Out & Equal Workplace Summit Includes Bisexuality

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The Out and Equal Workplace Summit took place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, Texas October 25-28, 2011. Over 2,500 human resources and diversity professionals, employee resource groups and LGBT people and allies gathered and shared their best practices and ideas for creating workplaces where all people are safe, accepted, and valued.

In 2010, the Out and Equal Summit featured panel presentation on Bisexuality which was well-attended. Subsequently, a Bisexual Advisory Committee was formed to enhance and encourage inclusion of Bi-related workshops and resources. The Advisory Committee is chaired by Researcher Heidi Bruins Green and includes: Amy Andre, Brent Chamberlain, Luigi Ferrer, Susan Gore, Marie Hartung, Gary North, Robyn Ochs, Denise Penn, Ellyn Ruthstrom, Dani Siragusa, and Lindasusan Ulrich.

As a result, there were actually eight bi-focused workshops, which were well-attended by human resource professionals, Employee Resource Group leaders and others at the 2011 Summit. An “Experts Panel” on bisexuality was also part of the program.

 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.

Andy Cohen, Bravo’s Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development, applauded the large number of LGBT 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.

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.”

 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.

 Out & Equal Workplace Advocates is committed to ending employment discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees. We believe that people should be judged by the work they do, not by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Every day, we work to protect and empower employees to be productive and successful—so they can support themselves, their families, and contribute to achieving a world free of discrimination for everyone. For more information, visit their website at http://outandequal.org

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About Author

Denise Penn

Denise Penn is a Southern California-based journalist who has covered issues for the LGBT and HIV-affected community for nearly two decades. While an investigative reporter for the Blade Newsmagazine, her coverage of hate crimes became part of Congressional records. She served as News Editor for the Lesbian News and has contributed to In Los Angeles Magazine, EDGE, and many others. She is also a clinical social worker and brings that perspective to her articles. She produced and hosted an award-winning community television program in Long Beach, California for 12 years.

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