Pride in Your Work – Atlanta Magazine
Take a stroll down Midtown’s iconic, bustling rainbow crosswalks, and you’ll begin to see why Atlanta has earned a reputation as a proud LGBTQ haven. But the city’s welcoming nature extends beyond the brightly painted streets: these days, Atlanta’s business community is embracing LGBTQ inclusion like never before. Organizations of all sizes have deepened their commitment to queer and trans people, developing DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) initiatives that engage LGBTQ employees, their families and communities, and supporting projects focused on queer liberation .
Atlanta business leaders know that authentic inclusion is good for everyone. The percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ is increasing exponentially, according to a 2022 Gallup report, and the Pew Research Center shows a new generation of talent entering the workforce with more racial, gender and ethnic diversity. sexual orientation than ever before. Additionally, with a trillion dollars in purchasing power, the LGBTQ community plays an increasingly central role in the national economy, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
To discuss LGBTQ inclusion in Atlanta’s professional communities, we reached out to DEI leaders from a wide range of local businesses and organizations, to learn more about what they are doing to support their employees. LGBTQ, their neighbors and fellow Atlantans.
What types of DEI initiatives has your organization launched on behalf of your own LGBTQ employees/team members?
Tonya Adams, US Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, UCB Pharmaceutical: UCB+ is an employee resource group that was created to contribute to and nurture an open, inclusive and safe environment for LGBTQ employees and allies at UCB and in the wider community. The group aims to ensure equity in policies and practices and that everyone feels valued, regardless of their sexual orientation and gender expression.
Felix B. Turner, Corporate Affairs Manager, The Kroger Co.: The Kroger Co. recently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, in recognition of our commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and equality. We’re proud to offer same-sex partner benefits and transgender-inclusive healthcare, as well as strong alliances with LGBTQ providers through our partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Lace Walker, Director of Inclusion, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD): SCAD’s DEI efforts are intersectional and include LGBTQ initiatives with the goal of cultivating an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging across SCAD. We’ve added gender-neutral toilets to all SCAD sites. The SCAD community has the ability to add pronouns to name tags and business cards, and can choose to be identified by their preferred name in our database. University-sanctioned workshops are offered to SCAD faculty, staff, and students to educate the community on LGBTQ terminology and how to be an ally.
Clara Green, Executive Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Regions Bank: The regions scored highest on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, earning the distinction of being among the “Best Workplaces for LGBTQ Equality.” Additionally, regions hold an Understanding Week each summer, providing dedicated time for associates to come together and have intentional conversations about alliance and supporting marginalized groups.
MyKhanh Shelton, SVP Diversity, Equity + Inclusion, Warner Media: To support transgender and non-binary employees and to foster a fair and inclusive workplace for all, Warner Bros. Discovery established the company’s Gender Affirmative Guidelines, which were created to promote the rights of people of all gender identities and expressions and empower all employees to be allies. In 2021, CNN launched “The First Time I Realized I Was . . .”—an in-house series for people to share their personal thoughts on their social identities. The beauty of this series is that we celebrate the identity and learn from each other.
What kinds of DCI initiatives have you launched to connect with the LGBTQ community beyond your organization?
Joseph Lee, DE&I Director, Southern Company Gas: During this 2022 Pride Month, we invited Tina Madison White, Executive Director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center and Human Rights Campaign Board Member, to give an engaging talk to our employees on the transgender community and how to become better allies in the workplace.
Adams, UBC: Over the past few years, UCB has made it a point to connect and participate in local activities, such as the LGBTQ Pride Festival and Parade, and to work with a local LGBTQ charity to benefit displaced LGBTQ youth .
Walker, SCAD: At our recent SCAD GamingFest, one of the most insightful sessions was dedicated to “Inclusivity in Character Design in Games,” about promoting diversity through digital storytelling and games.
How does diversity of sexual orientation and gender identity benefit your organization?
Shelton, WarnerMedia: If we create a safe and supportive space for historically marginalized communities, many of whom identify as LGBTQ, we will create a safe and welcoming environment for all. If we work from the margins, we will ensure that we meet the needs of our entire workforce.
Lee, Southern Company: An LGBTQ-friendly workplace creates a culture that increases job satisfaction, creates more positive relationships with team members, reduces workplace stress, and improves the overall mental and physical health of our employees. All of this in turn drives innovation and the keys to our overall success. What feedback have you received from LGBTQ employees about their experience at your organization, and how have you responded?
Turner, Kroger: Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and we continue to seek out new ideas through our Associate Resource Group, community partners and vendors. Comments we heard: “I am motivated by the fact that I can be a role model and show associates, regardless of sexual orientation or background, that they can grow and be successful at Kroger.”
What challenges remain to create a fully inclusive workplace for your LGBTQ employees?
Turner, Kroger: How to create even more opportunities to engage associates, community partners, vendors and external stakeholders.
Atlanta is a city rich in diversity, including racial and ethnic diversity, as well as differences in sexual identity and orientation. How does Atlanta’s diversity impact your organization?
Walker, SCAD: The diversity of SCAD reflects the diversity of Atlanta. As a world leader in art and design education, the SCAD community reflects a diversity of representation and identity from a wide range of the local community, nationally and internationally.
Turner, Kroger: Through our Framework for Action, Kroger is committed to staying united and mobilizing our people, passion, scale and resources to transform our culture and our communities. Atlanta’s diversity helps drive that engagement.
Companies and institutions can be powerful advocates for change: how has your organization used your voice on behalf of marginalized communities?
Adams, UCB: UCB continues to support the Atlanta Pride Festival, which has allowed us to communicate the importance of patient education and the need for greater diversity in clinical trials. These are all important topics that need to be discussed so that underserved and underrepresented communities can build trust with their providers and have more meaningful conversations about their
It’s Pride Parade time, and you have an unlimited budget for your organization’s float! What does it look like?
Shelton, WarnerMedia: If we had an unlimited budget for our organization’s Pride Parade Float, we would cover it with Swarovski crystals in the colors of the Pride Flag. There would be a long track in the middle featuring the stars of our hit reality competition series, Legendary. We would have sidecar floats representing some
from our wonderful community partners, including the Trevor Project and the [email protected] Coalition.