HRC Holds Back-to-Back LGBTQ Workplace Inclusion Summits in Alabama

Last week, HRC Alabama hosted back-to-back LGBTQ Workplace Inclusion Summits in Huntsville and Birmingham. Attendees representing area businesses explored the business and economic development case for LGBTQ equality.

For the Huntsville summit, Deena Fidas, the Director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program, opened with discussion on the history and impact of the HRC Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI is HRC’s national survey and benchmarking tool on corporate policies and practices pertinent to LGBTQ employees. In the 2016 CEI report, 407 major businesses — spanning nearly every industry and geography — earned a top score of 100 percent and the distinction of “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” The Huntsville Workplace Inclusion Summit reviewed the CEI and the corresponding business case for inclusion highlighting the business drivers for equality including the talent imperative for recruiting and retaining employees, full employee employee engagement and productivity and access to fair-minded consumers and investors.

After the learning session on the CEI, Fidas facilitated a panel discussion that included Wayne Hutchens, Assistant Vice President of Legislative and Regulatory Affairs for AT&T Alabama, Steve Kester, State & Local Government Affairs at Apple, and Dr. Deborah Barnhart, Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. The panel kicked off with a viewing of  AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson’s speech given to the company’s employee network groups discussing the Black Lives Matter movement which highlights the ever growing business commitment to social justice issues.

The panelists discussed Stephenson’s speech and how the tone of an inclusive environment is set at the top with strong leadership striving for diversity and inclusion. The panelists also shared insight into the evolution of the conversation on LGBTQ inclusion in Alabama, the “talent” case for inclusion, what it really means for employees to bring their full selves to work and how that case benefits a business or organization. Fidas used a first-person story of a former colleague who transitioned in the workplace to illustrate lessons learned from that experience and the power of creating workplaces that welcome everyone’s authentic self.

The next day, HRC headed to Birmingham where the first Alabama LGBTQ Workplace Inclusion Summit was held last year with Federal Club Council member, Fergus Tuohy, and Federal Club member, Katherine Bland, serving as event co-chairs.

In Birmingham, Fidas moderated a panel of experts from Alabama Power, Apple, BBVA Compass and S.S. Nesbitt & Co. who shared their experiences and first-hand learning with inclusion. The panel included executives Jonathan Porter, Vice President of the Birmingham Division for Alabama Power, Steve Kester, State & Local Government Affairs at Apple, Melodi Morrissette, Community Relations of the East Division for BBVA Compass, and Forrest Cook, Senior Human Resources and Benefits Consultant for S.S. Nesbitt & Co. The panelists shared lessons learned from the journey of diversity and inclusion efforts at their respective companies, how to tackle the conversations of current news – whether it’s anti-LGBT legislation, violence against transgender Americans, or the Black Lives Matter movement – and the road to success in implementing LGBTQ public policy initiatives. 

After the panel discussion on each day, attendees participated in interactive sessions on how to make the business case for equality and explored the challenges, opportunities and tools for change. The conference ended with one-on-one meetings for companies and municipalities to learn more about the business and economic development case for equality.

Deena Fidas at HRC's Alabama Workplace Summit

Pictured above: Deena Fidas at HRC’s Alabama Workplace Summit

For more information and resources on LGBTQ workplace inclusion visit: