Equality Florida Says ‘Equality Means Business’ in Newest Push

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On Thursday, Sept. 12, Equality Florida will host Equality Means Business, a roundtable showcasing local business VIPs who’ll discuss how workplace diversity and protection have made them, well, richer.

“Openness to diversity is a driving factor in decisions about where people choose to live and where corporations choose to relocate or expand their operations,” said Nadine Smith, executive director of Equality Florida.  “Business leaders today are not only taking a closer look at their internal policies, they also are looking at the quality of life in the communities in which their increasingly diverse workforce must live.”

Simply put, the market is competitive. Talent seeks value, and companies who protect diversity can offer that value. That’s according to Florida’s state rep. Joe Saunders, the director of Equality Means Business.

‘The purpose of Equality Means Business is to prove Florida’s national and international reputation as a state that’s inclusive of LGBT families,” Saunders told SFGN. “There are competing narratives in Florida: Some people say it’s a leading voice on LGBT rights. In another vein, it’s populated by some of the leading voices in the private sectors that promote the economic benefit of inclusion.”

Florida-based AutoNation announced that they would afford full rights to legally married gay couples even in states that did not recognize the marriages.

The central premise if that “employees go to places where they feel safe. We’re in a moment in time where companies are competing aggressively for talented people. Their success has everything to do with the companies’ willingness to celebrate diversity,” Saunders said.

According to the 2013 Corporate Equality Index, for the first time in history, a majority of Fortune 500 companies offer both sexual orientation and gender identity protections. Saunders says it’s just logical business practice these days.

“What’s interesting about this program — while it seeks to help businesses move along, that’s secondary — what we really want to do is touch base with the people who are already leading the way on this,” he said. “There are major companies in Florida who’ve gone as far as they can to protect their diverse employees. We want to break that conversation open and make sure other companies know what happens when these leaders protect their employees.”

Speaking will be Nadine Smith, Joe Saunders, Dawn Ozanne (Florida Blue’s director of relationship management office), Cathryn Oakley (author of the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index) and Pat Kimberly (Wells Fargo’s senior vice president).

“We must work harder to ensure that the business community realizes the importance of incorporating policies of inclusion, so that we can continue to attract the best and the brightest,” said Fort Lauderdale mayor Jack Seiler, who openly supports civil unions but hasn’t come out one way or the other about same-sex marriage, making his comment more than interesting.

For more information, go to equalitymeansbusiness.org.

If You Go
Equality Means Business Roundtable
When: Thursday, Sept. 12, 11:30 a.m.
Where: Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six
2301 SE 17th St.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
How Much: Free, and there’s lunch
More info: equalitymeansbusiness.org.

Written by: Jacob Long/ South Florida Gay News

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