives, then shifted to high-net-worth underwriting. Margaret is passionate about LGBT+ equality and involved in organizations such as Out Women in Business, Out for Undergrad, Lesbians Who Tech, Open Finance, Out in Tech, The Women’s Sports Foundation, Athlete Ally, who she is a Pro Ambassador for, and more. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Business Management from Columbia University, where she was a member of the Varsity Fencing Team. She is a US National Team Member, Fencing World Champion, 6-time National Champion, NCAA Champion, and 4-time Ivy League Champion, representing the New York Athletic Club. In addition to fencing and attending queer events in NYC, Margaret is interested in the intersection of global food security and philanthropic business models.
Beyond our offices, our team is passionately dedicated to furthering the cause of LGBT+ equality. Out team actively volunteers their time and donates to non-profit causes.
Additionally, Out Leadership makes charitable donations at the major donor or greater level to the following organizations each year: Lambda Legal, The Williams Institute, Pride in Diversity, Jeffrey Fashion Cares.