October 28, 2011— Over 2,600 executives, human resources and diversity professionals, employee resource groups and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and allies gathered in Dallas, Texas, October 25-28, to share their best practices and ideas for creating workplaces where all people are safe, accepted, and valued, inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, characteristics, and expressions.
Out & Equal's Founding Executive Director Selisse Berry applauded attendees and supporters for their talent, strength, and determination in creating safe and equal workplaces around the world. Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy, blended humor with her important message: "I'm a walking affirmative action checklist - I'm a woman, Latina, lesbian and blind!" she said.
Sander van't Noordende, Group Chief Executive, Accenture, shared his experience of coming out at work, offering the audience some great advice: find a mentor to connect with, take a risk at least once a week, but go at your own pace.
Andy Cohen, Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development, applauded the large number of gay and lesbian people at Bravo TV and expressed his pride for Bravo's diversity. "[My colleagues] are on TV not because they are gay, but because they have amazing talent, “said Cohen. Actress Candis Cayne then participated in a conversation with Cohen, and shared that her courage to come out and transition was bolstered by her parents' love, and closed the event with a performance.
At the Wednesday plenary event, Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts and actress/activist Meredith Baxter discussed their very public coming out stories.
"Before the story came out in the New York Times on the front page, I had no idea what to be prepared for. I certainly was not prepared for the absolutely overwhelmingly positive response I got," said Welts.
Baxter shared her story of coming out on the Today Show. "When my partner and I left the NBC studio that morning, I felt free, unburdened, and so calm. I had faced the devil and I had survived quite nicely,” she said.
Openly gay ESPN anchor and CNN correspondent LZ Granderson also appeared, and engaged in conversation with Welts on stage.
Thursday afternoon's plenary session featured Out & Equal Founding Executive Director Selisse Berry, who talked about the importance of coming home to yourself. Mike Ullman, Chairman and CEO, JCPenney, and Liz Sweeney, Senior Vice President of JCPenney, discussed inclusion and social engagement. "People work for people, not for companies," said, Ullman. "Our diversity is our strength."
Donna Brazile, renowned political strategist and commentator and Vice Chair of Voter Registration and Participation, Democratic National Committee, rounded out the plenary with an engaging speech.
"Things have changed but we're not done changing yet," said Brazile. "Those of us that seek a future of full equality for all can never become comfortable. We cannot become weary because civil rights cannot become the domain of those who seek to turn back the proverbial clock and deny those rights to people just because of their sexual orientation."
The Thursday evening Gala Dinner was hosted by political humorist and entertainer, Kate Clinton. The dinner opened with Dallas ensemble, the Turtle Creek Chorale, as they serenade guests with its 120-person chorale.
Out & Equal welcomed special guests, activist Broadway superstar, Wilson Cruz, who shared his story about working as an out gay actor for 19 years, and Margaret Cho, who energized the audience with her comedy.
“Everyone should have rights. And by rights, I mean bi rights,” Cho said, underscoring the important of equality in the LGBT community.
The evening also featured remarks by Chairman, CEO and President of Northrop Grumman, Wes Bush, as well as local politician, Ft. Worth City Councilman, Joel Burns.
For more information about Out & Equal and the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, please visit the conference website at www.OutandEqual.org.