Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to describe “the year in LGBTQ+ equality” – especially now that the Summer is coming to an end and Out Leadership is about to launch its busiest Fall Season ever (more on that below). According to many headlines, LGBTQ+ people are caught in an escalating culture war being played out in front of a backdrop of vicious election season politicking, legislative weaponizing of trans people, and hot takes on Barbie’s wokeness.
Pictured above: Todd Sears, Founder & CEO of Out Leadership and John Rogers, Founder, Chairman, Co-CEO & Chief Investment Officer of Ariel Investments at the Launch of Out Leadership’s annual OutQUORUM research study: “Visibility Counts.”
But that’s not the whole story. It’s true, this is an incredibly dangerous time for LGBTQ+ equality. It’s also true that behind the scenes, many of the most powerful companies in the world are strengthening their commitment to business-driven LGBTQ+ equality. At Out Leadership, this is the story that we’ve been telling all year. From our Board Diversity 2023: Progress & Possibility report to our Open Letter to the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee defending the business case for ESG (which was entered into the Congressional Record) to our upcoming ESG Summit in October: companies are deepening their commitment to LGBTQ+ policies, employees, board inclusion, and consumers.
Some headlines are in fact getting it right. Like this one from Business Insider earlier this Summer: While fights rage over big brands like Bud Light and Target, other companies have stepped back and are quietly improving LGBTQ+ representation from the inside. Yes, attacks against the rights of LGBTQ+ people are on the rise. But so is the number of companies who have adopted LGBTQ+ inclusive board diversity policies since 2022 (quadrupling from 23 to 112 in the Fortune 500).
I’m not saying that the good cancels out the bad. But, absent clickable headlines, it’s important to remember that we — you — have allies at every level of corporate governance. And, together, we will continue to advocate in and out of the spotlight for good governance that doesn’t just make the business case for LGBTQ+ equality but puts it into practice.
And this Fall, you’ll have many ways to join us in that effort. In just weeks, we’ll be hosting OutNEXT (our Global Summit in New York, then a Salon in Los Angeles), the first and only global talent program for emerging LGBTQ+ leaders, proudly sponsored by RBC Capital Markets and Citi.
Then, we join MSCI and Ropes & Gray to present the Return on Equality™ ESG Summit. After a successful collaboration that augmented the share of LGBTQ+ board diversity policies on the exchange to 50% of listed companies, we are proud to announce that the summit will be hosted by Nasdaq, deepening our cooperation on important ESG issues. This invitation-only event will explore the power of ESG to drive positive change and create a more inclusive business landscape.
Finally, we close out Autumn with two of our signature global convenings, the Australia Summit (hosted by Macquarie) and the Asia Summit (hosted by HSBC and Freshfields). Both summits are globally sponsored by HSBC and Ropes & Gray.
Watch above: Come Out for the Games! Gay Games 11 Summer Promotional Video
In Asia, the Summit will coincide with the Gay Games, with whom we are partnering (we also proudly lent Hong Kong a hand in securing their bid). We are thrilled to be returning to Hong Kong (for the first time since the pandemic!) and to Tokyo, where attitudes and court rulings in favor of same-sex marriage are shifting.
These events will coincide with the publication of more groundbreaking research including, in partnership with O4U, the latest edition of Out to Succeed 2.0. The report, based on data collected from a diverse array of nearly 10,000 LGBTQ+ people globally, will paint a detailed up-to-date picture of where LGBTQ+ employees feel seen, safe, and empowered. It will be the single largest global study of LGBTQ+ talent in history, and your company can join us in this trailblazing study through sponsorship.
So, how do I describe “the year in LGBTQ+ equality”? I think 2023 is shaping up to be the year when leaders showed up and the truth comes out. Equality has always paid dividends. Our members have known this for years (it’s why we’re set to recognize our longstanding member investors later this year — stay tuned!) and our businesses, communities, and colleagues will continue to thrive when leaders like you stand up for what’s right. Despite extraordinary pressure to take a step back, true leaders strengthen their commitment to LGBTQ+ equality.
They’re showing up. I’m going to join them, and I have a feeling you will too.
See you on the road!
Todd G. Sears
Founder and CEO
Here’s what you need to know…
Out to Succeed 2.0 previews next month.
On September 28th, Out Leadership and O4U will preview new findings from the most seminal report on global LGBTQ+ talent in history: Out to Succeed 2.0. This groundbreaking study, which surveyed thousands of LGBTQ+ workers and their employers around the globe, is an essential tool for leaders in business who seek to attract and retain the brightest LGBTQ+ talent.
In 2018, Out Leadership and PwC published the first-ever research study of emerging LGBTQ+ leaders, Out To Succeed. Out to Succeed highlights the extent to which a supportive and targeted focus on LGBTQ+ inclusion is a valuable brand differentiator, performance enhancer, and talent draw. The global study surveyed high-performing individuals from the US, Europe, Asia, and Australia from a diverse array of businesses in Out Leadership’s wide-ranging membership portfolio.
This year’s study is bigger, better, and more comprehensive than before.
In today’s competitive business landscape, embracing LGBTQ+ inclusion isn’t just a moral imperative; it’s a strategic advantage. Research consistently shows that companies fostering diverse and inclusive environments outperform their peers. As a leader, you can drive change and harness the potential of LGBTQ+ talent.
The preview event will be hosted by Reed Smith.
Nasdaq is hosting the first Out Leadership ESG Summit in New York.
October 4, 2023 | New York, NY
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) is where capital meets conscience and it is vital that LGBTQ+ equality initiatives are included and protected by any organization’s ESG strategy.
At the 2023 Out Leadership Return on Equality™ ESG Summit hosted by Nasdaq, dive into discussions showcasing how ESG practices build value beyond balance sheets, create principle-powered profits, and develop inclusive, resilient communities.
Out Leadership’s advice and data supported updates to Nasdaq’s board diversity reporting mandate — which now requires the disclosure of the demographic composition of corporate boards, including sexual orientation and gender identity. When Nasdaq submitted its Board Diversity Rule to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for approval, Out Leadership research was cited seven times. This led to a significant increase in the number of Nasdaq companies that now have inclusive diversity board policies, which rose 1,556% this past year.
Responsible investing, ethical practices, and sustainable corporate governance: that’s how ESG strategies create stronger profits in business and positive change in an unpredictable world. No matter what the critics say.
Out Leadership and Q Street are getting down to business inside the Beltway.
Welcome Back to Congress Reception
September 12, 2023 | Washington, DC
Time: 2:00 PM-5:00 PM ET
When Congress returns from recess this fall, it will do so amidst an unprecedented swell of anti-LGBTQ+ bills, both in the nation’s capital and in virtually every state legislature in America. It is critical for LGBTQ+ leaders and our allies in business, government, finance, & technology to work together to defend our civil rights and to continue to advance equality for all people.
Out Leadership and Q Street invite you to our Welcome Back to Congress Reception. Q Street is the leading professional association of LGBTQ+ lobbyists and public policy advocates working to advance equality on the Hill. We plan to extend a warm and inclusive welcome to Washington, D.C.’s esteemed LGBTQ+ government affairs and government relations professionals, lobbyists, political staff, elected officials, and allies.
Driven by Out Leadership’s nearly 100 member firms, and QStreet’s powerful local membership, this gathering will serve as a paramount platform for fostering meaningful connections, promoting collaboration, and exchanging invaluable insights within the LGBTQ+ community and its allies in national politics at a truly crucial time in our history.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH:
Judges across the United States are striking down anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
In Georgia, citing the imminent risk of irreparable harm to LGBTQ+ patients, US District Judge Sarah Geraghty issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state’s ban on hormone therapy from taking immediate effect.
Out west, a federal appeals court has prevented Idaho’s ban on transgender women participating in women’s sports leagues from taking effect. The court reiterated previous arguments that such bans violate transgender athletes’ rights to equal protection under the law and subject all female student-athletes to invasive “sex dispute verification processes” that are not levied on male athletes.
Still, legislative attacks from anti-LGBTQ+ politicians remain a serious threat to the equality of LGBTQ+ individuals and the stability of economies across the United States. A federal appellate panel recently allowed Alabama’s ban on transgender care to go into effect. The conflicting rulings in separate federal courts could indicate a Supreme Court challenge in the next term.
How will new legal challenges affect LGBTQ+ civil rights? Prof. Kenji Yoshino and Janai Nelson have the insight.
Equal Justice Under the Law? The Supreme Court and the Fight for Civil Rights
Tuesday, September 12, 2023 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM ET
RSVP for the event
In recent years, the conservative supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court has profoundly altered the civil rights landscape. The Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, ended affirmative action in higher education, and found that “expressive” businesses have a free speech right to refuse service to same-sex couples and other members of protected classes.
The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s premier legal organization fighting for racial justice. It has won major victories even in today’s daunting legal environment, such as the recent Supreme Court decision in Allen v. Milligan upholding a core plank of the Voting Rights Act.
Join Janai Nelson, President and Director-Counsel of LDF, for a timely conversation with Professor Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law and Director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging.
Prof. Kenji Yoshino is an Out Leadership Board Member Emeritus.
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