Founded in 2006, Pride in Our Workplace leaders have informed the landscape of LGBTQ+ networking, advocacy, and community building efforts in New England. Wendell Chestnut served as our Founding President, passing the mantle to John Basile in 2019, who passed the title of Board President to Cheryl Katon in January of this year.
In a new message, Cheryl pays homage to those who founded the organization and shares her vision for the new era of PIOW leadership. Continue scrolling to read the full letter from Cheryl.
Want to learn more about PIOW’s history? Watch this short video to hear:
- How PIOW started 16 years ago
- Our mission today to amplify lived experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals
- Why now is the time to support PIOW
Where it all began
It’s notable that the organizations I’m deeply involved in seem to have somewhat clandestine origins. Fenway Health began in a church basement with a part-time nurse and volunteer doctor. It has since become a national leader in LGBTQ+ healthcare advocacy. Trans Community of New England (TCNE) used to screen members at a specific phone booth at a specific time on Tuesday nights. It’s now a leading organization supporting thousands of transgender individuals across the region.
Likewise, PIOW began when a few friends sat at Club Café in Boston’s South End and discussed the need for domestic partner benefits, among other workplace issues. I’m so grateful to all our fore-bearers who started these organizations because they saw an acute need shared by others in the LGBTQ+ community.
Back then, being fully out at work was rare. Marriage equality was a distant view on the horizon, LGBTQ+ employees lacked any protection or advocacy in the workplace, and certainly Employee Resource Groups as we know them today were nonexistent.
At the time, PIOW recognized that each organization was on its own unique journey to equality, informed by the individual experiences of each employee. It’s those individuals who we advocate for – millions of them – as we work to bridge the gap between LGBTQ+ employees and the companies who employ them.
We believe, fundamentally, that everyone should have the right to feel a sense of pride in where they work. That means working for organizations that create a safe and inclusive culture capable of fostering better connections. Gallup, University of Pennsylvania, and many other studies have long recognized the relationship between workplace productivity and spaces like these. To date, PIOW has helped hundreds of companies develop and foster more inclusive workplaces for thousands of employees.
Our current climate
The time is now for us to accelerate our efforts, deepen our relationships with businesses in Boston and beyond, and galvanize corporate allies in a time of immense uncertainty for LGBTQ+ rights.
Consider: More than 8 million employees in the U.S. workforce identify as LGBTQ+. Despite the increased visibility of our community, it remains true that:
- Half of those surveyed by the Center for American Progress in 2022 reported experiencing workplace discrimination / harassment in the past year (70% for transgender respondents).
- More than one-third of LGBTQ+ employees say they have left a job because of how they were treated by their employer based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- There is a proven LGBTQ+ salary gap as employees make systematically less than heterosexual cisgender counterparts. This is just one of many unique challenges for people who carry multiple marginalized identities as pay gaps increase for people of color and transgender women, men, and non-binary people.
Given this climate, it is no surprise many are still closeted at work across industry sectors.
As a member of the trans community, I’m especially aware of the ways our current climate impacts our workplaces. Like all trans and nonbinary employees, I cannot escape the day-to-day emotionally tolling news of 480+ bills introduced in 2023 that are anti-trans, seeking to block trans people from receiving basic healthcare, education, legal recognition, and the right to publicly exist.
The image reflects Anti-trans bills introduced in the U.S. as of March 25, 2023. See the latest updates at the Trans Legislation Tracker.
Whether you are an enterprise organization or a mid-sized company with great intentions, you likely need to invest resources in learning how to address workplace inclusion in today’s climate. We see this as our central mission at PIOW, and we know we have lots of work ahead of us.
Our board, and our supremely dedicated, small but mighty staff are ready to meet those needs. This year, we plan to prioritize programming that explores:
- Maintaining Momentum on Social Justice – register for our upcoming panel on the topic!
- Intentional Leadership: Internal, Local, and Global Impact
- LGBTQ+ Health and Policy
- Career Growth through Network and Community Building
I am encouraged by Boston’s largest companies who are leaders and allies in this work. They use PIOW to help share their insights and best practices with all companies. We have a strong mantle in the corporate space with the intention of shaping how organizations act and behave, and we are ready to hear your LGBTQ+ employment and business concerns to ensure we address those needs through our programs.
Overall, I am deeply motivated by PIOW’s history and by the efforts of my colleagues on the board who volunteer their time and expertise to continue to build on PIOW’s legacy. I am invigorated by the opportunities ahead for employees who want to be proud of where they work.
I truly believe we can make a real difference at work, at home, and in our broader society with PIOW. It’s an honor to lead this next chapter in service of the community.
Do you care about LGBT workplace inclusion? About supporting your LGBTQ+ associates every day in the workforce? If you do, we can help you. Now is the time to support our efforts. Learn how to be a corporate partner today.