What Owners Need to Know About an LGBTQ Friendly Workforce – Ed Patterson

What Owners Need to Know About an LGBTQ Friendly Workforce - Ed Patterson

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, has become a goal for many businesses, but what does it exactly mean? Are there real and tangible benefits of DE&I, or becoming an LGBTQ-friendly workforce? We sit down with Ed Patterson, Head of Global Communications for Hill+Knowlton, to talk about what companies should be doing today.

Rich: Our next guest has more than 20 years of experience in corporate communications, public relations, public affairs, diversity equity inclusion – aka – DE&I, and community relations. Throughout his career he has provided C-suite counsel to executives leading Fortune 500 and large privately held businesses.

Currently he serves as head of global communication and is a DE&I and LGBTQ strategist for Hill and Knowlton Strategies, an international communications consultancy. His prior experience includes communications and public affairs leadership roles with large public and private organizations, including the Madison Square Garden Company, Variative Corporation, Cox Enterprises, Adelman, and AT&T. His DE&I and LGBTQ+ activism and leadership include serving two terms on the National Board of Governors for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading LGBTQ+ organization, and is currently a member of the Victory Cabinet for the Victory Fund, an organization that works to put more LGBTQ+ Americans in public office.

We’re looking forward to diving into what owners need to know about LGBTQ+ members in the workforce with Ed Patterson. Ed welcome to the podcast.

Ed: Well, thank you, Rich. I appreciate it. And thank you Yury for having me. Glad we could have this conversation, it should be fun.

Rich: Absolutely.

Yury: We are looking forward to it. So Ed, I’m really curious, you are a DE&I and LGBTQ+ strategist. What does it mean exactly? Can you unpack that, please? And also, what does your day look like and what kind of projects do you work on?

Ed: Okay, well, we’re good. And I’ll try, there’s a lot of acronyms there, and I know that that sometimes can be a little bit of a tongue twister so I’ll try to make that easy for your listeners.

So my day job actually has really changed quite a bit. I would say probably in the last four or five months a lot of the things taking place here on the diversity front, in particularly on the racial injustice front, I lead global communications for the firms. So think of me as corporate communications for Hill and Knowlton. And we, like other organizations, are also evolving how we look at DE&I.

And for our clients I have been kind of pulled into a little bit more client work because of my background, as clients really kind of relook at what diversity equity inclusion looks like. And that’s from a racial perspective, that’s also from a sexual orientation gender. And what they’re really looking at is, what we help them with quite honestly, is how do you make both your workforce inclusive, and I also want to say productive workforce, but you’re your customers and all of your stakeholders, how do you not only put your image out there, but also how do you let them know that you’re committed to a diverse and inclusive workforce? And there’s a lot of stats and data, I know I shared some of that with y’all when we were planning for the call, but there’s a lot of proof points that a diverse workforce is a more productive workforce. There’s a lot of data out there that shows that public companies that are committed to diversity and inclusion are more profitable. And also on the customer side, they’re also seeing that particularly in the LGBTQ+ side that we have buying power and that we’re a customer that you should target, and whether you’re a small business or a large enterprise because we contribute quite a bit to the economy.

So I think when you’re looking at it from a marketing perspective, look at us as any kind of segment that you may target. There’s different ways that you do it. There’s different ways that you reach us. And there are different things that drive our buying and purchasing behavior from a workforce perspective.

I would just say that there has been push towards a more diverse and inclusive workforce in my career, probably over the last 15 or 20 years. The LGBTQ+ piece of it has been a challenge for some businesses, and I’ve worked for some very progressive organizations in my time, and even they are challenged by it. I like to use a good example is that the Human Rights Campaign, where I was serving on the board of governors, does a business equity index every year. And so essentially they ask companies questions about how they work and how they provide support for their LGBTQ+ workforce, as well as for their end customers.

And I use this as a compliment, it was not that long ago that Walmart did not even participate. Now Walmart is a 100%’er, and they are looked upon as a very progressive, welcoming company for LGBTQ+ employees. But also has really changed the way that LGBTQ+ buyers and consumers look at them as a place to purchase.

So what we’ve seen is a really big shift, probably I would say, in the last 10 to 12 years, on the way that companies and organizations look at the LGBTQ+ workforce and then look at us as a customer. So I guess a good way of saying we were not really in the mix a lot when DE&I came around, and I think now we are. And there’s a lot of reasons that I understand I may not agree with, but I certainly understand.

Rich: And speaking as a small business owner here in Maine, and this whole idea of DE&I, what are the end goals here? And as a business owner or as a Maine business, how can I make it part of my company’s DNA?

Ed: Right. So I will say first and foremost, that it always starts at the top. One thing, we use the term “greenwashing” when a company says they’re sustainable or their environmental and their actions don’t actually support their words. You can do that on our side. I’m not going to call it “rainbow washing”, but what I’m saying is that it has to start at the top, any good DE&I program. And we always do that. It’s funny, I was on a client call this morning and we were giving them some recommendations on some of their, they have a diversity inclusion council – a little bit larger organization, a midsize business – and I simply said, “Is the CEO going to drive this?” Because that’s when it matters.

So in your case Rich, for your organization, if you want to make that an inclusive workforce and make it welcoming to your LGBTQ+ employees and prospective employees, you also want your end customers, your suppliers and your vendors, to know that it starts with you. The mission and the values of the company, that inclusive starts with the CEO.

And I would say to small and growing businesses, and I say this as my husband here, that’s the reason why we moved here over a year ago. He came to work for a startup FinTech company. They have 12 employees, they have a CEO and she is adamant about how I think a diverse and inclusive workforce as any CEO I’ve worked with at a large organization.

And so I think that it starts at the top. You have to have a commitment to it. You have to have a plan in place. It’s not just June pride month that you do it, we’re customers and we’re employees all year round. And so I think it is in everything from your non-discrimination and inclusive policies that are public, it is in how you present yourself to prospective employees when you’re recruiting and retaining those people. It is what you do in your community. Coming from Atlanta and being in a. In a Southern state that was conservative, but in a very progressive city, um, those businesses that were seen as inclusive or those that were active in their community, they were visible within the LGBTQ community, they partner with them in different ways. So it’s starting with a commitment from your leadership and then determining exactly how you want to talk about that and communicate that and make that part of your everyday business.

And so when we set up and we do plans, I’m glad we’re doing this now because of this client that we work with, we were helping them set up a diversity council. They’re not an AT&T, they’re not that big. They do have a few offices around the country, so we were talking to them about how you set it up, what are the parameters, what is the mission, how are they going to give counsel to your CEOs, how are we going to recognize our workforce, how are we going to start changing our recruiting efforts so that we are recruiting a more diverse workforce, how do we reach the LGBTQ+ community, what is our public persona when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

When I do talk about the LGBTQ+ community, we do see ourselves as part of that whole kind of DE&I plan and programmatic for whatever programs you put into place. So think of those in that way. Think about if we gave them some counsel to, they needed to do some relationship building with HBCU because they really wanted to increase the number of African Americans and their workforce. And I said, well, what about some of your equality organizations and some of your markets that you work with? How could you fight with them? How could you find ways to recruit those individuals as well?

So I think that it starts with your CEO or your president, and you build plans around every piece of your business from your employees, to your customers, to your stakeholders. If you have supplier diversity, if you have plans that you can put into place, you’re going to work with vendors that have diversity within their ranks as well. And it just becomes something that you do on a day to day basis. It’s something that people see and they hear.

And I always say that don’t feel like you have to wave a rainbow flag everywhere you do people. We see it in the way that we work. We see in the way that we’re accepted in the workplace. One of the ways that you can tell that it’s working is people bring themselves to work. I spent up until I was 30, I never came out. I didn’t come out at work. And I worked for, for AT&T, which is the rest of the organization. I was a better worker. I was more productive. I will say my career picked up after I became my true self. So create a workplace where you welcome people to come in as their true self.

And Yury, you had mentioned something about this earlier before we got on the call, it’s not just in who we live with or who we’re married with, but it’s how we think. It’s the ideas and the creativity that we bring to our work every day and understand that when you bring LGBTQ+ folks in with African Americans, and women, and transgender individuals, you’re really going to get more creativity, more innovation in your workplace than if they all look alike. If you have 10 LGBTQ+ people in a room and no straight people in a room, it’s not going to work. And it just is the opposite. So I would just say, make a commitment to it for a small business and let small businesses look at some larger industries on how they’ve done it and they can actually mirror some of those things in their own workplace. And in some cases it can be a lot easier. You won’t have direct conversations.

Yury: These are great insights. And I also want to unpack the benefits of having the LGBTQ+ friendly workforce. Because the Center for American Progress finds that workplace discrimination against employees based on race, gender, or sexual orientation costs businesses an estimate of $64 billion annually. And that amount basically represents the annual estimated cost of losing and replacing more than 2 million American workers who leave their jobs each year due to unfairness and discrimination. So outside of mitigating the churn and the replacement of potentially very valuable and creative employees, what are the other benefits of having a friendly workforce?

Ed: Right. And I think that it also speaks to, if you asked me this question 10 years ago, Yury, it may be a different answer. So one of the things that has changed about this and why it’s beneficial is not just the LGBTQ+ workforce, but if you want to recruit and retain good talent, those people that aren’t gay but are in the younger generation, I think 7 in 10 of those look to work someplace that is friendly and is open to LGBTQ+ individuals. So they’re looking at your gender non-discrimination policies. They don’t want to work somewhere like that.

And in a state like Maine, where before the pandemic employment was almost too low. We had a problem bringing in talent here. If you want to bring in that young talent anywhere in the country, you need to understand that young people want to work someplace that is inclusive. So it is paramount for your recruiting purposes not just to get LGBTQ+ people, but to also get what we deem as our allies. So if 70% of millennials are saying, “I don’t want to work someplace that doesn’t respect my LGBTQ+ neighbors and family and friends”, then that’s a loss to you. And we all know recruiting and retaining people is a huge loss. The company is probably built into that figure that you gave me.

You know, I also think that there’s a loyalty aspect too. So I think we saw in the last, with some figures I saw between 2015 and 2018, our buying power raised like $30 billion. So we’re back at about almost a trillion dollar industry in ourselves and we’re more loyal. I don’t have figures about some other minority groups, but LGBTQ+ consumers are loyal. And so I mentioned the buyer at quality index, I have an app on my phone and when I shop I look and see what your score is. Those millennials that are 7 in 10 of us, they do the same thing.

So one of the things I think you can take away from what you’ve seen in the business community that has driven, I would say our agenda and a lot of our quality, and I’m not saying that this is selfish. I just think good business people understood that. Providing welcoming and open environment to us as employees or customers is good business.

There’s a lot of figures that say anywhere from 10% to 12% higher that we spend on travel. There’s a lot of tourism in this state. You hate the state not to be progressive enough and not be seen as welcoming to LGBTQ+ community because we would go elsewhere when we wanted to travel. So I think that there’s a business case for it.  I also think that built into your figure there Yury, is probably if we can – I mean Rich probably can talk on this as well – what’s the reputation cost. Right? What is the reputation cost to a company that doesn’t welcome us or that does get to for some type of discrimination? There’s a reputation calls sometimes that you can’t delve into it. Coming from the South, you know, ask the state of North Carolina, how much they lost when they tried to do bathroom bills, ask the state of Georgia when they tried to pass some of the religious Liberty bills that were very anti LGBTQ+, the business community is what drove the change in that.

So I think built into that is a recruitment and retention piece, but I also think built into that could possibly be that people just want to do business with people that embrace equality. And that includes me.

Rich: And the flip side of that, or the concern is I absolutely see all the benefits. But you must have experienced pushback on this or else you wouldn’t have the position that you have right now. Right? So what is the pushback that you’re hearing from owners? Even ones who might want to be more inclusive, what are their concerns?

Ed: Well, I think their concerns a lot of times this is regionally. So for example, I’ll give you an example of my last company where I ran communications in Atlanta. A distribution company, very conservative, heavily white male. When the bill came up before the Georgia legislature – we were a big company – we were asked to sign on to say that we were opposed to this legislation as discrimination. And our leadership is very conservative. And so we had to walk through that, knowing that we would have some employees who for religious beliefs or whatever beliefs, would not agree with this. They felt like this is a piece of legislation that could be…and was that going to cost us some of those employees?

We also did business in a lot of conservative areas and a lot of our end users were a lot of conservative businesses and you have to make that decision where, what’s going to be your pushback from there. I will tell you that if you’re going to commit yourself to a diverse, inclusive workplace that includes LGBTQ+, you have to be ready for that.

We actually, our agency and public relations and communications consultancies, have always been welcoming  to LGBTQ+ community during pride month. We put a few things on our website and we got criticism. Certainly some people in the Middle East felt like we shouldn’t do it. But we made that commitment that the LGBTQ+ employees and the LGBTQ+ market and our community is worth it and that they deserved that support. And so I think you’re not going to, it’s not foolproof Rich, you’re going to have criticism.

But going back to when I say if you, Rich, as a CEO or another CEO has decided they’re going to drive a diverse and inclusive workforce that includes the LGBTQ+ community you’re in, and you’re ready for that pushback. And one of the things that we work with clients on is, how do you message that? How do you – and it’s not a hard message – we believe in equality for all of our employees and all of our customers and all of the communities we work in. And that includes our LGBTQ+ community. Period. That’s a good message. And I think you can look at examples when in Atlanta, when Home Depot did massive pride events – who were headquartered down the road from us – and they got so much pushback. They got a lot of criticism. And that message I said was what their CEO said, “These are our employees, these are our customers. And we think of them just like everybody else and we’re going to support them.” Period.

Yury: Ed, I wanted to ask you about that messaging. We are in Maine, so those business owners that want to go out of their way to hire members of the LGBTQ+ community, what are your recommendations for those business owners? How should they position themselves or what should that messaging should be in order to be welcoming and embracing and encourage?

Ed: So if I were just starting, I was going to roll out just some action items that I would do. I’d say, first of all, do an inventory of everything that you have, your messaging and the communications and your marketing materials that are public, also, all of those things that are internal to your employees, and look at them. Is there anything in there that would make someone gay think, “Hmm. Did they not mention sexual orientation in this piece of nondiscrimination policy? Is there something in the way that they market or communicate their company that could be perceived as a bias against LGBTQ+ folks?” Is there anything in your way that you talk to your employees that you don’t feel comes across as welcoming and inclusive? So I always like to say do kind of an inventory of where you are. Because when you think about it, if someone thinking about coming to work for Rich’s shop. Let’s just say that. Or coming to work at your bank, Yury.

I’ll use myself as an example. The first thing they’re going to do is they’re going to either go online, they’re going to look at your social, they’re going to look at all of those communication vehicles and they’re going to look for ways they say, wow, for your bank’s perspective is it a photograph of a same sex couple looking for financial advice. Or is it a mixed race couple of doing that? once again, those are all things that give us the idea that you understand the community and understand the diversity that exists here in Maine.

So I would say, do an inventory of those things that you’re going to do. Also, and you can be a small business and do this, spend a little time with your employees. You know, it doesn’t hurt to do a local pulse survey. You want to know? We do it and we’re a large organization. We do pulse surveys to see what people think of our culture. Can they bring their true selves to work every day? Are there things that we can do to be a more diverse and inclusive organization? You learn a lot from your employees because they’re living this, they live the life, they’re in our communities. Employees like to be part of that discussion.

When we go in and we will say, let’s do an audit of some of your materials. This last company we’re talking to, they had a diversity council, and so when I looked at what they did and I was like, okay, this is just a group of people getting together every quarter on a phone call. There’s nothing they’re doing. There’s no surveys they’re doing. They’re not recognizing Hispanic heritage month by bringing in a couple of speakers that can talk about the Latino community, or those types of things and how that aligns with your business. And so I say, do a little inventory of the way that you’re communicating in all of your public facing materials, because that’s what any normal person would probably do. If they’re looking to either do business with you, or if they’re looking possibly for a job to work with you. So I’d say do that at first. Talk to your employees, ask them, and listen.

Not to pick on Rich here, but to have Rich say, “Hey guys, we’ve got an inclusive, what I think is a very diverse, inclusive workforce. And you can bring your whole self to work here. But I want to make sure we’re doing it right. I want to make sure that I know all of the things that you think we can do or should do better because we can all do better with that.” So I’d also say look to your employees, and particularly in smaller amounts as organizations, you can do that sometimes I think a little bit better. You can really get closer to that. And if you find things that you can do better, implement them, talk about them.

Rich: Ed, I love what you’re saying. And I love the idea of bringing your true self to work. That really resonates with me. I’m also interested because there’s this big push on anti-racism right now, the book of the same title, How to be an Antiracist. Joe Biden promised and delivered on choosing a woman of color as his running mate, companies were looking hard at their hiring processes to make sure that they have more diverse workforce when it comes to color. However, being a person of color is a very visible thing. Having employees who are African American or just people of color, very visible thing. Being a member of the LGBTQ+ community is not necessarily a visible thing and not every member wants to be out. You mentioned that you were not comfortable being out, at least in your workspace, until you were in your thirties. How can a company find the balance? How can they find their footing when it comes to recruiting and having an inclusive workforce without taking a survey of people about where they are?

Ed: Well, it’s interesting that you go back and I picked on you and so you picked on me for being out so late, which is totally fine. But my reason, not use me as an example here, was because I wasn’t comfortable yet with how I would be perceived in my workplace. I worked for a large organization, was this going to keep me from climbing the corporate ladder that we’re told we have to do when you work for some big company? So part of that for me was that I just wasn’t comfortable bringing my true self. I was pretty out in the community in Atlanta, I was doing those types of things, I had a partner at the time, but my workplace just didn’t feel that.

Now I’ll say part of that was me. I’m a different generation. I think, Rich, one of the things that what I am learning right now is, it’s not something that you have to go to work as the owner of your company every day and say, “Dang it, I’m going to make sure that my people know they can bring their true self to work.” I mean, people know that they know that if that’s in your heart, what you can do is you can continue to show ways by accepting those that are out talking to them about that. This is something that I did in my last company.

And it’s funny.  I was talking about this conservative company, we were doing some leadership features and my team did it. I said, I want to do one. I know that there’s people here that don’t feel comfortable being out in this conservative distribution company, and I feel like if they know there’s somebody else here that was just like them and they can thrive here.

And so I did that and I think that if you do have those employees that are out and they’re open, and I’m not saying that you make those employees bring their husband or their wife to work. But I think it’s a way that you can create this culture of openness and kind of celebrating them.

And I will say this, as much as I say we’re 12 months a year as customers and workers, June and pride month allows you have the ability to show that you’re an open and welcoming place, and you can make that happen all year round. Once I realized, and I talked to a couple of people at AT&T, and they were like, “Ed, we know and everybody here has your back”, and it changed everything.

And so I think that you come to work at a place, this younger generation is a little bit differently, they come out at a younger age, and they feel more comfortable to do that. Society has done that as well. But I also think that there are those kinds of ways that people need to feel by seeing other employees or just the way that you kind of do your business and the way that you talk to employees, and the way that you create the culture of openness, that will make people feel comfortable. And does that mean that everybody’s going to feel comfortable? Absolutely not. But as a workplace, all you can do is to create the environment. You know you can get that feedback if you want to. And if you build it, I hate to say this, but if you build it, I think they’ll come. I’m a good example of that.

And so I would just say if you know you’re doing the right thing, you’re getting feedback from people in your workplace, you are celebrating the diversity of your people, diversity of your customers, then I think that will speak volumes and it’ll make those things move a little bit.

Yury: I like the part where you talked about celebrating internally, externally. So if the company is interested in training around diversity, equity and inclusion, what does it look like and how do they find it? Because I’m all about celebration and inclusion and I want to make sure that everyone is welcome to the party. Where do we start? How do we go there?

Ed: Well, you make a good point and I’m sorry, I should’ve brought that up earlier. But I know it’s been something that is, I don’t want to say taken off, but has become really important in businesses is what we call unconscious bias training.

And so one thing that I think, and again to go back and pick on Rich’s organization or your bank Yury, is that I think that sometimes unconscious bias training needs to be mandatory. And it’s not just for your LGBTQ+ people, I think that if either of y’all are wanting to looking at your future leaders and you want them to be leaders and managers that work well with a variety of people, they need to have that kind of what I would just call tailored real training. It should be required.

I personally believe that organizations should tie leadership’s compensation to some of these kinds of initiatives. So your leaders should have to go through certain types of diversity inclusion unconscious bias training, annually. I think that it’s important.

I know a lot of people that do that unconscious bias training and the day may start with people going, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to be told how to love everybody and hug everyone.” But I think what it really will bring about is that we all have a little bit of prejudices. We’re all a little biased and we can work at it. But it does help you become a better leader. So I think that you should tailor some actual programmatic training for all people, but particularly your managers of people. And it should be some kind of requirement.

There’s a lot of individuals and companies that do that. I’m kind of a strategist when it comes to workplace and when it comes to marketing and Comm side. I’m not the one that’s going to give you the unconscious bias two day training at your bank, Yury. But I do think that if you’re not incorporating that into your professional development for your leaders, then it’s a real miss. Because I think nowadays – and Rich talked about this – as we come off with the murder of George Floyd, which has turned not only racial inequality but just really this whole DE&I conversation kind of on its head. And I’m glad that it has turned it off on its head. I think that that people are benefiting from real learning and real education. And I don’t think some of the books, some of the things that we’ve read post-George Floyd have been important. I’ve learned, Rich was talking about some of the books he’s read, you’ve learned Yury, but I think there needs to be some real dedication and commitment.

Also, I will tell you when you bring in DE&I training and unconscious bias training that sends subtle messages to your workforce that you’re serious about it. And that is important to your organization and your culture. I see people that are telling their customers and the external stakeholders what they’re doing on the DE&I front, including a lot of the training that you’re talking about.

One thing that, and I don’t know if y’all were going to chat about this, but also small and mid-sized businesses also are vendors and contractors for a lot of big businesses. I kind of call it, B2SMB or SMB2B kind of way that a way of thinking. And having spent a lot of my time at BellSouth and AT&T doing small business PR and communications, the SMB community is that more and more companies of larger size are going to start requiring their vendors and their contractors – if they’re not already -to talk about what their diversity and inclusion policies and procedures and programs are. And you may get a pass if you’re a five or a 10 person organization.

But if you’re a 50 or 60 or 70 person, those are some things when you’re trying to get a government contract or a contract with a large organization that becomes something that they want to see. And are you a minority-owned business? That’s one thing. But if you could talk about that you have required training for your individuals, your nondiscrimination policy is this, your commitment kind of how you’re doing some of your hiring process, just to make sure you have diversity when you’re recruiting individuals. That can be a difference maker.

You’re putting your profile up there not only your, your product or your service that you want to, uh, that you want to sell to a larger organization, but you’re also putting. Yourself and your organization. And so I think that’s also helpful when you look at like, um, you know, how as a supplier, you know, you’re, you’re going to be perceived by a large organization or government entity as it relates to DE&I.  

Rich: I was going to just kind of wrap things up. So I was going to say this has been an amazing primer on what we need to think about when it comes to inclusion diversity in the workforce, especially around the LGBTQ+ community and the benefits and some of the pushback we might feel ,and just how to make things feel better. And it’s been really helpful.

 We ask all of the experts who come on this podcast one question, and the question is this; what one thing would you change, if you could, to improve the business ecosystem here in Maine?

Ed: So I’m going to say this as somebody that’s been here for just over a year.

Rich: We love outsider opinions.

Ed: My accent didn’t give me away on this as we moved here from the south.

Rich: Yury is also from away, I don’t know if you could tell from his accent.

Ed: I think what would help this ecosystem is if more people outside of maybe Maine or New England knew what a welcoming, opportunistic place this was to open a business and to thrive. And one of the things that we’ve seen since we’ve been here is, particularly my husband’s company, is that creativity and the innovation from some of the entrepreneurs and companies that want to be here. And when this is over, we’ll still have that kind of job shortage and we’ll all be wondering where all the talent is.

And I think if there’s one thing I could change, it would be some massive marketing PR communications campaign where people said, “When I get out of college, I’m going to go work in Portland. I want to go to Maine. That’s where I want to establish a business or a career.” And I just wish more people knew the story. I take it South all the time that we love it here, but I just wish more people knew the story and the opportunities that exist here.

Yury: Honestly, one thing that I wanted to say, speaking about being from away living in Maine, you know, Maine is a very special place as well as its people. And being here, working closely with very inspiring, very talented, hardworking, Americans that actually inspired me to become an American by being in this state and being exposed to all these unique things that make Maine, Maine. And honestly, I think there is a little bit of Maine in all of the people across this globe, they just don’t know about it because they’ve never visited this incredible place.

And on that note, for those who would like to connect with you Ed, where should we send them? LinkedIn, Facebook, website?

Ed: Absolutely you can send them to LinkedIn. And I don’t know if it’s something you want to add, but I’m Ed Patterson on LinkedIn. I proudly say that I’m in Portland, Maine on my profile, even though I work out of New York. Connect with me at ed.patterson@hkstrategies.com, and anything that I can, particularly for small and midsize businesses here, that I can provide any information, background tips, I’m always happy to have a conversation for those that are looking to do this and to create a more open and inclusive workplace. So you just give me a buzz.

Rich: Ed, thanks so much for your time today. I really appreciate you swinging by.

Ed: Hey, thanks so much. Rich. Thanks so much, Yury, y’all have a good one.

Rich: Very informative session with Ed. If you want the full transcript from today’s episode, you can head on over to fastforwardmaine.com/64. And after we wrapped up our call, Ed mentioned that he had a number of resources that he wanted to share with people. He’s going to send them our way, we’re going to make them available on the website. So again, head on over to fast forwardmaine.com/64 for even more recent sources if you really want to move your company forward.

This is the part of the show where we do our ‘fast takes’, our big takeaways from today’s episode. Yury, what was your ‘fast take’ today?

Yury: Rich, thank you for this questions. So what I wanted to mention is I actually wanted to reference Marshall McLuhan, communication strategist, great theorist. One of the main ideas that he has was that media is a message.  And this media that I wanted to mention in the ‘fast take’ is training. Having a training in place in your organization, your company, your place of business, may actually be that message that is needed for employees and potential recruits, as well as customers, that you are a welcoming organization that cherishes LGBTQ+ and, uh, you adhere to D E I methods and principles. So that is my long, fast take. Rich, what is your ‘fast take’?

Rich: My ‘fast take’ is that there are a lot of benefits to being more inclusive and welcoming members of the LGBTQ+ community into your workforce, including potentially more business from that community. But what I really took away from this is we get the most out of our people by letting them bring their true selves to work. I love that sentiment, I totally believe it, and that was my ‘fast take’ for today.