OutNEWS — The Noise vs. The Know-How

Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about the increasingly desperate pushback from elected officials at the federal, state, and local level on Environment, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) practices and LGBTQ+-inclusive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs. Here’s where I – and others – have landed: the vocal minority clamoring that ESG and DEI are a kind of “wokeism” that will lead to the end of private education, corporate competitiveness, and Democracy, is crying wolf. That’s obvious. What’s more subtle and – in my opinion, far more insidious – is that they have no intention of “getting” the wolf. They’re only interested in distraction.

Pictured above (left to right): Rachel Hodgdon, President & CEO, WELL Building Institute, Karl Racine, Partner, Hogan Lovells & former Attorney General of DC, John Adler, Chief ESG Officer, NYC Office of the Comptroller at the 2023 ESG Summit hosted by Nasdaq

We’ve seen this before. All we have to do is look to the surging number of legislative attacks on the rights of trans people for the blueprint. First, they identify and amplify a false proposition that stokes fear – in this case, the fabricated danger that trans people pose to society, particularly children. This tactic has a long history, most relevantly in Florida where last year’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a 50-year-old carbon copy of Anita Bryant’s “Save Our Children” campaign. Then, they use that fear to catalyze national outrage. As was the case when a Bud Light marketing campaign featuring a trans social media influencer triggered a boycott called for by conservative pundits and celebrities. Next, they leverage that outrage to force companies to step back from their commitment to diversity, which in the case of Bud Light and Target did little to quell the resentment of consumers on both sides of the issue. Finally, they extrapolate the rage against trans people to a larger, more widely encompassing “straw person,” in this case “corporate wokeism” or ESG.

And while some businesses may be scaling back their DEI and ESG investments because of external pressures, it’s not hard to see that the morally questionable strategy to undermine inclusion is ultimately doomed. Why? Because a commitment to ESG is inarguably good for business, and what’s good for a business’ bottom line wins. We see this time and again when leaders like Mark Cuban and Jamie Dimon stand up for diversity as a value add, and with multiple studies demonstrating that leaders are loath to cut back on corporate social responsibility.

So why all the distractions? Because when you have no chance of winning the war when your strategy is inherently flawed, all you’re left with is tactics. In this case, tactics that can do real harm to real people. This is why Out Leadership will continue to make the case for LGTBQ+ inclusion across all aspects of corporate board policy. And we’ll continue to stand by ESG and DEI, as we did last summer in an Open Letter submitted to the Chair of the House Financial Services Committee. And later today, in a new letter to the SEC, we will continue to make an integrated argument emphasizing the importance of ESG, DEI, and Self-ID.

I’m confident that business leaders – even those who are facing tough decisions today – will eventually do the same. Focusing on their legally binding duty to shareholders and ignoring the theatrics of those who only mean to distract them. As we’ve done for the last fourteen years, Out Leadership will be here to help navigate you — our partners and member companies — through these challenges.

Stay focused, folks.

Todd G. Sears
Founder and CEO
Out Leadership

Here’s what you need to know this week…

A new study of over 90,000 transgender people shows transitioning improves life outcomes.

Despite discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of healthcare, transgender individuals overwhelmingly reported greater life satisfaction post-transition, according to a new study from the National Center for Transgender Equality.

The study showed that 98% of transgender individuals receiving hormone therapy reported feeling more satisfied when taking hormones to match their gender identity, including 84% who reported feeling “a lot more satisfied.” Patients who underwent gender-affirmation surgery reported even stronger levels of satisfaction, with 88% reporting feeling “a lot more satisfied” with their lives after surgery.

The study noted these high levels of satisfaction despite the unique challenges facing transgender people in daily life. 18% of survey respondents reported being unemployed, about one in ten reported experiencing unequal treatment because of their gender expression, and 39% reported experiencing online harassment. Nearly one-half of those surveyed had thought about moving to another state because their state government considered or passed laws that target transgender people for unequal treatment, and more than one-tenth of those people actually moved.

Out Leadership’s recent research report, Out to Succeed 2.0 – demonstrated that transgender professionals still experience significant challenges in the workplace, despite strong improvements for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. In order to remain competitive and retain local talent, businesses must become more accommodating to trans employees and advocate against discriminatory laws wherever they operate.

Join Out Leadership and Mizuho to strategize for the year at the Q1 Member Council Meeting.

We are thrilled to announce our collaboration with Mizuho for the February 2024 Q1 Member Council Meeting – an exclusive gathering for LGBTQ+ leaders, executives, and allies.

During this hybrid event, we will delve into our notable achievements from 2023, shed light on upcoming major priorities, and provide comprehensive insights into the extraordinary events, research, advocacy initiatives, and exciting programming lined up for 2024. With a robust pipeline of initiatives for the year ahead, we are eager to mobilize our leaders for deeper engagement.

Mizuho Financial Group embraces diversity and collective strength as one of its core values and has been a member of Out Leadership since 2019. The Japanese Financial Services company received the top rating of gold on the PRIDE Index for the sixth year in a row last year and “work with Pride,” the organization behind the PRIDE Index, also awarded Mizuho the Best Practice title for particularly outstanding initiatives.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with an OutWOMEN+ Breakfast at Citi.

Join Out Leadership and Citi for our first OutWOMEN+ Breakfast of the year in celebration of Women’s History Month.

OutWOMEN+ is the first global network of LGBTQ+ women executives, connecting and celebrating the achievements of LGBTQ+ women and non-binary individuals. Our mission is to build a cross-industry and intergenerational network to advance all OutWOMEN+ in the workplace globally.

Citi is a global sponsor of OutNEXT, our talent development program for the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders. Beyond OutNEXT, Citi hosted our annual OutWOMEN+ Breakfast again in March of last year, where nearly 150 individuals gathered to network with each other and watch an expert panel on the unique challenges and opportunities for LGBTQ+ women and nonbinary individuals in the workplace.

Please note that this is for members only. If you are interested in attending, please email events@outleadership.com

Republican party courts diverse candidates while restricting diversity initiatives in legislation.

Pictured above: Alison Esposito on the campaign trail for Lt. Governor in 2022

Republicans, hoping to expand their slim House majority in 2024, are recruiting a diverse coalition of candidates to attract new voters, according to recent remarks by Rep. Richard Hudson, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The push for a ballot including more women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ candidates comes even as Republican leaders decry Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) programs they deem as “too woke.”

Among the candidates is Alison Esposito, an openly gay former police detective running New York. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized her colleagues’ hypocrisy: “They have their own DEI offices. They don’t like to call them that. But the Republican Party is full of their own DEI initiatives because they actually find that their performance, like many other organizations, can sometimes stand to benefit from diverse perspectives.”

In more than a third of states, Republicans have introduced legislation to ban, restrict, or require public disclosure of DEI programs. These laws contrast with business leaders, who overwhelmingly plan to maintain or even increase their investment in DEI, according to studies by Littler and the Conference Board.

We’re Back in London for the Europe Summit!

Out Leadership is excited to announce our 12th Annual Europe Summit, convening senior LGBTQ+ business leaders, allies, activists, and talent for crucial conversations on where we are in the LGBTQ+ movement and how businesses can best drive sustainable progress in equality.

Previous speakers included Julia Hoggett, CEO of the London Stock Exchange; Christopher Wheeldon, two-time Tony Award-winning director and choreographer; and transgender advocates Jake and Hannah Graf.

Members can register in the Out Leadership Member Portal.

Did you know?

Out Leadership was originally founded as “Out on the Street” in reference to the six Wall Street banks that became Out Leadership’s founding members in 2011.

The first-ever Out on the Street LGBTQ+ leadership summit was held in New York City, hosted by Deutsche Bank CEO Seth Waugh, and sponsored by Citi, Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley. It marked the first time in history that a group of CEOs gathered to publicly supported LGBTQ+ equality as a business imperative.


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