A digest of 12 months of global LGBTQ+ advocacy

Two weeks ago, I wrote a summary of the progress Out Leadership fostered on LGBTQ+ representation on corporate boards globally this year (see it here: A comprehensive review of 2021: LGBTQ+ representation in the boardroom: While demand for LGBTQ+ candidates stagnated, other indicators turned full green: a good sign for 2022). This is a key priority for our organization.

Before closing 2021, I also looked back on our work leveraging the power of the private sector for LGBTQ+ equality.

Let me preface this summary by acknowledging the tragic loss of two important people in our movement this year: key Out Leadership’s ally Monica Boll and gun-control and LGBTQ+ activist Mark Glaze. They devoted their life to fight prejudice and we will not forget them.

Here are some key highlights from our advocacy work in 2021:

The most LGBTQ+-friendly US Administration in history: OL engaging the US Government. 

During the transition period in January, 2021, we convened a conversation with senior government affairs and business leaders from our member companies and partners. The output was a Transition Memo that we sent to the incoming Biden Administration, reiterating priorities for the LGBTQ+ equality movement for the next four years. Read about it here.

We shared our expression of support for crucial LGBTQ+ talent appointments at Treasury, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. We participated in a briefing for the department of Commerce, organized by our friends at the Council for Global Equality and organized one for Treasury in June 2021.

Other notable highlights include:

  • I was honored to attend the surreal the Biden Inauguration in January 2021 (see Who attended President Biden’s inauguration?, New York Times).
  • We worked with the Equality Caucus in the US Congress on several occasions and supported Rep Ritchie Torres’ H.R. 1443 on Access to credit for LGBTQ+-owned businesses which passed (see press release by Rep. Torres).
  • We convened civil society organizations alongside our member companies for a conversation on the response to the plethora of anti-trans bills at the state level in April 2021.
  • In partnership with the Human Rights Campaign we hosted a meeting with businesses not yet part of the Business Coalition for the Equality Act.
  • We testified in front of the California Legislature, specifically on supplier diversity. We built close ties with the House Financial Services Committee leading to Out Leadership’s Founder & CEO, Todd Sears’ testimony in front of the Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee (watch the testimony on C-Span).

Foreign Government and multilateral engagement. 

Throughout the past 12 months, we convened LGBTQ+ advocacy conversations with senior business leaders in more than 30 countries around the world, on all five continents. I even held a conversation with Brazilian leaders in Portuguese. My Portuguese is rudimentary at best but my guests were incredibly gracious and patient with me.

Other notable international mentions include:

    • We reached out to the President of Kosovo on behalf of our member companies regarding the new civil code and same-sex marriage (Letter to Her Excellency Vjosa Osmani).
    • We responded forcefully to the Ministry of Interior in Ghana regarding the arbitrary arrest of 21 LGBTQ+ activities (Letter to The Honorable Ambrose Dery).
    • We met with the Foreign Minister of Montenegro opening the way for possible opportunities in Eastern Europe.
    • We supported the Liberal-Democrats in the UK in rolling out their “Protect our Twins” campaign at the local level in Poland.
    • We encouraged our companies to join LLAN’s Viewpoint on marriage equality in Japan.
    • We also launched new Country CEO Briefs for Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Taiwan. Access them here.
    • We are working closely with both the UK Special Envoy, Lord Nick Herbert and the Special LGBTQ+ Business Envoy, Iain Anderson to improve private sector engagement on LGBTQ+ equality issues. As a result, we joined them at 10 Downing Street to brainstorm on the private sector component of the #SafeToBeMe Conference, taking place in the summer of 2022.
    • We also supported the Asian Development Safeguards Review (helping to draft the safeguards, and providing guidance to the US Treasury Department.
    • I had the pleasure of moderating an IDAHOBIT event at ADB with Professors Lee Badgett and Kaushik Basu).
    • On IDAHOBIT, we held an event at the Institute for Current World Affairs (ICWA) titled LGBTQ+ activism and Africa | ICWA, May 2021 with Ambassador Rufus Gifford (US chief of Protocol since last week) as an introductory speaker.
    • I was interviewed on Al Jazeera by our friend Steve Clemons about the Doing Business annual report series published by the World Bank and the controversy earlier this year about China’s involvement. I stressed the relevance of LGBTQ+ equality to competitiveness.
    • We worked with HSBC, one of our greatest supporters on signing up to the UN Standards on LGBTQ+ Equality that I co-wrote during my time at the UN.
    • Finally, I welcomed the appointment of the new Italian Special Envoy on LGBT Issues, Fabrizio Petri.

Global Pulse on Equality Events. 

In addition to regular Out Leadership programming as part of OutNEXT, OutWOMEN, and Proudly Resilient Summits we hosted events in Italy with Parks & Diversity (March 2021), Europe and Feminism, March, trans issues in August, small group conversation on the Middle East.

Other global equality work included:

Supporting Out Leadership member companies. 

A large part of our work with our member companies is engaging with their teams in different parts of the world on particular issues they face related to LGBTQ+ equality. This past year we provided support and expertise to a number of our members.

  • Poland: We convened multiple discussions with PwC (Jan Pasionek), Brown Brothers Harriman, and others. This is a conversation we will revisit with new member company, Twilio in 2022. 
  • Central & Eastern Europe: In May for MSCI, we worked with a group of their local LGBTQ+ ERG leaders.  (Local Pride Chapters — Challenges and Successes).
  • India: With our long-term member Nomura we held an important conversation with member companies and local advocacy groups about the LGBTQ+ equality movement in India.
  • In May, 2021 I spoke at the P&G Gable Conference in Latin America. Other May member engagements included speaking about LGBTQ+ Board representation at AlixPartners, P&G on workplace dress codes.
  • We had a busy Pride Month where we participated in a number of member company Pride events, including the P&G Fem Care event, Visa Pride CEMEA, the GLG Pride Series.
  •  and HSBC on impact investing and ESG.
  • In addition we spoke at DLA Piper (August 2021), Citi (September 2021), PIMCO, Reed Smith’s PRISM Fireside Chat (both November 2021).

This is just a snippet of the work we do for member companies globally. My Out Leadership colleagues in Events, Research, and Member Relations provide support and engagement in lots of other areas.

Volunteering with the community. 

At Out Leadership, we believe that grassroots movements are the ones that trigger social change. I enjoyed volunteering in our community in 2021. My engagements included:

Editorial Content.

An important part of our work is to share commentary and analysis of the global LGBTQ+ equality movement. Our primary platform for this content is on outleadership.com and we publish on a wide range of issues that impact our community. Links to some of the most notable pieces from 2021 are below, grouped by issue.

The economics of the LGBTQ+ community:

LGBTQ+ Board Diversity:


Leadership Interviews

LGBTQ+ Visibility:

Religion & Spirituality:

Cancel Culture, Free Speech & Inclusive Language:

This past year I was honored with some awards and recognition for our work. I do not view these as solely belonging to me, rather I view them as recognition for the important work we do together. None of what we do would be possible without the support of our member companies and other partners.

Thank you for reading our weekly newsletter: Global Pulse on Equality.

This year, we started publishing the #GlobalPulse newsletter highlighting news and developments at the intersection of LGBTQ+ and business for 40 weeks every Wednesday at 12 p.m. sharp (almost). I am grateful you took the time to reads it (if you are not subscribed, shame on you ;-), here is the link). Please keep your encouraging feedback coming — it keeps me going:

Thank you for all your support this year. I could not do any of this work without you. I look forward to contributing to our joint accomplishments in 2022.

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