And we’re back.
Don’t mistake the absence of all-caps or exclamation as diminished enthusiasm, excitement, or anticipation for what the new year holds in store. Rather, after a year of so much noise and bluster designed to diminish the rights of LGBTQ+ people, I feel like starting this year off with laser-like, intentional, quiet confidence.
Because in 2024, we’re going on the offense to gain even more ground while simultaneously protecting the rights we’ve won. This year, you’ll find us drowning out the naysayers with bold, strategic advocacy amplified across Global Summits in Asia, the US, Europe, Australia, and Canada; potential convenings and events in nearly a dozen new worldwide locations; ground-breaking research; and top-notch talent development.
Pictured above: Todd Sears, Founder & CEO, Out Leadership at the 2023 Australia Summit
We’ll frame our next year of work around the following five outcome priorities:
- Protecting Marriage by re-energizing the business case for marriage equality in the face of impending legal attacks.
- Driving Board Diversity with the goal of making every stock exchange in the world LGBTQ+ inclusive.
- Strengthening all of our Talent Acceleration Platforms from OutNEXT to OutWOMEN+.
- Preparing to expand our LGBTQ+ Climate Index research globally.
- Developing expert guidance and user-friendly tools for embedding LGBTQ+ metrics within all Corporate Responsibility and Innovation practices (formerly ESG), which have come under increasing attack.
For each of these initiatives, your engagement, input, and investment will be critical to our success. If you’d like to get involved, please email us at email@example.com.
We will continue to respond to specious anti-equality arguments finding traction in public spaces. Just last week, we witnessed yet another example of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices being weaponized around a false set of facts. In Bill Ackman’s post on X to his one million followers he uses misleading tropes – not unlike those used against drag queens and trans people – to turn equality into tomorrow’s new polarizing straw man. He writes that having a darker skin color, a less common sexual identity, and/or being a woman doesn’t make one necessarily oppressed or even disadvantaged. Fortunately, other business leaders, like fellow billionaire Mark Cuban, are fighting back. Cuban pointed out what we’ve said for years at Out Leadership – that DEI is about broadening your talent pool to consider the widest possible range of qualified candidates. DEI is simply a mechanism that puts the company in the best position to be successful. By allowing leaders to choose the best person for any given role, companies can consider a wider range of perspectives, and cultivate stronger connections to broader communities of customers.
The data proves this. These are the facts: 1) People of color, women, and LGBTQ+ people are far less represented across C-suites because their path to those places of power is diminished as a result of those very identifiers. 2) This imbalance in representation is shrinking. Why? In large part, because DEI works. It leads to deeper, broader innovation and the recruitment and retention of a larger pool of extraordinarily talented candidates. For proof, we need only look at the fact that global, sector-leading companies continue to quietly and publicly stand by its undeniable value add (the Conference Board CHRO Confidence Index just reported that 0% of corporate boards are planning on scaling back investments in DEI in 2024). So call it what you will – DEI is here to stay because it’s good for business.
That leads us to the last fact, 3) anti-diversity, anti-business posts on X are nothing more than noise. Serious business leaders are focused on matching the best workers to the right roles to maximize their returns – the discourse about the acronym we use to describe that process is just a distraction.
In 2024, Out Leadership will continue to persuasively make the case for the power of business to drive LGBTQ+ equality with truth, not talking points. With an invitation, not invective. And with optimism, not negativity. It’s in the spirit of that optimism that I am confident you will not only join us at the forefront of data, best practices, and innovation but invite others in your networks to join us as well. The only way we can turn down the volume on those who mean to divide us is to come together to amplify facts rather than fiction.
Here’s to making change, not noise.
Todd G. Sears
Founder and CEO
Here’s what you need to know this week…
We’re kicking off the year with the first NEXUS breakfast of 2024.
In case you haven’t registered yet, we’re delighted to invite you to our first NEXUS Breakfast of the year, which will take place on Thursday, 25th January, 2024 from 8:00-10:00 am, kindly hosted by WTW (Willis Towers Watson), 51 Lime St, London EC3M 7DQ, UK.
Don’t miss your chance to hear from our stellar lineup of speakers:
- Cynthia Fortlage, Gender Diversity speaker and Consultant, will be presenting the Quarterly News Digest
- Asad Dhunna, Chief Executive Officer of The Unmistakables, will be presenting us their most recent report Diversity & Confusion with an LGBTQ+ lens
- Raga D’silva and Polly Shute, Co-Founders of OUTspoken Speaker, will be showcasing their recently launched social enterprise
Transgender candidate in Ohio disqualified from state house race over deadname disclosure.
Pictured above: Vanessa Joy, candidate for Ohio House of Representatives.
A candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives was disqualified because she did not disclose the former name she used before her gender transition. The Stark County Board of Elections informed Vanessa Joy, who had planned to run Ohio’s 50th District, that she had been disqualified because Ohio law requires candidates to disclose any name changes within five years of an election. Ohio law exempts people who have changed their names because of marriage from the disclosure requirements but does not offer the same flexibility to transgender individuals.
Joy said she was unaware of the law and would have reluctantly included her deadname if she had been aware. She has appealed the decision and is prepared to fight for her candidacy in court.
The number of trans legislators in the United States is rising. According to the LGBTQ+ Victory Fund, there are 14 openly trans individuals serving in statehouses today, up from zero known legislators in 2017.
Schism: Churches face resistance as reformers welcome LGBTQ+ worshipers.
Pope Francis, who recently approved a new Vatican policy that would allow Catholic priests to bless same-sex couples, is facing significant resistance from bishops who reject the Supreme Pontiff’s attempts to make the Church more inclusive while still upholding its ban on gay marriage. Some LGBTQ+ activists hailed the move as a critical step toward ending discrimination against same-sex couples in the Church. Nevertheless, some reformers argued the policy only further entrenched the division between same-sex and opposite-sex couples within the Church.
The Anglican Church is facing a similar problem, as traditionalist bishops primarily based in Africa and Asia doubled down on their opposition to same-sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQ+ clergy.
The United Methodist Church has lost nearly one-fourth of its congregations in the United States in a schism over the enforcement of bans on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ clergy. As a growing number of progressive congregations have defied the church’s ban on LGBTQ+ inclusion, conservative congregations have begun to disaffiliate.
Anti-LGBTQ+ policy and rhetoric in Uganda turn violent.
LGBTQ+ activist Steven Kabuye was stabbed multiple times and left to die outside his home near the Ugandan capital. He blames the “climate of intolerance” created by supporters of the sweeping anti-gay bill signed into law last year by President Museveni. Kabuye is currently in critical condition.
Out Leadership coordinated a global response from the business community to these anti-LGBTQ+ developments in East Africa. When Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality act, nicknamed the “Kill the Gays” bill in 2014, Out Leadership joined an international coalition of human rights organizations and business leaders who played a pivotal role in pressuring the law to be invalidated. In opposition to the current law, Out Leadership mobilized its members with investments in Uganda to issue statements against the bill and warned of economic consequences in a letter to President Museveni.
Those economic consequences are being felt. The anti-gay law has stalled the Ugandan economy: tourism has plummeted over safety concerns, Western financial backers are balking, and orders for consumer goods have fallen because consumers are wary of the “Made in Uganda” label. The United States has withdrawn Uganda’s preferential trade status, and the World has suspended all new loans, in response to the law.
France appoints an openly LGBTQ+ Prime Minister.
Pictured above: Gabriel Attal, Prime Minister of France
Gabriel Attal became the youngest-ever Prime Minister in France’s history, after his appointment by President Emmanuel Macron. With Macron as the youngest President in French history, Attal’s appointment represents an audacious shift of focus toward a new generation of leadership.
Attal joins just eight other openly LGBTQ+ individuals to have served as heads of state or government. In addition to France, currently only Ireland, Serbia, and Andorra are led by openly LGBTQ+ heads of government. Latvia is the only nation with an openly gay head of state.
Attal previously served as Minister of National Education and Youth and is replacing Élisabeth Borne.