Last week, I represented ACC as a sponsor of the National LGBT Bar Association’s 2012 Lavender Law Conference & Career Fair. The event exposed me to difficult realities that I often unintentionally overlook as a straight woman. The military uniforms seated around me took on new, even heavier significance, for example, during Attorney General Eric Holder’s keynote speech about federal LGBT reforms. This was one of my countless “aha” moments at Lavender Law. Another was during its Corporate Counsel Division meeting.
The National LGBT Bar’s Corporate Counsel Division has more than 300 members. At its meeting, attendees shared legal department LGBT initiatives and best practices. They represented institutions that ranged from progressive to less advanced in their offerings of LGBT policies and programs. One corporate counsel who works for a traditionally more conservative company said his recent efforts are focused on recruiting straight allies. He plans to host a straight ally panel during which straight senior leaders from other companies will explain their LGBT programs, and why they are important.
At Lavender Law, I learned that many law departments with highly successful LGBT programs leverage their straight allies. At GlaxoSmithKline, Vice President Ted Furman is a straight ally and the executive sponsor of the company’s LGBT Employer Resource Group. Filling this position inspires curiosity in his straight colleagues about why he cares to be so involved. His answer: “I don’t like bullies, and it’s easy to see the LGBT community is further back in the diversity curve. It’s the only group political candidates still run against. As a straight, white guy, I have the responsibility to be an ally, and even on the busiest days, I can’t walk away from it.”
The Division meeting was one of Lavender Law’s many “in-house focused” programs that aimed to address both substantive corporate legal topics and LGBT-related issues. This year, the conference hosted its first Corporate Counsel Institute, during which ACC’s President & CEO Veta T. Richardson and Director of Legal Management Services Catherine Moynihan presented on “Controlling Costs.”
After the Institute, I chatted with National LGBT Bar board member Barry Parsons, who is associate general counsel at Freddie Mac. When I explained that the conference had enlightened me on what it meant to be a straight ally, he looked to Richardson and said: “If you are interested in that, talk to your President.” Parsons explained that during her tenure at MCCA, Richardson expanded the discussion of diversity beyond race and ethnicity, to include LGBT issues — a major breakthrough for the community at the turn of the century. She covered LGBT issues in MCCA’s magazine, Diversity & the Bar, which gave community members a safe space to start conversations in their own work places.
It’s inspiring to work for an organization whose leadership prioritizes supporting the LGBT community and other minority groups. As a contributor and sponsor of Lavender Law and the Out & Proud Corporate Counsel reception, ACC is an ally-bar to the National LGBT Bar. Of our own organization, Richardson says, “ACC has a strong internal story to tell and has a history of being a welcoming organization. We value the diversity of our membership and look forward to supporting the LGBT Bar in the future.”
For more information on the LGBT Bar’s Corporate Counsel Division efforts, and for guidance on corporate LGBT programming, visit www.lgbtbar.org/attorney-groups/corporatecounsel.