OutNEWS – Honey, It’s PRIDE!

Twenty-five years ago, I graduated from college, put everything I owned in a U-Haul, and drove to New York City. Windows down, The Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” playing – loudly – my journey to a new home, a new job, and a new life had begun.

About a month later – I remember it was a Saturday night – despite being exhausted (15-hour investment banking days, seven days a week), I was itching for a little nightlife. I clicked off my desk lamp, powered down my Dell, and headed to the West Village. When I climbed out of the subway at Sheridan Square, I couldn’t believe how many people were on the sidewalk and pouring out of restaurants and bars. Hundreds and hundreds of New Yorkers were smiling, laughing, and living.

I made a beeline for The Duplex on the corner of Christopher and 7th (still there!) and elbowed my way to the bar. I asked the bartender, “Is it like this every weekend?” He took a beat, sized me up, and said, “Honey. It’s PRIDE.”

A quarter of a century later, I can’t believe where my journey has taken me. Personally, I’ve been in love, had my heart broken, and found the most extraordinary friendships with people all over the world. Professionally, I’ve merged my affinity for business with my life’s mission to win LGBTQ+ equality. Every day at Out Leadership, I get to work, partner, and collaborate with some of the most brilliant, compassionate, and inventive people across every sector of industry in that effort.

All of this has happened alongside — and in many cases as a result of — two-and-a-half decades of astonishing advances in LGBTQ+ equality. When I landed in Manhattan, LGBTQ+ people could be fired for being gay in all 50 states, couldn’t be out in the military, and couldn’t get married. Today we’ve won each of those fights and so many more. In all of them, business has been an invaluable asset that helped secure victory.

Leveraging the power of business to drive equality is an essential tactic in a winning strategy to protect the rights we’ve won and to win even more. I am proud of Out Leadership’s 12-year history of diligently, persuasively, and passionately making that case both to the business community and the LGBTQ+ movement at large. We will continue to make that case this month and every month with cutting-edge research, tools, and platforms; with global convenings of the world’s most powerful leaders, and with a deep bench of immediately placeable, next-generation LGBTQ+ talent.

Pride doesn’t mean pause. No one – and I mean no one in the fight to win LGBTQ+ equality – takes the month of June off. At Out Leadership, we’ve spent Pride month amplifying ground-shifting research in our State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index. We have supported dozens of client and non-profit partner pride events from the Bank of America and Lesbians Who Tech to Mastercard to the Consulate of Belgium!

Why? Because Pride means doubling down, not backing off. Pride means taking a moment to reflect and to celebrate, while never missing a beat, Pride means holding your head high, and helping those more vulnerable than you hold theirs even higher.

Pride is the journey, not the destination. Maybe your pride journey began in a school room, maybe in a board room, maybe at a gay bar in the West Village. It doesn’t matter where or when it began, only that you join us – LGBTQ+ people and allies alike – on the road to equality.


Todd G. Sears
CEO and Founder
Out Leadership

PS: Pride also means dancing on a float, shirtless in a yellow paisley suit (shown above circa 2003)!

Here’s how Out Leadership Members are investing in Pride Month:



When HSBC roars, the Pride follows.

(Pictured left to right): HSBC Pride Lions in Hong Kong in 2016; HSBC changes its Hong Kong Headquarter’s lights to rainbow for the first time in its history, 2014.


True allyship with the LGBTQ+ community means holding steadfast to diversity, inclusivity, and pride initiatives even when a vocal minority expresses their distaste for equality.

That’s exactly how HBSC showed its commitment to Pride. In 2014, in honor of the Out Leadership Asia Summit, HSBC illuminated its Hong Kong Headquarters in rainbow lights (a historic moment forever memorialized in satellite images visible on your AppleTV screensaver). Taking Hong Kong’s lead, other HSBC HQs followed suit, including India.

In 2016, when the multinational bank replaced the bronze lion statues outside its Hong Kong headquarters with two rainbow replicas, thousands protested against the move, accusing HSBC of “trampling on the existing family values of Hong Kong.” But HSBC didn’t back down.

HSBC has demonstrated its commitment to the LGBTQ+ community for decades, first building employee resource groups for LGBTQ+ employees 20 years ago. Today, 15,000 employees in 24 countries and territories are members of these Pride groups, which raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and help influence positive change for employees and customers alike.

In 2012, HBSC extended employee benefits to same-sex partners in Hong Kong, and in 2018 extended life insurance policies to same-sex partners in Hong Kong.

Since 2016, HSBC has supported Birmingham Pride, one of the UK’s largest Pride festivals. And in 2022, HSBC announced that it would pay for gender-affirming care for employees, their partners, and their children.


Mastercard knows that doing business at as your true self is Priceless.

For many in the LGBTQIA+ community, the name on their credit, debit, or prepaid card does not reflect their true identity, causing painful daily reminders of a conflict between their true name and the name on their card. In 2019, Mastercard worked to ease this pain point by creating True Name, a first-of-its-kind feature that makes secure payments truly safe for all.

As a proud partner of Heritage of Pride and sponsor of New York City Pride, Mastercard is sponsoring the Pride Island music festival (June 25th – 26th), NYC Pride’s The Conference (June 25th), the Pride Presents film festival (June 17th) and the NYC Pride March (June 26th).

Mastercard partnered with Brooklyn-based illustration artist Shanée Benjamin to design the NYC Pride March float celebrating the Your True Self is Priceless Look for members of the community, allies, partners, and Mastercard employees as they celebrate Shanée’s art and the community at large at the first in-person March held since 2019.

“Building a world where everyone is included is foundational to Mastercard’s values, and we’re proud to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and freedom that comes when people live as their authentic selves—honoring those who are already doing so and those who are still striving for acceptance,” said Rustom Dastoor, EVP North America Marketing and Communications, Mastercard. “This year’s Pride brings new opportunities to reach people, both in the physical and digital worlds. We’re excited to come together with our partners to create Priceless Experiences that celebrate, educate, inspire, and uplift the community.”


Pride at Macquarie is more than just a month.

Macquarie’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion runs deep. In the EMEA region, a full third of employees are members of the LGBTQ+ employee network, which formally “reverse mentors” senior leadership to develop their understanding of LGBTQ+ issues.

Macquarie’s support for LGBTQ+ equity extends to their supply chains, customers, clients and communities across the UK have supported fundraising efforts raising over £110,000 for charities including the Outside Project, which also participated in our Community Resourcing (CoRe) program. Both the organization and the Pride EMEA network have consistently supported and funded LGBTQ+ community initiatives.

“It’s important that we have external visibility so that our clients, communities, and potential new recruits can see the work that we’re doing and the type of organization we are,” says Charlie Clark (he/him), co-chair of Pride EMEA. “Our chosen charity is the Outside Project, an LGBTQ+ community shelter and place for domestic abuse refuge. The choice of charity is voted on each year by the committee.”

The Macquarie Group Foundation has also supported LGBTQ+ charities during the pandemic such as GiveOut and Opening Doors London, and through a £750,000 donation to the London Community Response Fund which used equity partners including LGBTQ+ advisors to help funders to shape funding programs and processes to deploy over £57 million to organizations supporting the COVID response.

Pictured left to right: Out Leadership Founder & CEO Todd Sears with Macquarie CEO Shemara Wikramanayake at the 2022 Out Leadership Australia Summit.


LinkedIn is empowering a more equitable workforce with Self-ID.

In 2021, LinkedIn launched one of the largest global efforts to introduce Self-ID for employees around the world with Out Leadership’s support and advice. 

As the world’s most prominent online networking platform, LinkedIn is uniquely positioned to both create equal access to opportunity and help drive more equitable outcomes for all members of the global workforce. Self-ID is a critical step toward this objective, especially for underrepresented groups that are not always immediately evident to others.

LinkedIn’s Self-ID program helps hiring managers and recruiters in their efforts to recruit more diverse teams, allows Linked to review its own products for biases, and delivers insights on global workforce trends to improve equality.

Self-ID allows LinkedIn and the 55 million companies who use it to ensure that two people with comparable qualifications are on the job hunt, they’ll access the same opportunities regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


Unilever’s unyielding investments uplift the cause.

For the fifth year in a row, consumer goods giant Unilever is skipping the parade floats to make direct investments in LGBTQ+ communities in need of year-round support through its United We Stand (UWS) initiative. The UWS initiative focuses specifically on jurisdictions that score low on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index.

Over the last two years, the United We Stand program supported organizations in five partner cities, four of which increased their HRC rankings in this timeframe: Monroe, Louisiana; Moore, Oklahoma; Clemson, South Carolina; and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. In 2023, Unilever will continue to support the original five partner cities and will add Rapid City, South Dakota, and Jonesboro, Arkansas to expand the scope of the program to seven cities. As part of the program, Unilever provides funds and support for organizations that promote systemic change and access to critical services.

The United We Stand campaign supports Unilever’s commitment to contribute to a fairer, more socially inclusive world. Unilever fosters an inclusive workplace through its company culture, policies, and benefits, and has received a perfect score of 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index for more than 10 consecutive years.

Unilever’s work for systemic change extends to advocating for equitable legislation at the federal and state levels, including the passage of the Equality Act. In the U.S., the company has used its voice to condemn multiple anti-LGBTQIA+ state bills.

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