I landed in Sydney on February 16th and hit the ground SPRINTING! I’ve participated in 17 events thus far, and there’s so much more to come. And I’m thrilled to be able to do it all with my incredible Sydney family.
Last night, I was honored to attend the WorldPride Reception at Government House at the invitation of the Governor of New South Wales. It was a magical evening with touching remarks from Kate Wickett, the CEO of WorldPride, and the Governor herself. And I even got to run into some old friends, like Lady Phyll, Co-Founder of UK Black Pride; Sarah McBride, the first openly trans legislator in the United States, and former United States Ambassador to Australia, John Berry (one of the first out gay ambassadors in history).
It was a gorgeous, breezy summer night here in Sydney (and I heard New York finally got its first snow?). As I walked through the garden path entrance of Government House, past a tree that Queen Elizabeth II planted in 1957, I looked up and was blown away. There, flying on top of the turrets right beside the Australian national flag was the trans-inclusive Pride flag. It was just magical. And I couldn’t help but contrast what I am seeing here in Australia with the news from home in the U.S., with Tennessee passing an anti-drag bill, and Arkansas trying to pass legislation to prohibit transgender people from using public restrooms. It’s like I’m living in two different worlds right now.
WorldPride could not have picked a better host than Australia. Because Australia is the “land of the fair go” — where everyone can be joyous, safe, and prosperous, no matter who they are or who they love. I am so energized by how every inch of this city is lit up for Pride. Every single corner is covered in Rainbows, with every Sydney-sider — LGBTQ+ and allies — celebrating.
At the opening concert in the Domain (a beautiful piece of Aboriginal land preserved as a park), I looked around at the tens of thousands of happy humans dancing in the sunset to Kylie Minogue and imagined: what if this was everywhere?
And that’s Out Leadership’s mission: to make that happen.
Clockwise from top left: Anne Murphy Cruise (Division Director, Macquarie Group), Peter DeWaal (Participant in the first Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras,) and Todd Sears (Founder & CEO, Out Leadership); KPMG’s Pride Poster Inclusion in the Workplace; Macquarie’s Pride Event: Ian Goshko (Head of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, ANZ, Macquarie), Jay Adams (Co-Chair, Macquarie Pride), Todd Sears, Michael Juranek (Chief of Staff, Out Leadership), Cameron Mangnall (Co-Chair, Macquarie Pride), and Louise McNaughton (Co-Chair, Macquarie Pride).
Here’s what you need to know:
#1 We’re hard at work in Australia and the event schedule is packed!
I went straight from baggage claim to the TV studio at Bloomberg, where I spoke to Haidi Stroud-Watts and Shery Ahn to kick off Sydney WorldPride. It has been an extraordinary week or so here in my second home (I’ll see you soon Fire Island Pines!). In between strategic engagement with business leaders, partners, and electeds, I’ve also been lucky enough to attend amazing partner-sponsored events.
First, I was honored to join Jennifer Westacott AO, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia and Janani D’Silva, Head of Culture, Engagement, and Early Careers at Capgemini AUNZ, on a stellar panel hosted by Peter Outridge, a Partner at KPMG (Peter is also a long-time friend and supporter of Out Leadership from his days in Hong Kong). The conversation called LGBTQ+ Inclusion: Leader’s Discussion was part of KPMG’s World Pride Summit. The four of us had a provocative conversation and question-and-answer session on the current state of LGBTQ+ inclusion locally and globally, what organizations should be prioritizing to push equality further, and why LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace isn’t just a moral obligation, it’s a business imperative!
After our venture to Asia, we were back to HSBC Australia, where the HSBC pride network hosted their very own in-house pride parade marching, cheering, and snapping-the-house-down-boots from the 38th floor to the 36th.
But wait, there’s more! Concluding the event was a reception where my dear friend HSBC CEO Tony Shaw spoke about the importance of visibility and emphasized the work Australia still needs to do to advance equality.
Pictured left to right: Tony Shaw (CEO, Australia, HSBC), Jason Ayoub (Co-Chair, Pride for HSBC), Sheileta Buffet (Drag Queen), Todd Sears
On Monday, we kicked off our own programming with a VIP Reception hosted by Bloomberg. Joining our distinguished guests were Bella Smith and Lauren Szigeti of the Sydney Swans, Lisa Lam, Co-Chair of the Gay Games, and DJ Kitty Glitter!
Pictured clockwise from top left: DJ Kitty Glitter; Lisa Lam; Todd with Lauren Szigeti and Bella Smith; Todd and Heston Russell (Special Forces Combat Veteran and Founder of Veteran Support Force).
And there’s so much more to come…
Tonight in Sydney, we welcomed 45 CEOs in honor of 45 years of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras for the largest CEO Dinner in Out Leadership history. And on this historic anniversary, we’re charging every CEO in attendance with a mission: to use their economic platforms to advance LGBTQ+ equality, just like we’ve done with 945 CEOs over the last 13 years. Special thanks to American Express Australia & NZ, DLA Piper, HSBC Australia, Mardi Gras, Sydney WorldPride, & Verizon Business for hosting!
We’re continuing our push to bring LGBTQ+ Board Diversity to Australia with an OutQUORUM Board Diversity Dinner on March 7, hosted by Corrs Chambers Westgarth. And we have a big announcement coming — see more below!
#2 LGBTQ+ inclusivity for every company in Australia.
Along with our Australian Partners, we’re bringing our LGBTQ+ Board Diversity initiative down under.
Right now, it’s all about adapting our portfolio of board diversity tools and making them more user-friendly. The goal is simple: we provide the policy, we make the case, and we give them the tools — all they have to do is put it into action.
Then, we’re bringing those tools to businesses around the world, including pension funds.
Together with Out Leadership partners HSBC, BlackRock, and others, we’re working to move Australian Super Funds to change their investment criteria — just as we did with some of the largest pension funds in the United States: NYC, NYS, CalPERS, and CalSTERS.
At the end of WorldPride, Out Leadership will be launching our Australia LGBTQ+ Board Diversity Guidelines, with the goal of making every corporate board in Australia LGBTQ+-inclusive.
Australia Summit 2022. Pictured left to right: Todd Sears; Dawn Emsen-Hough (Director, Pride in Diversity), Tony Shaw (CEO, Australia, HSBC).
#3 8.5 out of 10.
That’s Australia’s impressive LGBTQ+ Business Climate Score. Multinational companies face operational and reputational risk when they do business in countries where the legal and/or social atmosphere makes it difficult for LGBTQ+ people to live openly. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people creates serious challenges for talent mobility, retention, and development.
Out Leadership’s LGBTQ+ CEO Business Briefs help C-Suite leaders understand and respond to these risks. Secondarily, these briefs inform and empower corporate executives to engage in conversations with trade officials and other local stakeholders about why discrimination against LGBTQ+ people negatively impacts their ability to do business.
Members can access all of Out Leadership’s CEO Briefs in the Member Portal.
Not a member yet? Your company can join by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
#4 Worldwide, 67 countries still ban same-sex relations and many still allow conversion therapy.
We’re activating our global network to change that. Because other countries face more basic fundamental barriers to LGBTQ+ equality — and in support of our 10-Year Global LGBTQ+ Ambition Statement — we’re going full throttle after sodomy laws and conversion therapy. I’ve been engaging with partners in the United Kingdom about abolishing harmful legislation there while having similar conversations with legislators here — like #OutLEADER Alex Greenwich (featured below). Together, we can connect the global dots and really move the dial against legalized discrimination.
Speaking of which, #OutLEADER — and friend — Alexander Hart Greenwich is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, representing the seat of Sydney since 2012. A fierce equality advocate, he is the co-author of Yes Yes Yes: Australia’s Journey to Marriage Equality, which tells the story of how a grassroots movement won hearts and minds and transformed a country. Alex was just shortlisted for the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership for Political Leader of the Year. The prize, an independent, non-partisan award for courageous, visionary, and collaborative political leadership, would be a fitting tribute for an Aussie who is truly one of the country’s greatest evangelizers that social change is possible and that love is love. Check out more from his ten years in the parliament in New South Wales.
Speaking of which, #OutLEADER — and friend — Alexander Hart Greenwich is a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, representing the seat of Sydney since 2012. A fierce equality advocate, he is the co-author of Yes Yes Yes: Australia’s Journey to Marriage Equality, which tells the story of how a grassroots movement won hearts and minds and transformed a country. Alex was just shortlisted for the McKinnon Prize in Political Leadership for Political Leader of the Year. The prize, an independent, non-partisan award for courageous, visionary, and collaborative political leadership, would be a fitting tribute for an Aussie who is truly one of the country’s greatest evangelizers that social change is possible and that love is love. Check out more from his ten years in the parliament in New South Wales; Photo from one of the first gay weddings in Canberra after the decision.
#5 If you’re not in Australia for WorldPride, you can stay involved at these fantastic upcoming events:
Lambda Legal in the Desert | March 12, 2023 | 11:00 AM PST
Join us for our annual Lambda Legal in the Desert brunch at a private residence in the Palm Springs area. Guests will enjoy classic brunch fare and a hosted bar while hearing about Lambda Legal’s litigation and public policy work from our featured speakers. Show your support as a corporate law firm or individual sponsor by registering here today!
OutWOMEN+ Breakfast | Tuesday, March 14, 2023 | 8:30 AM EST
Celebrate Women’s History Month with us at our OutWOMEN+ breakfast hosted by Citi! OutWOMEN+ connects out women and non-binary individuals in business, celebrates their accomplishments and taps their strength to help elevate progress for all women in the workplace. Out Leadership has convened more than 500 LBTQ+ women leaders in business. Hope to see you there! Click here to RSVP!
Can Free Speech and Inclusion be Reconciled? | March 7 | 1:00 PM EST
Join Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America and author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All, with Professor Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law and director of the Meltzer Center for Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging, for an important conversation on the intersection of free speech and the advancement of diversity and inclusion. Click here to RSVP for this virtual event —you won’t want to miss it!
With 17 events over the last 9 days, I haven’t even had time to go to the beach! But don’t worry — that’ll change this Saturday with the Bondi Beach Party!
Todd G. Sears
Founder and CEO
PS: Caught in the Act: Here we are after the amazing P&G event with Australian Drag Legend Courtney Act!
Pictured left to right: Todd with long-time friend and Out Leadership supporter, fashion icon and original Fab 5 member Carson Kressley; Todd Sears, Courtney Act, Brent Miller (Senior Director for Global LGBTQ+ Equality, Out Leadership Member Firm Procter & Gamble), and Albert Kruger (CEO, Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras).