Reflections from the Triangle Business Journal Leaders in Diversity Awards

I received a “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award from TBJ publisher Bryan M. Hamilton and PNC Bank Regional President Paula K. Fryland. (Photography courtesy of Triangle Business Journal | Dathan Kazsuk)

I received a “Leader in Diversity – Role Model” award from TBJ publisher Bryan M. Hamilton and PNC Bank Regional President Paula K. Fryland. (Photography courtesy of Triangle Business Journal | Dathan Kazsuk)

On Thursday, September 12, I was honored along with several other awardees at a luncheon held by the Triangle (NC) Business Journal for their inaugural “Leaders in Diversity” Awards. I received the “role model”and was cited specifically for my leadership for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Diversity work during my 31-year career at IBM, now as the President and Founder of Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer and in various community activities. Other honorees included small, medium and large companies as well as individuals from corporate and non-profit settings. And the winners themselves were quite diverse: women and men, older and younger, various racial and cultural backgrounds, even a woman from Iran who formed a construction engineering firm. (Link to list of all winners.) Additional link: my own award interview.

I feel this kind of recognition is very important. Not only does it encourage those doing the often difficult diversity work to stay diligent, it also signals to the larger community that rigorously pursuing diversity is very critical to economic growth and success in our communities.

The lifetime achievement award was given to retired University of North Carolina basketball Coach Dean Smith. What is special about Coach Smith is that he strongly supported diversity without a lot of fanfare simply as a core value of his life and coaching philosophy. He was a leader in college sports for racial integration of college teams, and was known for individually focusing on every single player he coached to help them maximize their growth both as an athlete and a person. Assisting others to reach their full potential, particularly within a difficult environment, is a key facet of diversity and inclusion.

I also commend PNC Bank for stepping up as the lead sponsor for these awards. The PNC senior leader for all of Eastern North Carolina, Regional President Paula K. Fryland, was present to help hand out the awards as well as deliver a brief keynote address. Paula succinctly articulated the importance of diversity and inclusion as a core value of PNC and the tie to business success. She mentioned the importance and pursuing diversity with clients, employees, supplier and the community, and highlighted four PNC initiatives:
• Their 34 employee resources groups with over 6000 participants for engaging their workforce.
• Education efforts across all levels of PNC so that everyone understands the compelling business rationale for diversity and inclusion initiatives
• Recognizing the various diversity constituency months throughout the year to further engage employees and the community
• Investing financially in philanthropic such as their recent significant investments in North Carolina for early childhood education.

Even within the LGBT community, PNC Bank does follow through with their strategy; they are a corporate sponsor of the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), which promotes business development of LGBT-owned business in the US and globally.

PNC Bank and Triangle Business Journal – well done!

The Diversity and Housing Issues Connection – Part 2 of 2, Focus on LGBT

In last week’s blog, part 1 (link) I introduced the general topic of the strong connection between diversity work and housing issues, and highlighted many of the key points made at an all day Fair Housing Conference I had attended in the Spring.

This week I would like to expand on how housing issues impact the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community and provide links to some interesting stories and resources in this area.

Four main points:

1) There is no universal national protection for housing discrimination against LGBT people. Many people incorrectly and naively assume that LGBT people are offered the same protections against discrimination as people of different genders, races, religions, etc. In his closing speech at the 2013 Raleigh Fair Housing Conference, Bryan Greene from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development stated, “that it is quite remarkable that in today’s world, that the federal housing statute does not yet include sexual orientation, though some states and municipalities have added it.” Mr. Greene also shared that the US executive branch has issued a regulation that recipients of FHA grants, Section 8 and Public Housing Assistance cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation, which is a great step in the right direction.

2) In fact, there is serious housing discrimination against LGBT people. In June of this year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a study they commissioned in conjunction with the University of Albany, State University of New York. (link to article.) Some of the findings included wide spread discrimination in across almost every market, and that gay male couples experiences more discrimination than lesbian couples. (see also ABC news story)

Fountaingrove Lodge, an LGBT retirement community in Sonoma, California has a main building with multiple units and individual homes like this beautiful bungalow

Fountaingrove Lodge, an LGBT retirement community in Sonoma, California has a main building with multiple units and individual homes like this beautiful bungalow

3) A fast growing area of discussion is LGBT senior housing. Safe and affordable housing for LGBT seniors is a growing hot topic among advocates for aging LGBT populations. There are new projects across the country seeking to bring solutions to the table, especially where LGBT people will be totally accepted – for example even having same-gender partners being able to share a unit or room together and be provided LGBT-competent health services. The North Carolina LGBT bi-weekly paper QNotes featured an excellent detailed article (link) about this.

4) There is a growing number of LGBT-affirming housing solutions emerging in our country. Here are three example:

The Carol Woods Retirement Community, here in my own state of North Carolina, is a welcoming progressive community which even placed an ad recently in QNotes, North Carolina’s LGBT bi-weekly paper and invited me to speak to their staff and residents about LGBT diversity
• There was a full page ad in a recent Gay and Lesbian Review (bi-monthly magazine) for Fountaingrove Lodge, a new retirement community in California exclusively for the LGBT retirement community.
• Innovative real estate entrepreneurs Todd Shipman and Steve Strode (who I met at the 2013 NGLCC Leadership Conference) have formed rEqual (link), a business partner and advocacy group connecting professionals engaged in the real estate industry with the LGBT community. And the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) recently awarded a Diversity Grant to the Oregon Association of REALTORS® (OAR) to take rEqual from concept to reality.