OutNEWS – The US Summit

They say there’s no rest for the wicked, but really they should say there’s no rest for the highly motivated, incredibly proud, and deeply invested Out Leadership team. We just wrapped up our most robust Global Summit season ever and are now fiercely duck-walking into Pride Month with barely a moment to catch our breath. But don’t worry about us. We thrive on back-to-back-to-back signature events that move us ever closer to our goal of leveraging the power of business to drive – and to win! – LGBTQ+ equality.

Besides, who needs downtime when you have joy, recommitment, and education? Those are my three top takeaways of the just concluded 2024 US Summit – which we completed back to back with our Summits in Asia and Europe – globally sponsored by HSBC and Ropes & Gray. There are simply too many meaningful moments to call out here (you can get the full story in the Summit Guide), so I’ve selected a few highlights below.

Pictured above: Cameron Campbell, Lauren Zimmerman, and Brad Sears at the Protecting Marriage Event hosted by Wells Fargo

We kicked it off right with the Wells Fargo-hosted Protect Marriage Event, where we partnered with the Williams Institute to help launch the VERY educational Rand Report, the first of several pieces of research on the economic impact of marriage. We found great joy in the fact that every single data point demonstrated that marriage equality was good for the US, no matter the metric: couple creation, multi-sector revenue streams, even non-same-sex marriage. My personal favorite was the data pointing to an increase in overall patent applications in states where marriage equality flourished. Like I’ve always said, when you bring us into your state, when you protect us and our right to live and love, you also get our brains. Talk about an ROI – or as we say – ROE (Return on Equality™).

Pictured above: Todd Sears with Kerryann Benjamin.

If the view from KKR’s 80th floor rooftop didn’t spark joy, then what was happening at the VIP Reception inside absolutely did. When Kerryann Benjamin, the Head of Talent and Chief Diversity Officer at KKR (our gracious host) told the room that she was proud to be a decade-long supporter of Out Leadership, the floodgates of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm opened up. Leaders and luminaries alike didn’t want the gathering to end because they were caught up in the joy of coming together.

The Apollo-hosted CDO Luncheon and the Reed Smith-hosted Self-ID Roundtable – both so popular that they were oversubscribed – lifted up best practices and drilled down on why Self-ID matters, respectively. But my favorite takeaway was the extraordinary generosity of Jonathan Simon, Managing Director and Global Head of Leadership Development & Diversity and Matthew Breitfelder, Global Head of Human Capital at Apollo, when the latter said “Anything we have that will help you is yours to take.” Turns out the most persuasive challenge to recommit to this fight, is the one you can’t refuse: the generous expertise of your peers.

Pictured above: Alexia Korberg speaks at the Member Council Meeting hosted by Paul, Weiss.

At the Paul, Weiss-hosted Member Council Reception, firm partner Alexia Korberg (who argued parts of both Windsor and Dobbs, attended our Trans & Nonbinary Leadership Summit and is one of the only openly nonbinary partners at a major US law firm), gave a Master Class about the disheartening lay of the land as it pertains to state-level anti-trans legislation. But, with the same kind of generosity that Jonathan demonstrated, Alexia described a way forward (the bills are all patently unconstitutional) and a call to action (recognize the devastating impacts this aggression has on the mental health of trans people and support them).

I’ll close with the one-two-punch of the Selendy Gay-hosted OutWOMEN Reception and the first of its kind Trans and Nonbinary Leadership Summit – at both, joy was in abundance, “knowledge was being dropped,” and by the end, everyone had recommitted to the hard but rewarding work of showing up professionally as their authentic selves, advocating for others to do the same, and using the congregated power of these gatherings to move the businesses they work with and for further into the fight for LGBTQ+ equality. I am so proud that Out Leadership, with the partnership of the Hachette Book Group and the guidance of so many others, brought together 96 trans and nonbinary leaders from 40+ companies, most of whom had never been in the same place at the same time. Attendees told me that it was restorative. That it allowed them to remove their armor, which in turn allowed them to recharge. That by the event’s end, they were eager to go back into the world to fight again.

Now THAT brings me joy.

Todd G. Sears

Founder & CEO
Out Leadership

Here’s what you need to know this week…

LGBTQ+ Businesses contribute $1.7 trillion to the US economy each year, NGLCC says.

Pictured above: Jason Becton and Patrick Evans, owners of MarieBette Cafe and Bakery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo via Rammelkamp Foto.

In the United States, over 1.4 million business owners identify as LGBTQ+, according to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). These businesses combined account for $1.7 trillion worth of the United States’ gross domestic product annually, or about 6.6% of the United State’s $25.44 trillion GDP.

The economic impact of LGBTQ+-owned businesses is only anticipated to grow, as 64% of them have been operating for fewer than 10 years, compared to 47% of non-LGBTQ+ businesses. A similar share of LGBTQ+ businesses also employ fewer than five employees.

Nearly a third of the US’s LGBTQ+-owned businesses are located in the South and are just as likely to be located in rural areas as non-LGBTQ+-owned businesses, indicating that LGBTQ+ people continue to drive economic growth even in areas where they may typically experience social and political discrimination.

Extra! Extra! The State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index is in the headlines.



Maximize our impact: Share the State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index.

The Out Leadership State LGBTQ+ Business Climate Index isn’t just about numbers; it’s about driving tangible progress. That’s how our coalition of over 100 member companies and nonprofit partners amplifies our impact. Using our media toolkit, you can share our research with your network to shed light on existing disparities between states and equip stakeholders with the knowledge to enact meaningful change.

Whether you’re a business leader, policymaker, educator, or an ally, your role in amplifying these findings is paramount. Together, let’s harness the power of information to shape a future where every individual, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive authentically in the workplace and beyond.

Pope Francis uses an anti-gay slur – again.

Last month, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church shocked the world and later apologized for using the word “frogaccine” –which roughly translates to “faggotry”– in a closed-door meeting. The Supreme Pontiff insisted in his apology that he meant no ill will toward the LGBTQ+ community. However, in the same meeting, the Pope reiterated his opposition to gay men becoming priests. Now, it appears the Pope’s blunder appears to be a more common element of his lexicon.

“There is an air of frogaccine in the Vatican,” Francis said while speaking at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

The internet has taken to the slip-up with a humorous tone, with users joking that the pope’s willingness to use such a word indicates he may be a member of the community.

Vice President Harris welcomes LGBTQ+ leaders for annual Pride Reception.

As Pride flags in some parts of the country are banned or even burned, the progress rainbow waved proudly over the US Naval Observatory this week, the residence of the Vice President of the United States and the site of a star-studded, celebratory Pride Month reception on Wednesday.

Held on the 8th anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting — the horrific tragedy that claimed the lives of 49 innocent revelers at the hands of a homophobic assailant — the Pride commemoration was also a sobering reminder of the harsh political realities facing the LGBTQ+ community today.

Vice President Harris’ support of the LGBTQ+ community is well documented. As Attorney General of California, she refused to defend Proposition 8 and ordered clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses the moment same-sex marriage became legal in the state. The Biden-Harris Administration has also made an extensive effort to protect LGBTQ+ Americans, from passing the Respect for Marriage Act to expanding the protections for transgender students and workers.

At the reception — attended by the likes of Billy Porter, Jonathan Van Ness, Jim Obergefell, and countless other LGBTQ+ leaders, the Vice President praised the ability of the LGBTQ+ community to find joy and celebrate our humanity regardless of the challenges ahead.

Pictured above: Todd Sears at the Vice President’s Pride Reception, alongside numerous LGBTQ+ advocates including Jonathan Van Ness (Television Personality, Queer Eye), Admiral Rachel Levine (Assistant Secretary for Health, United States Department of Health and Human Services), and Satya Rhodes-Conway (Mayor of Madison, Wisconsin).



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