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Mar 2016

Why we need Out Women in Business

Posted by / in Blog, LGBTQ BUSINESS STUDENT BLOG, Uncategorized / No comments yet

Can you name a woman at the top of her field? We’ll give you a few seconds. While you think, here’s some Wonder Woman.

wonder woman gif

Got one in your mind? Good. Here’s just a few guesses on where your brain wandered. Maybe you went political and thought of Hillary Clinton or Angela Merkel. Perhaps your mind went to the business world and thought of Mary Barra or Indra Nooyi – the CEOs of GM and PepsiCo, respectively. Maybe you even thought about music, and Katy Perry or Beyoncé came to mind. These women are admirable and accomplished, breaking glass ceilings whenever they face them. In addition to all being women, they have something else in common: they’re all straight (at least as far as we know).

Lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LBTQ) women are woefully underrepresented in business. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I have no doubt that LBTQ women are well-represented; they’re just not out at work. That’s understandable given the well-established evidence that women and LGBTQ people both face potential discrimination in the workplace. The data on LGBTQ people of color and employment is even more stark. But none of this will change unless we work together, as a community, to make sure that people can be out at work. Non-discrimination protection is key, but so is creating a strong network of LBTQ women to lean on for support, guidance, and development on how to be out at work. That’s where the Out Women in Business (OWIB) Conference comes in.

On April 1, we’ll meet in New York at OWIB to create a more united and visible community of out women in different industries. Together, we can form a strong, visible network of professionals that will inspire future generations of LBTQ women. Come and learn from some incredible speakers as they share their experiences of being out at work. Let’s change those statistics about LBTQ women and unemployment. Let’s work as a community to be more out, more present at work. Let’s turn the “double glass ceiling” narrative on its head. Register here for OWIB and build the world we want to live and work in.


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Feb 2015

LGBT MBA Event: Cluster Q’s “And Then There Were Two: Where Are All The Gay CEOs”

Posted by / in LGBTQ BUSINESS STUDENT BLOG / No comments yet

In April 2014, Apple CEO Tim Cook told the world, “I’m proud to be gay.”  Here at Columbia Business School (CBS), we asked, how many other CEOs can you name that have said the same?

Cluster Q, Columbia Business School’s LGBT business association and ROMBA affiliate, in cooperation with the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Student Leadership and Ethics Board (SLEB) invited the only two other openly gay CEOs of publicly-traded companies, Trevor Burgess of C1 Financial and Jason Grenfell-Gardner of IGI Laboratories, along with out New York Times business columnist and Pulitzer-prize winner James B. Stewart to a panel discussion to discuss. The event, entitled “And Then There Were Two: Where Are All The Gay CEOs?” was moderated by CBS student and SLEB member Niamh (“Nev”) Sweeney ’15.

Stewart, Burgess and Grenfell-Gardner shared their experiences and gave their views on one of the most powerful, lingering taboos of the American C-suite before a packed room at Columbia’s Warren Hall filled with LGBT students, faculty, staff and allies. One of the biggest topics of discussion was the difference between public figures that are openly LGBT in their personal lives and those that go beyond to be out to the general public. “That’s the litmus test,” said James Stewart, who has written many articles about LGBT executives. “Are people willing to have their names in The New York Times as being gay?”

Grenfell-Gardner was among the first to congratulate Burgess when he rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on the day C1 Financial went public. His message was short but to the point: “And then there were two.” Burgess says being gay has never hampered him, and in fact that he was named “Community Banker of the Year” in 2014 by American Banker in part because of the magazine’s admiration of his courage to be open about his sexual orientation. Grenfell-Gardner commented that he believes that nondiscrimination protections in the workplace at the federal level will continue to be essential as more and more people come out, particularly given that any discussion of personal life at work inevitably involves mention of a significant other or spouse. Burgess dryly commented that “My ‘homosexual agenda’ is living my life. It really has nothing to do with anyone else.”

The event ended with a question: What can MBAs do to help enact change? The answer, echoed by all three panelists: “Demonstrate constantly to people that their prejudices are wrong.”

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