Reflections on the Out & Equal Workplace Summit, This Year’s Theme “We Are,” and Defining Out & Equal’s Next Chapter
As the CEO of Out & Equal for more than five years now, and as a member of the Queer community who has been attending Summit for more than 20 years, why do you feel that Summit is important to the LGBTQ+ movement?
Summit has always been a beacon of light and hope for the LGBTQ+ community. I attended my first Summit in 2002 in Orlando, and when Summit welcomed me that year, I felt transported to a place of possibility.
Each time I returned, it felt like that possibility became more tangible, becoming a reality that all of us who had gathered could see as our present and our future. That future not only valued the talents of people like me, but actively and intentionally sought out the contributions of
LGBTQ+ people and other historically marginalized and overlooked groups.
Summit was then—and remains so now—a place where one could find community, find role models, find answers, and find joy. There was—and still is—nothing like it, and it remains so unique.
Why do you think Summit is so essential this year in particular?
This year’s Summit is taking place at a pivotal moment for our community and the workplace equality movement. In many ways, the vibe surrounding this year’s event feels similar to what it did when I attended my first Summit more than 20 years ago.
The big difference of course is that, like many who are attending Summit this year—be it their 20th time or their first—I am far more informed, assured, and confident in myself than I was back then. We know more now than we did then—about ourselves and about the LGBTQ+ community broadly. And while the current environment is reminiscent of a dark, discriminatory, and exclusionary past, it is important to remember it is not 25 years ago. We are 25 years better and stronger, and we are ready to keep pushing forward.
Now, more than ever before, it’s critical we make our voices heard, show that our movement and community are united and stronger than ever, and reaffirm our commitment to advancing representation, inclusion, and equity in the workplace and beyond.
Summit is an opportunity to come together as a collective community, celebrate Queer joy, reclaim the movement, and continue our work. It’s a time to focus on the business of belonging and how well-managed diversity—inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community—drives innovation, growth, and meaningful change. It’s a platform to counter the noise and false narratives. It’s a reminder that we are not going anywhere, and that, while forces may attempt to exclude and erase us, we are here and always will be!
What Does this Year’s Summit Theme “We Are” Represent?
In my role, I have the privilege of talking to leaders from all over the world and across all levels of organizations. When I speak with them about the moment we’re in, what I hear is, “We are concerned, we are frustrated, and we are scared. We are also hopeful, we are activated, we are galvanized, we are powerful, and we are resilient.”
As CEO, I have a responsibility to listen intentionally, to bring these learnings back to Out & Equal, and to leverage those insights and experiences to position us to both meet the moment we are in now and drive the movement forward.
The Summit theme We Are meets us where we are now and encapsulates where we are going. It shows that we are a community evolving and still becoming. It’s a reminder of the progress we’ve made and the progress we must continue to fight for. It’s a rallying cry to inspire and to activate. We Are a community that is smarter, stronger, and more united than ever before. We Are a force that cannot and will not be stopped.
As you look at Summit week, what can we expect? What are you most excited for?
Summit is a powerful and uniquely transformative experience. I know this firsthand and have shared many times that my first Summit left an indelible impact on my life and career. Moving from attendee to Out & Equal Board member to CEO, I’m not surprised that the term “transformative” is used so often to describe the Summit experience. That experience is made possible by thousands of hours invested across months of planning by some of the most dedicated and determined employees. It is made possible by our Partner community, influential thought leaders, and global subject matter experts who come together every year to create a convening that drives real, measurable, and lasting change in the workplace and our communities.
Our community is gathering once again, this time under unique and challenging circumstances. Over the course of the week, we’ll celebrate and honor what we’ve all fought so hard for—what we are all still fighting for. I’m excited to highlight the voices, the visionaries, and the changemakers who are building a more equitable future for us all.
Through Summit and the power of community, we’ll be reenergized. Together, we’ll underscore that our community will unite and win in the face of adversity, and that no bigoted legislation or rhetoric will stop us from reaching our full potential.
Out & Equal is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As you reflect on its history, how does that inform your vision for the future?
Over our 25-year history, Out & Equal has built partnerships to create more inclusive and equitable work for LGBTQ+ people. We’ve established convenings that allow our collective community to come together in authentic spaces where difference is valued and not feared. We’ve shared experiences, have collaborated on solutions that have advanced the cause of workplace equity, and we’ve developed tools and resources that have empowered and informed allies and changemakers.
Today, through our mission and work, we continue building a community of, with, and for Partners who are committed to advancing representation, inclusion, equity, and belonging in the workplace and the broader world. We are achieving global impact by driving local change each and every day.
We are in and addressing the moment while building a future where everyone is valued equitably for who they authentically are. That’s the business of Out & Equal. That is the business of belonging.
And now, there is an even greater urgency to our mission.
We remain committed to fighting forward, building on the progress we’ve made, showing up for our collective community, reminding the world of our resilience and strength, and creating meaningful change for us all.