A year on Zoom

July 2020 to June 2021: my year of LGBTQ+ advocacy in Business

Looking back at Out Leadership’s past 12 months of advocacy

The LGBTQ+ world has its own fiscal year from Pride to Pride. Here are some highlights of our work at the intersection of business and the movement.

Quorum. We championed LGBTQ+ inclusion in the Board Diversity section of H.R.1187Corporate Governance Improvement and Investor Protection Act, a governance Bill which passed the house in June 2021. We supported the NASDAQ SEC proposal which would mandate diverse Board members including on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. We finalized partnership with Equilar and Eghon Zehnder and strengthened ties with other Board diversity actors such as the NACD or the Society for Corporate Governance. We participated in talks on Board diversity: Women Business Collaborative (see April talk), LCDA, the ABA, How Women Lead, SVLG and the Out & Equal Executive Forum (Why 2021 Might be a Turning Point for LGBTQ+ Board Representation and How Can ERGs Support This Trend?). We completed a dozen Board searches for recruiters or directly for companies. We onboarded new Quorum candidates. We reached out to General Counsels and Corporate secretaries encouraging them to disclose the sexual orientation gender identity of their Board members in their companies’ proxy statements. We placed our top candidates on the Agenda Diversity 100 and made our own list of the top 10 Board-ready LGBTQ+ candidates. We published content throughout the year including on Forbes with LCDA, Forbes on AB979, Business Insider, Estado de Sao Paulo etc.. We collaborated with the Human Rights Campaign on the inclusion of Board diversity reporting as part of the Corporate Equality Index (CEI) starting in 2022.

With Amb. Gifford on IDAHOBIT With ICWA

US Government Engagement. We engaged the Biden administration with a transition memo, shared expression of support for LGBTQ+ appointments at Treasury, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. In particular, we championed the appointment of Chantale Wong as ADB ED, the US first lesbian ambassador ever. We participated in a briefing for the department of Commerce, organized by CGE, and organized one for Treasury in June 2021. At the Congress level, we engaged the Equality Caucus repeatedly on H.R. 1187 and supported Representative Ritchie Torres’ bill H.R. 1443 on Access to credit for LGBTQ+-owned businesses which passed. We hosted civil society organizations for a roundtable on the response to the plethora of anti-trans bills at the state level in April 2021. We organized a meeting between the Human Rights Campaign and businesses not yet part of the Business coalition for the Equality act.

At Outright’s online fundraiser

Foreign Government Engagement. We reached out to the President of Kosovo regarding the new civil code and same-sex marriage (Letter to Her Excellency Vjosa Osmani) or the Ministry of Interior in Ghana on the arbitrary arrest of 21 LGBTQ+ activities (Letter to The Honorable Ambrose Dery). We supported the Liberal-Democrats in rolling out their “Protect our Twins” campaign at the local level in Poland. We encouraged our companies to join LLAN’s Viewpoint on marriage equality in Japan. We also launched the revamping of our global CEO Country Briefs.

Global Pulse for Equality newsletter. On Wednesdays we distributed an exclusive weekly newsletter summarizing current developments at the intersection of business and human rights. The audience grew to 4500 subscribers from the activist and business world, LGBTQ+ leaders.

Global Pulse for Equality Events. In addition to regular programming as part of OutNext, OutWomen or ProudlyResilient, we hosted smaller focused-events such as Italy with Parks & Diversity (March 2021), trans issues in August (Europe and Feminism, March 2021), small group conversation on the Middle East

Editorial Content. On Insights for the first part of 2021, we published regular posts on Inclusive language, Free Speech, IDAHOBIT, H.R. 1443, the passing of Patrick O’Connell, and interviews with leaders such as Alexander Dmitrenko (Japan), Julie Tarney, Amarildo Fecanji (Balkans/Turkey), Ashley Brundage, Igor Suran (Italy) Pink Washing, the Equality Act etc…In the last 6 months of 2020 we wrote about our transition memo efforts, “why neurodivergence is also an LGBTQ+ topic”, SCOTUS Statement on Marriage Equality, the Pope’s comments, the Coming Out experience, the Polish situation, the impact of Covid19, the community’s response to BLM, the status of “freedom of religion” bills along with interviews on Brazil, Spain, Mauritius or Argentina.

Global Community Engagement. I was interviewed on topics such as crypto-currency (Can Blockchain Safeguard the Rights of At-Risk LGBT People?”) or impact investing . Was named among Attitude Magazine 101 in December 2020 and was very honored to receive the East Meets West Individual award in June 2021. I was featured on the cover of DiverCity magazine in Italy and in new books by Lee Badgett (The Economic Case for LGBT Equality)
and Jens Schadendorf (GaYme Changer). I had the pleasure to contribute to L’Oréal Global D&I Advisory Board and continued serving on the Women’s Forum Editorial Board. I moderated the Coming out in Tech event in October 2020, recorded the keynote speech for the Czech Pride Business Forum (see article). We held a session in India at Rise 2021 by Pride Circle with Stonewall UK (May 2021) and joined the 7th International East meets West Conference on June 17th. Spoke in front of Prof. Andrew Reynolds’ Princeton Identity and Representation class.. I also joined two new non-profit Boards in 2020/2021: Fondation Emergence in Canada and Trans New York in addition to my current roles with Housing Works, Outright, IDAHOBIT (Treasurer), Witness to Mass Incarceration (President) and the Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA). I represented Out Leadership on the Advisory Board of the Columbia University Trans Employment research project and the Global Equality Fund Partners Forum. I set up and fundraised for the David Mixner ICWA Fellowship. For Pride, we contributed to a WWD article on progress in the Fashion industry. For Copenhagen 2021 I was part of Odyssey for Equality, L’Autre Cercle’s project on the future of inclusive workplaces. We also featured LGBTQ+ leaders and their families as part of an OL campaign (Out Leadership celebrates LGBTQ+ families on Instagram) featuring key activists and allies in the community.

2021 should be an easier year. With a bit of luck, my wonderful sons might even be able to return to school and learn something and I will resume travel. But with or without the twins at home, I look forward to continuing focusing on elevating LGBTQ+ professionals to the C-suite and Corporate Boards and to build stronger connections between the Business World and the global LGBTQ+ equality movement.

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Fabrice Houdart

Fabrice Houdart

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Fabrice is on the Board of Outright Action International. Previously he was an officer at the UN Human Rights Office and World Bank