This year, our OUTstanding Role Model Gala began with an energy like nothing I have experienced before. Within the room at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, were all four of our top role models from our 2018 LGBT+ Executive, Ally and Future Leaders lists; Jim Fitterling, Catherine P. Bessant, Antonio Zappulla, and Billy Kamberis. With them were hundreds of other leading LGBT+ executives, allies, and supporters, all coming together to celebrate the power of Role Models and amazing work being done towards workplace inclusion.
In the 6 years we have been producing our OUTstanding Role Model lists, I have only seen their importance and significance grow. What started as celebrating 50 LGBT+ executives has now grown into a whopping 230 incredible individuals who are changing the face of their organisations and inspiring thousands of others to be out and proud in business.
Seeing everyone from the stage on the night reminded me of just how far we have come. But as I listened to the inspiring words and personal stories of our brilliant speakers, it also became clear to me that there is still so much of the journey left to travel – and this is why our Role Models are so vital.
In talking about creating Openly – the world’s first global platform dedicated to coverage of under-reported LGBT+ news – Antonia Zapulla touched upon the places in the world where our rights as an LGBT+ community would be seen as impossible wishes from anyone who is brave enough to identify as LGBT+. Supporting that message, our top LGBT+ Future Leader, Billy Kamberis, encouraged us all to look after and support every single person within our community – from the L, to the G, B, T and +. The recent transphobic rhetoric on both sides of the Atlantic has made it so important that we all stand together shoulder-to-shoulder and do everything we can to support each other.
It also makes it ever more important to engage our allies. Catherine Bessant, top of this year’s Ally Executive list, is proof of just how powerful allies can be in driving major organisational change and in sharing her own personal story demonstrated how just one person can inspire another, who can go on to inspire hundreds or thousands or maybe even millions more.
However, if there was one message which resounded throughout the evening, it was spoken most eloquently by Jim Fitterling, CEO of The Dow Chemical Company and top of our list of 100 LGBT+ Executives 2018. “Being different should never be an obstacle to success”. Visible Role Models demonstrate this and leave no one in doubt that you can succeed in business while being true to your authentic self.
What made the amazing buzz around this year’s Gala and publishing of the OUTstanding 2018 LGBT+ Role Model lists so emotional for me is that it means we can take this message out to a bigger and bigger audience. Supported by our role models, their organisations, social media, and global reporting like my appearance on BBC News – more and more people get to see what they can be.
There are so many people that make this possible, that it would be impossible to thank them all here. However, this year’s fantastic Gala was only possible with the kind support of our headline sponsor The Dow Chemical Company, and sponsors Bank of America, Citi and Gilead. Not to mention, the entire INvolve team whose tireless efforts in promoting inclusion in workplaces across the world makes me so proud to lead the organisation both in the UK and from our newly established New York office.
Here’s looking forward to another year of incredible work.