LGBTQ businesses contribute more than $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy, creating thousands of jobs every year.
Sabrina Kent of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce
discusses how the Chamber advocates for the economic empowerment of America’s 1.4 million LGBTQ-owned businesses.
Lisnek: There are more than LGBTQ business owners in the U.S. These businesses contribute $1.7 trillion to the U.S. economy while creating thousands of jobs every year. Hi. Welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers". I'm Paul Lisnek, and joining me to discuss economic opportunities and advancement of the LGBTQ business community is Sabrina Kent. She's the chief of staff at the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Sabrina, good to see you.
Kent: It's great to be here. Thanks for having me, Paul.
Lisnek: So the numbers sound huge, especially when you hear those statistics. How critical is it? Why is it important that members of the LGBTQ community own businesses?
Kent: I think, on the baseline, we contribute to the bottom line of this economy, which the numbers tell, and when we're talking about advocating for our rights, for our ability to be fully participatory citizens in this country, economics matter. You know, the moral argument is so important, and that's why we're here today, but that doesn't resonate with everybody. When we contextualize things through economics, it changes the dialogue, and it allows us to show that we're representative of the U.S. economy and the American people as a whole, right? And that extends far beyond these borders globally. So where we're lacking data as LGBT people, we need to be able to secure more of an economic stability and voice through those numbers.
Lisnek: And the reality of it is that LGBTQ people are everywhere. I mean, every race, every gender, every -- veterans, disabled people. It doesn't matter. They're everywhere. So it is important -- I guess what I'm suggesting is there may be more members of the community who own businesses, but we might not even know they own the businesses. How important is it that they be out and proud to say, "I'm the owner of this business?"
Kent: It is absolutely so important for that reason that you just specified. We hit every single segment, right? We are women. We're persons of color, persons with disabilities, veterans, and so forth. And because of that, we are a significant part of the population whose voice has yet to be heard on many playing fields, you know. I think many people assume that, with the passage of marriage equality, all is good in the world for LGBT people. But the reality is, after marriage equality was passed, you could get married in all 50 states, and then you'd go to the office the next day, put the picture of your wife or same-sex partner on your desk, and you could be fired in over half of the states in the United States. So with things like the Equality Act being reintroduced and the recent rulings from the EEOC and the Circuit Court affirming protections for LGBT people in the workplace, we're making strides toward that full inclusion, but we're not there yet. So when we're standing up in all walks of life, in all different segments, we're changing hearts and minds.
Lisnek: It would seem to me that it's also important that people of the LGBTQ community are reaching occupations and fields that are not -- I'll just use the word -- stereotypical. Because some people think, "Oh, well, they're florists, and they own bars" and that kind of stuff. That's not fair.
Kent: Right. Yeah, we're bakers, we're the cake shop, and we're so forth. No, that's absolutely not true. LGBT people and LGBT business owners represent every single segment. We're across every single industry that's imaginable. Just last year in 2018, we honored our LGBT supplier of the year, which was a transwoman-owned business. It's a construction firm called Heels and Hardhats, and it's based out of Chicago, your hometown. And they're doing tremendous things, not only in their industry, but for inclusion on a whole. They're now being invited to talk to corporate partners and community leaders about the importance of being out specifically in that kind of line of work.
Lisnek: Are there any limits -- I'm thinking that sometimes a gay man, for example, might want a gay physician, alright? So does your organization look at that and say, "Okay, I get it, but no, it's okay that you have a straight physician or straight people have gay physicians." I mean, how does that play in terms of all professions like that, very personal ones?
Kent: Yeah, I think it really comes down to preference and what makes somebody safe, but at the end of the day, what we need is LGBT competent care and LGBT competency across industries, right? Regardless of whether you're walking into a financial institution or your doctor's office, you should be treated the same way as any other person would be, despite your gender or your sexual orientation. That should be of no issue, so I think education is a big piece of that.
Lisnek: And I imagine in addition to education, internships, role modeling become critical, and you probably send that message to various business owners, too -- bring in young people.
Kent: Absolutely. And we know that, because LGBT people are diverse people, they're more likely to employ more diverse people and be those role models. We see so many LGBT business owners stepping forward and saying, "Hey, I'm not just a business owner, I'm an advocate, and I'm an advocate by living my life every day as a leader and putting myself out there and my company out there and saying, 'I'm LGBT, but I can do this at a quality and competitive price'", and that's inspiring for young folks, to be able to say, if I come out, if I live my authentic life, I won't lose everything.
Lisnek: What's really powerful is be who you are and be proud of who you are and let people know who you are. It's good to see you.
Kent: Yeah. Thanks for having us.
Lisnek: Sabrina Kent from the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. I appreciate your time. Thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversation with leaders in your community across our country, all you have to do is go to comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Paul Lisnek. Thanks for watching.