CEO, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates
Throughout her entire career, Erin Uritus has worked to help mission-driven organizations and their staff partner with and energize stakeholders to achieve extraordinary impact, navigate through historical challenges and opportunities, and become healthier and happier along the way.
Straight out of undergrad at the age of 24, Erin was sent by the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to open the African Women’s Media Center in Dakar, Senegal – funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched after the Beijing Women’s Conference by pioneer American journalists like Judy Woodruff (CNN/PBS), this Center helped women reporters on the Sub-Continent achieve roles in leadership – ultimately improving how important news topics are covered. In this work and at the early dawn of Internet access in Africa, she collaborated with US Embassies and international NGOs to convene the first-ever on-line training in multiple cities for journalists covering HIV/AIDS. She also supported the annual IWMF “Courage in Journalism Awards”, including facilitating the participation of women actively reporting while in hiding from governments and terrorist groups trying to silence their voices.
Upon returning from living in Dakar, Erin became heartsick during the gut-wrenching months between June 1998 and April 1999, when James Byrd Jr. was dragged to death in Texas, when Matthew Shepard was murdered, and when many innocent lives lost during the massacre at Columbine High School. Inspired to act, Erin quit her job and moved out to Ft. Collins, Colorado in 1999, to work with a small group of people to launch the BEAR Project – (Bringing Equality And Respect). This effort launched with seed money from Judy Shepard, and envisioned bringing hand-crafted teddy bears made by artists in memory of hate crimes victims into schools to teach young children about inclusion, tolerance and respect. Their work culminated in a 3-day “Hike for Hope” from Ft. Collins to Laramie, Wyoming, on the year anniversary of Matthew’s murder, when Erin and her co-founder Jerry Switzer were joined by Cathy Renna (previously with GLAAD) as they walked to the fence where Matthew was found, with teddy bears spilling out of their backpacks. Eventually, this project was absorbed back into the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
During the eight years Erin was with Booz Allen, she spent much of her time as a leader on the Strategic Communications Team helping government agencies navigate the massive challenges brought on by modernization programs. In particular – with the stand-up of the Department of Homeland Security – she helped lead agency-wide efforts for Citizenship and Immigration Services to include employees in the strategic planning and re-branding of their organization. Inspired by the dedicated workers in the federal government, and wanting to focus on improving organizational effectiveness, Erin pursued and received a Masters in Organization Development (OD) from American University, and two Masters certificates in Change Management and Performance Management from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown, respectively.
Beyond Out and Equal, Erin has consistently volunteered for political candidates, big events, and organizations who are making a positive difference in the world- including American Speaks: Listening to the City post 9/11 stakeholder forum; the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona; and her own All-Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC – a progressive religious community who believes in the inherent worth and dignity of all human beings- regardless of creed, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation or identity.
From 2007-2011, Erin had the extraordinary opportunity to work for a major Middle East government in support of its efforts to modernize and restructure, which was happening during the 2007 economic crash, subsequent “Arab Spring” revolutions, and major Nationalization programs- a Change Management practitioner’s “dream” assignment. In these efforts and with the support of her leadership, Erin stood up the government Change Management and Communications team – a multinational internal consultancy, set up to support all government agencies. She was only one of two non-Arabic speaking, Western Expat women working as a Director in the government, and facilitated the first-ever executive leadership retreat for its highest governing body. Her team published the first of its kind “Change Management Guide and Tool Kit” focused on best practices modified for Arabic culture, which was published in both Arabic and English and requested by libraries as far as Iraq and Afghanistan. During her tenure as Director, Erin also launched a modified version of the renowned “World Café” method for group facilitation, which incorporated art-making within groups who spoke different native languages, to transcend difference and co-create common visions for their organizations. This work served as the basis for Erin’s acceptance into Antioch University’s PhD program in Leadership and Change (deferred).
In 2011, Erin joined the prominent Princeton-based non-profit International Schools Services (ISS), whose mission is to create and support world-class schools across the globe that promote global understanding and educate students to be thoughtful, imaginative leaders. In Abu Dhabi, she managed an innovative Arabic Language program, and supported business development of new international schools in the Middle and Near East. When new ISS President Liz Duffy was hired to lead ISS in the bold and comprehensive repositioning of ISS in the market after more than 50 years, Erin moved back to the US to lead the re-branding of ISS and build a new communications team.
While in the Middle East, Erin met and married her now ex-partner, and they are the proud parents of two beautiful little girls Amira and Haneen- who share American and Egyptian heritage. Erin and her daughters moved back to Washington, DC just a few short months before the historic election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency- an event that began the steady erosion of human and civil rights for many groups, which unfortunately continues today with no signs of slowing. As the mother of Arab-American children, during the first attempt at the Muslim ban Erin often found herself holding two tiny hands on either side of her in front of a police barricade at Trump Tower… and eventually joyously weaving them through blocks of rainbow flags and balloons at DC Pride. She has balanced activism with adrenaline infused activities like trapeze, and the ever-popular sport of brunch on 14th street with her friends whom she has sorely missed.
Erin has never and will never stop fighting for equality, and believes – as often stated during Out and Equal Summits by founder and pioneer Selisse Berry – love will always win. She is thrilled and honored to partner with newly-elected Chair Michael Cox (Comcast), the Out and Equal Board and staff, sponsors and friends to build on 20 years of amazing work, and help lead Out and Equal into the future.