Promoting Business and Workplace Equality for ALL Diverse Segments
Promoting Business and Workplace Equality for ALL Diverse Segments

Categories: Employment

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By Guest Blogger Sam McClure, Vice President of Affiliate Relations and External Affairs, National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce

I started my current job four years ago, relocating to Washington, D.C. from the Twin Cities, where I was the executive director of the local affiliate of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC). To say I was thrilled is an understatement; I couldn’t wait to put the knowledge I learned at the local and regional levels to work on a national scale.

As I did, I experienced a big shift in thinking. I began to see my work as an advocate for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) business and workplace equality through a much larger lens: that of an advocate for business and workplace equality for all diverse segments. One thing that really drove this home for me was our membership in the Campaign for Disability Employment (CDE), a multi-organization collaborative, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), which works to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities.

When I tell people about NGLCC’s involvement in this campaign, I sometimes get quizzical looks. Some might say that our work and that of the CDE do not have a lot in common, but I firmly believe they do—because our work is about more than promoting opportunities for LGBT-owned businesses. It’s about strengthening America’s business landscape through diverse perspectives—and disability is another important voice to have at the table.

This is true for all businesses, including those in NGLCC’s network. That’s why in 2011, we also signed on as lead business partner on the California-based Consortium formed under ODEP’s Add Us In initiative. Add Us In is a community-based grant program that works to identify and develop strategies to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities from historically-excluded communities with small businesses, including those owned and operated by diverse individuals. And that’s where we come in.

Last year, the Consortium launched a summer internship program that matches college students and recent graduates with disabilities with small businesses up and down California through partnerships with local NGLCC affiliate chambers and our certified LGBT Business Enterprises (LGBTBEs), that is, businesses certified to be 51 percent owned by LGBT people. And we had great results; we placed all 10 interns and one internship was converted into a part-time hire at the conclusion of the paid internship.

Participating employers represented the breadth and depth—in one case literally—of California’s small business community. For example, three interns worked at Sail Jada Charters, LLC, where they helped organize chartered sailing tours out of San Diego (now that’s my kind of internship!). Two others, one a journalism major and one a business marketing major, had the opportunity to experience the daily workings of a Sacramento-based public relations and marketing firm, WriteAway Communications Services.

At the end of the summer, we received very positive feedback from both of the interns and their employers. In fact, this year, every business that participated last year has signed on to do so again, and the program is expanding to include spring and fall paid internships, as well as summer placements. That means more opportunity for young people with disabilities to gain valuable work experience and, just as important, more opportunities for small businesses—including NGLCC’s constituents—to benefit from their skills, talents and diverse perspectives. From our perspective, it’s the ultimate win-win.

As vice president of affiliate and external relations for the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Sam McClure liaises with 35 U.S.-based and 16 international LGBT chambers. Driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for community and economic development, she is a passionate advocate for the LGBT community and a champion of business equality for all people, including people with disabilities.  She is the 2013 recipient of the National Disability Leadership Award from the World Institute on Disability (WID).

5 Responses to Promoting Business and Workplace Equality for ALL Diverse Segments

  1. Linda L says:

    Hello: I just discovered this site and it is very informative because many disabled people feel they have nowhere to turn or hide away in the shadows in dread of “That” question. Funny thing that regardless of race, creed or background we all feel the same about our disability and how it has affected our lives.

    I appreciate every effort expended by those working so hard to change the picture of disability and the ingrained view that “disabled” means an adult with a developmental conditions because that view has never been an accurate picture of disability – yes there are many people disabled by congenital conditions and they deserve respect and appreciation for their skills and abilities however, millions of adults are disabled mid-career from accidents and illnesses and the overwhelming majority are experienced, educated and skilled workers still perfectly capable of leading productive work lives and bring skill and dedication to doing a good job to the table just like “able-bodied” employees. I remember reading last year somewhere that there are now over 23 million disabled adults in the U.S. and only 10% of them have been able to find meaningful work – and to me that means employers have millions of skilled, experienced workers to choose from when hiring the “disabled”.

    I believe this blog is a sign that perceptions of disability are changing and so are opportunities for the disabled. Thanks!

  2. TOm says:

    I have lost a lot of my self esteem because of my disability. However, before this cognitive impairment showed itself the light of day, I had already come out in a very small college in the Upper Midwest. I had lots of support. Upon entering the work world, my disability lead to many dead ends. I picked myself up and marched “to a different drummer”. Having a strong family and good mentors was tantamount in my recovery and engagement in society. It is different when you are gay identified living with schizophrenia, but a life to be warmly embraced.

  3. Patrice M. says:

    I accepted taking care of my disabled son through the DADprogram. They took away my disability benefits after they said they would not. I dont know what to do.Any ideas?

  4. john says:

    Hiring people with disability should be improved especially the qualified people. Regardless race,creed,or origin. We are all one on the face our allmighty God. Ke up with th

  5. Paula S. says:

    Thank you so much for including disability as one aspect of many in diversity initiatives. As an individual from the disability community, both personally and professionally, I often note that corporate diversity initiatives are inclusive of race, gender and LGBT, but not disability. I very much appreciated your comment, “It’s about strengthening America’s business landscape through diverse perspectives—and disability is another important voice to have at the table.”

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