LGBTQ Authenticity at Work

with Erin Uritus of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates

In 2017, the American Psychological Association reported that social isolation and loneliness are major health threats that will continue to grow. This impacts the LGBTQ community, especially for those who are closeted or restrain their authentic identity in the workplace. As more Americans continue to identify as LGBTQ, how can the business world adapt?

Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, discusses the need for businesses to foster a culture of authenticity and belonging for all employees.

Posted on:

May 31, 2018

Hosted by: Paul Lisnek
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Lisnek: Younger Americans significantly outpace older generations in identifying as LGBTQ. As new generations come of age, enter the workforce, how can businesses prepare for this diverse influx? Hi. Welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I´m Paul Lisnek, and with me to discuss how workplaces of all kinds can navigate this culture shift is Erin Uritus. She´s the Chief Executive Officer of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Erin, so good to see you.

Uritus: So nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Lisnek: I want to start in an interesting place with you because I am certain for our viewers, too, to use words like "diversity," "inclusion" -- We know those words, but your organization is really concentrating on another important concept of belongingness. Talk to me about that.

Uritus: Yeah. Thank you. So we´ve been around 21 years, and we´ve been with companies on this continuum. So, diversity is pretty easy. You can walk out on the street and grab a man, a woman of color, a disabled person, a millennial, a veteran, and you have diversity. Inclusion takes it a step further, but inclusion is really top down or inside out from the company, what it does for its diverse workforce. So, it lives in H.R. policies, in diversity handbooks, but what we´re really talking about now is belonging. Belonging is a model of interdependence, and it´s what employees do for each other when the company is not watching.

Lisnek: And feeling like you belong is so critical, but I know Harvard Business Review has done a lot of work on the concept of loneliness at work. It´s a juxtaposition from belonging, isn´t it?

Uritus: That´s right. So, HBR has published several articles on loneliness, and it is being noted now as a national health epidemic, which is -- It´s really interesting, but it´s a concept, and when we´re talking about it out with our stakeholders, it´s really resonating, and so loneliness, interestingly, does not -- There´s no correlation between social connection and loneliness, meaning that you can be by yourself and not feel lonely. You can be in a room full of people and feel very lonely. So, it´s not really about the people that you are around. It´s about the quality of those relationships, and you being able to be out and your authentic self with those people.

Lisnek: Erin, I know there´s a study, some controversy to it, that says perhaps even a majority of young people identify outside of being straight, part of the LGBTQ community. Talk to me about that.

Uritus: That´s right. We heard the same one. There´s a study by GLAAD and Harris Poll that indicates maybe even as high as 52% identify as either not straight or somewhere under our umbrella, and no matter what the statistics are, we´ve heard from both young people coming up and also from the companies that this is real in the workplace, that there is an evolution in not only sexual orientation, but gender identity and expression, and it´s in the workplace, and so as millennials come up, companies really want to make sure, again, that their diversity investment is protected, and that not only the company is keeping up with that, but that their employee-resource groups are also inclusive to the entire community.

Lisnek: You also are the perfect person to ask, as you have lived all over. I mean, you lived in Africa and the Middle East, France, everywhere, so talk to me about the global nature, the multinational nature of the importance of these concepts of belongingness and inclusion. It´s not just an American thing.

Uritus: That´s right. In fact, so, we did start mostly surveying Fortune 500 companies based in the United States, so what we´ve seen, which is really exciting, is a trend in CEOs and leadership caring deeply about protecting their investment in diversity and inclusion work, so if they have achieved a perfect score in the Equality Index for their domestic efforts, they really want to make sure that their employees overseas, especially as they migrate employees, they may work in the United States, but move over to Singapore or other countries. The companies really want to make sure that they achieve an inclusive culture, and that their brand is about inclusivity worldwide, that that does not deviate depending on where the employee sits.

Lisnek: Just briefly -- Social-media platforms tell us a lot about CEO´s priorities and all that. Young people, of course, certainly see that on social media. How critical is the view from the top?

Uritus: Oh, it´s really critical, and what we´ve been noticing, and everybody who watches the news notice now, is that there is a trend in CEO and executive activism, so if you´re watching, you know, post Parkland when a lot of CEOs, like Edward Stack stood up from Dick´s Sporting Goods, and we´ve got Mark Benny off at Salesforce or Larry Fink with BlackRock. These are CEOs that are standing up for values and from an intersectional perspective, even when it might not necessarily look like it affects their bottom line because they care about the values, inclusive values, and what they´ve invested in already, and they want to make sure that the world knows it.

Lisnek: Erin, we´ll continue to watch your work around the country, around the globe. Erin Uritus is the CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. Thank you for joining me, and thank you for joining us, as well. If you want more great conversations with leaders in your community around the country, all you got to do -- Go to I´m Paul Lisnek. Bye-bye.

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