- October 24, 2013
Post submitted by Jenna Raspanti, former HRC Workplace Program Coordinator
HRC Workplace Equality Program Director Deena Fidas, Manager Liz Cooper, and Coordinator Jenna Raspanti traveled south to New Orleans, LA for the 16th Annual Reaching Out Conference for LGBT MBA Students and Business Leaders on October 17th-19th (ROMBA).
Hosted by Hilton, the student-led conference offered a plethora of interesting workshops and opportunities to engage LGBT MBA students with rising businesses in their desired field. Some popular workshops included “Global Community Experience,” and “Diversity within the LGBTQ Community.” Prominent keynote speakers Billy Bean, Maggie Stump, and David Paltiel made an appearance.
Liz Cooper presented on the importance of Employee Resource Groups in fostering a sense of community within a business and leveraging unique populations’ networks and skills to help accomplish business goals such as recruitment and retention of top talent. Cooper elaborated on how ERGs serve as great platforms for leadership opportunities for LGBT and allied employees to better their work environments. Cooper spoke alongside ERG representatives from American Airlines, Google, Biogen Idec, and Wells Fargo.
In a panel called “Transgender Issues in the Workplace,” Deena Fidas spoke about how far corporate America has come in creating more equitable workplaces for transgender workers. Over the last decade, America’s leading businesses have made significant strides in expanding workplace protections on the basis of gender identity and affording transgender-inclusive healthcare coverage. In the 2013 Corporate Equality Index, Fidas noted that 287 U.S. employers offered transgender-inclusive health benefits, compared to just 49 in the 2009 Index. Making these benefits accessible has come at an overall negligible cost, which holds true across all industries. From direct consultation with both fully and self-insured employers and outreach to leading health insurance companies, Fidas spoke of HRC Foundation’s ongoing efforts to help ensure the transgender community has access to medically necessary care. The panel was facilitated by LGBT advocate and MBA Candidate Beck Bailey and co-panelists included Denise Norris from Accenture Ltd and Ilona Turner, Legal Director at the Transgender Law Center. Turner informed about the patchwork of state legal protections for the transgender community, recent legal victories in employment discrimination cases for transgender workers, and the continued need for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The forum was a productive session where attendees engaged with panelists and asked questions regarding greater integration of Employee Resource Groups, how to combat micro-inequities in the workplace, and suggestions for how to expand protections for students and staff on campus.
At the career expo, hundreds of top-rated CEI companies set up recruitment booths looking to attract diverse employees. From Wells Fargo, Cigna, 3M, Expedia, to Boston Consulting Group, Google, Apple and A.T. Kearney, corporations sent a clear message to potential employees that LGBT diversity is a corporate priority and that LGBT candidates are valued as the best and brightest across industries, geographies, and trades. HRC set up shop as well to serve as a resource to LGBT MBA candidates, offering copies of the Corporate Equality Index and Buyer’s Guide to equip students with the tools and knowledge to find inclusive employers as they take their next steps into the workforce.
The weekend was both enlightening and informative and HRC’s Workplace Equality Program Team was happy to play a role in the overall goal of empowering LGBT MBA students to become professionals who will lead the way to equality in business education, workplace, and in their communities.