Today, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is pleased to announce our 2021 Belonging Change Agents Initiative, which is made possible by a generous grant from Capital One.

“This program will ensure that the best practices in creating cultures of belonging, and the pursuit of racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion, are not locked away in a handful of large organizations who have the resources to pioneer this work,” said Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “Rather, the knowledge will be made available more broadly to help DEI change agents within companies accelerate through common mistakes and more effectively and efficiently do the tough work of building optimal organizational cultures where everybody can be out and can thrive as their authentic self. I am thankful to Capital One for their visionary leadership that makes this work possible.”

Program Rationale

This initiative is grounded in the awareness that there is an urgent need for significant, integrated, strategic, and intersectional allyship to create structural change.  By meeting the needs of DEI practitioners for resources, critical frameworks, and communities of practice, both within and among companies, we know that we will be to accelerate change, and optimize and build the relationships among the functions in the company that focus on people.

Increasingly, Out & Equal’s member companies have recognized that standard Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) efforts as measured by indices like the HRC Corporate Equality Index are necessary, but not sufficient to address the most vital component of retention and growth: a welcoming culture. Reaching the most aspirational of organizational cultures, one in which everyone feels they belong, is extremely difficult. “Culture” is comprised of so many dynamics within an organization, is highly dependent on engaged and supportive leadership at all levels, and is created on a daily basis through small group dynamics. Depending on the size of the company, managing culture transformation initiatives can require a significant coordination of time and resources across functions and geographies.

Creating cultures of belonging is at the center of Out & Equal’s work. In early 2018, Out & Equal recognized the business community’s evolving needs and launched a new dialogue with its stakeholders. Focused on supporting companies in a new journey from Diversity – traditionally translated to numbers and representation – to Inclusion, long synonymous with HR policies and earmarked resources for Employee Resource Groups and similar initiatives, to helping companies achieve true cultures of Belonging.

This shift in focus, embedded in our strategic plan, has brought together a new and powerful learning community accelerating LGTBQ equality and belonging around the world. Included in this are high impact year-round programs for LGBTQ leaders, D&I practitioners, ERG members, and executives; consulting and training; and a brand-new digital hub, to help change agents share best practices, problem-solve, and build community. These strategies are helping companies get unstuck from old modalities of top-down D&I initiatives that have stalled out and replace them with a much more dynamic community of practice that can take the insights of, for example, a mid-level Latina trans programmer and apply them to more effective branding for a company. Compared with older methods of narrowly developed HR/ D&I practices, these efforts have brought on meaningful culture change at pace matching the current landscape of rapid change.

COVID realities, Gen Z and Y redefining the workplace, increased awareness of racially-charged discrimination and violence all are driving the urgency and importance of addressing this need now. ERG leaders are clamoring for help in facilitating dialogues about race, and LGBTQ employees of color are similarly in need of support. D&I practitioners, aware of these changes but unsure of how they impact recruitment strategies are often lost in the mix. Simply put, everybody needs help. And the critical framework needed, often cited but misunderstood and ineffectively implemented, is intersectionality. LGBTQ leaders are uniquely positioned to make intersectionality a living, breathing part of an organization’s culture change work. LGBTQ people encompass every group traditionally found in D&I efforts – women, communities of color, people with varied abilities, and more. Belonging demands an intersectional application – no one should have to “hang up” one identity at the door in order to fit in.

Belonging Change Agents Initiative Program Elements

The Belonging Change Agents Initiative, powered by Capital One, will transform D&I practitioners into Diversity, Equality, Inclusion, and Belonging “DEIB” practitioners, and by extension will guide comprehensive, sustainable organizational culture change work.

Key elements of the program include:

  • A Belonging Change Agents Practitioner Lab for DEIB leaders seeking best practices in building belonging cultures and fostering workplace inclusion.
  • A Virtual Learning Series designed for mid- to large-size businesses to feature subject matter experts on intersectional topics that impact belonging, with a focus on racial justice and LGBTQ inclusion.