Pride in Your Work

Atlanta business leaders talk about inclusion.
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Stroll across Midtown’s bustling, iconic rainbow crosswalks, and you’ll begin to see why Atlanta has earned a reputation as a proud LGBTQ haven. But the city’s welcoming nature extends beyond the brightly painted streets: These days, the Atlanta business community is embracing LGBTQ inclusion as never before. Organizations of all sizes have deepened their commitment to queer and trans people, developing DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) initiatives that engage LGBTQ employees, their families, and their communities, and providing support for projects focused on queer liberation.

Atlanta’s business leaders know authentic inclusion is good for everyone. The percentage of Americans identifying as LGBTQ is growing exponentially, according to a 2022 Gallup report, and the Pew Research Center shows a new generation of talent entering the workforce boasting more racial, gender, and sexual orientation diversity than ever before. Plus, with a trillion dollars of purchasing power, the LGBTQ community plays an increasingly pivotal role in the nation’s economy, as reported by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

To discuss LGBTQ inclusion in Atlanta’s professional communities, we reached out to DEI leaders from a diverse array of local businesses and organizations, to learn more about what they’re doing to support their LGBTQ employees, neighbors, and fellow Atlantans.

 

What kinds of DEI initiatives has your organization launched on behalf of your own LGBTQ employees/team members?

Tonya Adams, U.S. Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead, UCB Pharmaceutical: UCB+ is an Employee Resource Group that was created to contribute and nurture an open, inclusive, and safe environment for LGBTQ employees and allies at UCB and in the greater community. The group aims to ensure equity in policy and practice and that everyone feels valued regardless of their sexual orientation and gender expression.

Felix B. Turner, Corporate Affairs Manager, The Kroger Co.: The Kroger Co. recently received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2020 Corporate Equality Index, in recognition of our commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and equality. We’re proud to offer same-sex partner benefits and transgender-inclusive healthcare, and strong alliances with LGBTQ suppliers through our partnership with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Lace Walker, Director of Inclusion, Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD): SCAD’s DEI efforts are intersectional, and include LGBTQ initiatives with the goal of cultivating an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging throughout all of SCAD. We’ve added gender-inclusive restrooms across all SCAD locations. The SCAD community has the option to add pronouns to name tags and business cards, and can select to be identified by their preferred name in our database. University-sanctioned workshops are offered to SCAD faculty, staff, and students in order to educate the community on LGBTQ terminology and how to be an ally.

Clara Green, Executive Vice President, Head of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Regions Bank: Regions earned a top score on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, meriting the distinction of being among the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ Equality.” Furthermore, Regions holds a Week of Understanding each summer, providing a dedicated time for associates to gather and have intentional conversations around allyship and support of marginalized groups.

MyKhanh Shelton, SVP Diversity, Equity + Inclusion, Warner Media: In support of transgender and non-binary employees, and to foster an equitable and inclusive workplace for all, Warner Bros. Discovery established the company’s Gender-Affirming Guidelines, which were created to promote the rights of people of all gender identities and expressions and empower all employees to be allies. In 2021, CNN launched “The First Time I Realized I Was . . .”—an internal series for people to share personal reflections on their social identities. The beauty of this series is that we celebrate identity and learn from each other.

 

What kinds of DEI initiatives have you launched to connect with the wider LGBTQ community beyond your organization?

Joseph Lee, DE&I Manager, Southern Company Gas: During this Pride Month 2022, we invited Tina Madison White, the executive director of the Blue Ridge Pride Center and a board member of the Human Rights Campaign, to give an engaging talk to our employees about the transgender community and how to become better allies in the workplace.

Adams, UCB: Over the past few years, UCB has made it a point to connect with and participate in local activities, like the LGBTQ Pride Festival and Parade, and work with a local LGBTQ charity to benefit displaced LGBTQ youth.

Walker, SCAD: At our recent SCAD GamingFest, one of the most insightful sessions was dedicated to “Inclusivity in Character Design in Gaming,” about fostering diversity through digital storytelling and gaming.

 

How does diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity benefit your organization?

Shelton, Warner Media: If we create a safe and supportive space for historically marginalized communities, many of whom identify as LGBTQ, we will make a safe and welcoming environment for everyone. If we work from the margins, we will ensure that we are meeting the needs of our entire workforce.

Lee, Southern Company: An LGBTQ friendly workplace creates a culture that increases job satisfaction, creates more positive relationships with team members, reduces workplace stress, and improves the overall mental and physical health of our employees. All this in turn drives innovation and the keys to our overall success. What feedback have you received from LGBTQ employees about their experience at your organization, and how have you responded?

Turner, Kroger: The feedback has been extremely positive, and we are continuing to seek new ideas through our associate resource group, community partners, and suppliers. Feedback we’ve heard: “I’m empowered by the fact that I can model and show associates, no matter their sexual orientation or background, that they can grow and succeed in Kroger.”

 

What challenges remain to creating a fully inclusive workplace for your LGBTQ employees?

Turner, Kroger: How to create even more opportunities to engage associates, community partners, suppliers, and external stakeholders.

 

Atlanta is a city rich in diversity, including racial and ethnic diversity, as well as differences in ender identity and sexual orientation. How does Atlanta’s diversity impact your organization?

Walker, SCAD: SCAD’s diversity reflects Atlanta’s diversity. As the global leader in art and design education, the SCAD community reflects a diversity of representation and identity from across a broad spectrum of the local community, nationally and internationally.

Turner, Kroger: Through our Framework for Action, Kroger is committed to standing together and mobilizing our people, passion, scale, and resources to transform our culture and our communities. Atlanta’s diversity helps drive this commitment.

 

Corporations and institutions can be powerful advocates for change: What’s one way your organization has used your voice on behalf of marginalized communities?

Adams, UCB: UCB continues to support the Atlanta Pride Festival, which has provided a venue for us to communicate the importance of patient education and the need for increased diversity in clinical trials. These are all important topics that need to be discussed so that underserved and underrepresented communities can build trust with their providers and have more meaningful conversations about their
treatment journey.

 

It’s time for the Pride Parade, and you have an unlimited budget for your organization’s float! What does it look like?

Shelton, Warner Media: If we had an unlimited budget for our organization’s Pride Parade float, we would cover it in Swarovski crystals featuring Pride flag colors. It would have a long runway down the middle featuring the stars of our hit voguing reality competition series, Legendary. We’d have side car floats representing some
of our wonderful community partners, including the Trevor Project and the TransLatin@ Coalition.

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