Her HRC

 

 

Voices of Women Leaders

Caryl Athanasiu, Wells Fargo

Caryl Athanasiu, Wells Fargo

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

I have personally seen the tremendous impact that women can have in any organization or movement.  It's important that we continue to motivate and empower one another; "to lift as we climb."  It's also important to reach out and connect with others across a diverse spectrum.  Her HRC can improve visibility and foster connections across the diverse segments of the movement.  I have had mentors – both men and women - who have guided me and I try to do the same for other young professionals.  I was most recently selected as one of the Bay Area's Most Influential Women by the San Francisco Business Times.  I am proud of this accomplishment and hope to use my influence to motivate and empower others.

 

Why is it important for companies to connect specifically with lesbians?

 

Wells Fargo is honored to be the presenting sponsor of Her HRC.  We understand the importance of empowering women throughout the country to get involved with a common mission and the value of connecting local with national efforts.  It's our mission is to help all of our customers succeed financially.  Connecting with lesbians, as well as other diverse communities, is just one way we’re living our values.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

Promote education and equal opportunity. HRC can help the lives of women, and society in general, by ensuring that girls have equal access to education. Bullying is still a huge issue, especially for many LGBT students. Students have to feel safe in order to thrive at school. HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens so that we can all have an equal footing.

Cate Revak

Cate Revak

Why did they initially become involved?

 

My first experience with the HRC began on Veterans Lobby Day in May 2010. As a LGBT veteran myself, this event was very personal to me. The HRC partnered with the Service members Legal Defense Network (SLDN) and together we spent our day lobbying Capitol Hill for the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.” It was a purely electric experience. The HRC and SLDN organized a diverse group of approximately 400 veterans, each with stories to tell about the personal effects of DADT. I was so inspired by the speakers and meeting many of the veterans, that I was no longer comfortable watching from the sidelines of this fight, I was all in.

 

I returned to Philadelphia, with my inner advocate still astir, and I volunteered for the HRC at our Pride Parade in June 2010. I met Emily Gallo, from our steering committee and told her about my experience in Washington, DC. I asked her how I could help our LGBT community in Philadelphia and let her know I was interested in future events. A few weeks later, Emily introduced me to, Laura Bonner, another member of the Philly steering committee. I noticed immediately, that they were more than co- chairs working on a committee; this work made them friends. As I got to know these women, I was amazed by them. These were busy women with families, and careers, committed to each other as well as working toward equality.

 

A few months later, they asked me to join the steering committee as a co-chair for Membership and Community Events; I was honored. This became my opportunity to pay my inspiration forward. I have heard time and time again about the perception of the HRC being a "white and wealthy boys club." Over the past year and half, I have viewed this position as a challenge to inspire others to get involved, especially other women. This past year, I organized Philly Pride, and during the parade as I was looking out at those volunteers who were marching, I noticed they were mostly women. While working at our Pride booth, I also noticed there more women volunteers. 

 

How can the work of HRC help women’s lives generally?

 

Philly HRC and Her HRC are here to say "Ladies, your opinion matters. Your time is valuable. You have something to contribute, and other women need to hear your stories." Every one of us has a common story of struggle and acceptance. The HRC is the catalyst to intimate personal connections and platform to get involved with a purpose larger than ourselves. There is strength in numbers, and in this marathon toward equality there’s still so much more work to be done. We need each other. This work is challenging, but the personal growth that comes with that is immeasurable.  I have personally witnessed a revival here in Philadelphia, one event at a time, one volunteer after another; amazing. I want to thank each of them, for allowing me and the Philly HRC into their lives. I have become a better person and leader because of them. From our Philadelphia steering committee, to our LGBT community here in the Delaware Valley, we are here for you. Thank you for allowing us to lead and inspire you! Let us be the change we wish to see in the world!!!

Char Ligo

Char Ligo

Why did they initially become involved?

 

I was raised in a catholic home and attended religious schools growing up.  I spent high school and college years existing, unhappily in heterosexual relationships because it was "normal and acceptable."  I realized my sexual identity in my early twenties.  Identifying as a lesbian was always kept secret from my family due to strong religious beliefs and my fear of rejection.  After the death of my father in 2002, and mother in 2007, the profound sense of loss left me heartbroken.  I had lost almost 25 years of holidays, laughter, conversation, memories and time with my family because I was afraid of being myself.  Time I can never get back. 

 

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

Her HRC engages woman from all social, economic and cultural classes and shows them how they can be proud and make a difference in their communities, schools and homes.  HRC's work has improved women's lives across the country, in Welcoming Schools, The Religion and Faith programs and all its Equal Rights initiatives.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

Because of HRC, the support and education it's given me, I am a wife, a mom, play an active role with my local Steering Committee as Diversity and Inclusion Strategist, Board of Governor, and most recently a member of the Board of Gay Games 9, Cleveland, Ohio 2014.  I am proud to be a lesbian and I am honored to be part of such important work.

 

HRC made me feel proud, included and accepted, HRC gave me the strength to stand up and speak out about who I am in my community. Had I found HRC sooner, I'd have had the knowledge, tools and support to come out to my parents.  I deeply regret missing the years I could have had with my parents.  I work for HRC to help children, families and friends become stronger, prouder of who they are and hopefully educate those I meet so they never have to miss growing older with their families.  So they never regret what could have been.

Elaine Ball

Elaine Ball

Why did they initially become involved?

 

I joined the Salt Lake City Steering Committee in January 2011 following a personal invitation from my friend and co-worker, the previous local Co-Chair of Membership and Community Events. Having volunteered with the Utah Pride Center to plan and implement Salt Lake City Pride, and with Equality Utah to elect fair-minded officials across the state, I was uniquely poised to join the Human Rights Campaign's fight for equality nation-wide.

 

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

In the past year, I have actively worked to recruit volunteers who could extend my efforts further than they otherwise could reach. I now serve with an active co-chair, will have a tri-chair joining us in January, and meet regularly with a sub-committee of four dedicated members.

 

I believe so strongly that women of every shape, size, color, sexual orientation, and gender identity, must all be involved intimately with the Human Rights Campaign. Straight allies! Women of color! Trans women! Lesbian women! Bisexual women! My favorite quotation by Ghandi is, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." If you think that the HRC only serves the white male patriarchy ... then get yourself involved! Prove whoever thinks that wrong. A few days ago, my girlfriend pointed out this wonderful quote, from an Apple "Think Different" commercial: "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."

Eliana Morrison

Eliana Morrison

Why did they initially become involved with HRC?

 

I initially became involved with HRC out of frustration at the lack of access to rights I have as a gay woman.  I used to complain to my family about the disparities of heterosexual privilege that are born out of marriage and my father continually asked me what I was going to do about it.  After some time I got his point that instead of complaining about it I could take action to change it. 

 

Once I decided that I wanted to commit to the effort I researched LGBT-rights organizations and determined that HRC had the best structure and the most visibility for the cause.  I then contacted my local steering committee through the HRC website and asked to volunteer.  Six years later, I am still actively involved with HRC in Arizona. 

 

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

Her HRC brings together women in a social forum for a political cause.  Due to this mesh, women who may not otherwise attend a politically-motivated event do come out for Her HRC and it is often their first exposure to HRC. It helps that the Her HRC events are really fun too, and the guests are having a good time while helping a good cause.  From this initial exposure comes a learning experience about who HRC is and what we are doing to make their lives better. 

 

Since the guests also become members they begin to receive information about HRC’s initiatives and our calls to action.  The knowledge that they will gain through their membership is connected to the influence of women in the movement.  The more women who become knowledgeable about the work of HRC directly correlates to the women who join us.  The more women join to help means we can expand our reach into communities all over the country.  And the way we attain equal rights for LGBT and their families is through educating each other.  It’s a domino effect, if you will.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

The work of HRC shows women that first and foremost they are not alone. We generally want the same things:  health, love, and family. HRC is a great example that there are people and organizations out here that are fighting every day to help women achieve those things without the extra struggle that bias and hate and discrimination add to the already daunting tasks of life. 

 

HRC is working everyday to change social construct of marriage so that all who want to can.  HRC is working everyday to meld the idea of "family" to include every family.  HRC is working every day to educate teachers and school administrators on the effects bullying has on our children and how to defend them.   This work, along with other HRC initiatives, positively affects how women and their families are perceived and treated in their communities.

Hergit “Coco” LLenas

Hergit “Coco” LLenas

Why did they initially become involved?

 

I had the pleasure to meet two incredible women who were already involved, Dawn Christensen and Gwen Migita. Dawn invited me to some of the HRC events as guest, which allowed me to learn more about the mission and mingle with members of the local steering committee. I soon realized that as a woman, an immigrant and a lesbian, equality was not just my fight. HRC showed me I was not alone; that its mission was mine as well.

 

WARNING! The passion and dedication of the steering committee is very contagious!

 

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

Her HRC is a celebration of women.  It is an occasion to connect with women in our local communities that otherwise may have not heard of HRC. The events provide a non-threatening, fun atmosphere to talk about what HRC does and why it matters. There is power in numbers and Her HRC provides a captured audience who can interact one on one with HRC members. By doing so, it opens doors to finding new allies, to making friends and hopefully also cultivating new believers in our cause.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

HRC nurtures women by creating opportunities for leadership. It expands our networks generating fresh ideas and powerful connections. It reforms the legislation, bringing solutions and improvements to all aspects of our life: work, health, education, among others.

 

HRC also helps by adding an immense wealth of resources that helps us understand what decisions are made and how do they affect us, but more importantly what can we do to change or influence those decisions.

 

It gives us a sense of belonging. A place in common for our struggles at the same time it gives us the satisfaction of doing something bigger than ourselves, something that will also change the live of others.

Kathy Young

Kathy Young

Why did they initially become involved with HRC?

 

I had a child with my partner at the time. Since I was not the biological parent, I learned how vulnerable my position as a parent was. After visits with an attorney and many documents later I still wasn't more than a "parent" to most officials. I am still not able to sign documents in certain situations. I knew that this impacted many more people and that the laws needed to change to protect families. 

 

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

Her HRC is an event dedicated to bringing women together to not only have a good time, but to learn about the work of HRC. I believe that women can and should have a very powerful voice in the work of LGBT equality. Women have opportunities everyday to take advantage of teachable moments and educate those around them on how LGBT individuals are discriminated against. This can happen in schools, in our workplace and in our religious communities. The more women that are involved with HRC increases our strength and will allow us to change more hearts and minds. 

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

HRC has provided me with the ability to work on my leadership skills as well and work with amazing people to advance LGBT equality. I have been given the opportunity to work with youth as well as speak with Congressional leaders. My volunteer work also allowed me to gain tremendous experience and I was able to transition into a job with a non-profit organization. These are just a few examples of how HRC has impacted my life. HRC also impacts women through improving workplace equality, working with schools to embrace family diversity through the Welcoming Schools program, and by working to pass laws advancing LGBT equality.

Renee Brown, Wells Fargo

Renee Brown, Wells Fargo

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

As the mother of an 8-year old daughter, it's powerful to see the change through generations.  My grandmother and mother are still alive, so we often have four generations of women together. That highlights the growth of our society.  My grandmother attended some college but did not work outside of the home; my mother was a teacher and social worker; I’ve been blessed as the sole earner in my household and being my daughter’s birth mother.  The script is yet to be written for my daughter, and I am very excited to enjoy watching her grow into her power.  In the same way, Her HRC can serve to continue evolving within the LGBT community and their families to embrace the power of women.  As Her HRC evolves, we need to ensure balance in leadership roles for the HRC organization and a focus on LGBT families can go a long way.

 

Why is it important for companies to connect specifically with lesbians?

 

I've been blessed in my career to have been given the opportunity each day to grow as a mother, partner, daughter, executive, friend AND out lesbian.  Many generations of lesbians before me cannot say that – it was not an option.  As I have served as the Executive Sponsor of our PRIDE team member network the past several years, I have discovered that there are quite different levels of diversity within diverse segments.  What do I mean?  The work of diversity is made more complex when individuals carry more than one subordinate/minority group membership. Often LGBT work focuses or highlights the G over the other categories while issues can be quite varied.  Being both a female executive and an out lesbian carries new levels of complexity that can be explored and leveraged to improve systems, processes and experiences.  At the end of the day, Wells Fargo will focus across many diverse segments to grow and understand more deeply.  I see our combined ability to dive more deeply into the uniqueness of the lesbian experience will be powerful.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

One area to consider is in the area of medical research.  If we can move toward ensuring medical research in the LGBT community is balanced across genders we can be more prepared to forecast the unique challenges for aging LGBT individuals. In addition, focusing on the continued battle for legal rights of families with children is critical.  I am honored to be a part of this new Her HRC initiative.

Shelley Freeman, Wells Fargo

Shelley Freeman, Wells Fargo

How can Her HRC help expand the influence of women in our movement?

 

Her HRC's mission – to empower women throughout the nation – is key to expanding the role of women and equality in the workplace. The events the organization holds across the nation help raise awareness about HRC's important work while offering women the opportunity to get more involved.

 

Personally, in my role as Regional President for Florida Community Banking at Wells Fargo I have been very involved with the local and LGBT communities, which helps keep me engaged in efforts and key issues facing our communities. I currently serve as a member of the Board of Regents for the Point Foundation and the Boards of Directors of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Florida Council of 100. As Wells Fargo's Regional President in Los Angeles, I also served as a member of the board of directors of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and AIDS Project Los Angeles, as well as the Center Theatre Group and the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging. And as a member of the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners, I focused on law enforcement issues important to our community. My past and present involvements in these organizations help expand our role as women in this movement.

 

Why is it important for companies to connect specifically with lesbians?

 

It's hugely important for companies to connect with lesbians, as well as all other diverse communities, in order to ensure that many perspectives and viewpoints are represented.

 

One of the core values that have allowed Wells Fargo to be innovative and remain competitive throughout the years is the company's belief that people are our competitive advantage. As a member of Wells Fargo's Executive Management Committee, I have always been proud that I can be open and honest about my sexual orientation in the workplace, one of the many facets that make me who I am. At Wells Fargo, I bring 100% of me to work every day—I don't check any part of me at the door. And, frankly, I think that makes me happier and more productive, and I hope creates a safe space for others to come out and be themselves.

 

How can the work of HRC help women's lives generally?

 

As an advocacy organization, HRC – and through the work of Her HRC – helps women by creating accountability among America's corporations, elected officials, and educational institutions. HRC's efforts are central to mobilizing and empowering under-represented communities to ensure that the organization's efforts are as inclusive as possible, giving a voice to women and other under-represented groups. By focusing on things that matter – equality in employment, civil rights, parental rights, health care, and so on, HRC makes a difference for all of us.