Out & Equal at Work: From Closet to Corner Office


A major change is underway in today’s workplace. Out & Equal at Work is a groundbreaking anthology that chronicles personal stories of LGBT and allied executive trailblazers who have conquered adversity and ushered in policies that affirm and support the LGBT community in the workplace. Out & Equal at Work is edited by Selisse Berry, the founder and CEO of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates.

Out & Equal at Work was released internationally in e-book and print formats in 2013. Hard copies are available at Amazon.com. Find digital copies at Apple iBookstore for iPad, Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for NOOK, Reader Store for Sony Reader, Kobo, Copia Gardners, eBookPie, and Scribd. Click here to purchase on Amazon.

Praise for Out & Equal at Work

    “Out & Equal at Work speaks to the power of cultivating an environment that celebrates diversity, and ensures employees can bring their whole selves to work every day. Not only is this the right thing to do, but I believe it has profound benefits on employee engagement, retention, productivity and, ultimately, business results. Sexual orientation and gender identity are differences that should not matter. The only things that truly matter are the content of one’s character and the unique talent a person brings to the organization.”

– Don Knauss, Clorox CEO

    “There are business books that reinforce the business imperative of diversity. This book is not just one of those. It’s a collection of authentic stories from real people — authentic, successful role models — whose stories are both moving and educational. More than that, they’re inspirational, because they demonstrate how LGBT employees can contribute and prosper at the highest levels in the inclusive workplace.”

– Harry van Dorenmalen, Chairman, IBM Europe

    “Every American deserves to be treated fairly and equally in and out of the workplace. Out & Equal at Work is both educational and inspirational for employers and employees regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. With moving personal stories, Out & Equal at Work puts a human face on the benefits of diversity in the workplace and the rewards of being open and honest about who we are.”

– Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

    “Part of the way we each find the strength to bring our whole lives into the workplace is to learn about the experience of others who have taken that step. We not only can succeed, but we can contribute to the work environment in a more substantive way and lead a more fulfilling life. These stories of leadership and courage serve as a real inspiration.”

– Rick Welts, Chief Operating Officer, Golden State Warriors

    “These are the stories that executives around the world should hear, coming from the brave voices of smart, successful executives who are making important contributions in business, in government and in the ways they conduct their lives with dignity and integrity. Even more so, these are the stories that all companies should want to be part of, showcasing how creating inclusive workplaces equates with creating a business culture where all of us can bring our mind and heart to work.”

– Sophie Vandebroek, Xerox Corporate Vice President

    “When I started my career at Ford Motor Company, and ultimately served as Ford’s Vice Chairman, what strength and insight Out & Equal at Work would have offered. Each personal narrative here is a reminder how important it is to celebrate diversity and openness in every workplace — and to lead by example.”

– Allan Gilmour, former Vice Chairman, Ford Motor Company and President, Wayne State University

    “The aim of the Nation’s best employers is to implement policies that make every workplace as equal, welcoming and purposeful as it can be. Selisse Berry’s new book, Out & Equal at Work, will help managers and employers everywhere understand why these fair-minded values make a real and lasting difference.”

– The Honorable John Berry

Q&A with Selisse Berry, editor of Out & Equal at Work

What inspired you to put this anthology together, and further, to found the Out & Equal organization years before?
I wanted to write the book about the creation and growth of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates from the early days of the organization. After a number of years working with employee resource group leaders and senior executives who are leading change for LGBT people in the world’s largest corporations, it became more and more apparent that these stories had to be told. I was inspired by these professionals who work tirelessly to change attitudes in their companies by coming out, educating and advocating for inclusive policies and benefits.

What makes this book different?
Out & Equal at Work is the first time that business leaders, including C-Suite executives from Fortune 500 Companies, have come together to share their personal stories of facing discrimination and forwarding LGBT equality in the workplace. In many ways it is a book that reminds us that it really does get better.

How do some of the challenges LGBT employees face in the business world differ from those in a social environment, or are they the same?
The biggest difference is that we choose our friends, but not our co-workers. In a social environment, LGBT people tend to create close circles of friends. Work is different because it brings together people from different backgrounds with varying cultural and religious beliefs.

How can organizations create inclusive and diverse work environments?
Out & Equal works on a daily basis with major corporations and organizations to improve diversity and inclusion. There are so many ways that companies can create inclusion. A handful of ways to create a diverse environment are: providing equal policies and benefits; focusing on LGBT talent management and professional development; improving workplace climate; becoming involved in advocacy work and demonstrating corporate responsibility.One of the best ways to create equality is to establish LGBT employee resource groups with an executive sponsor. All of these best practices are discussed in depth in at the Out & Equal Workplace Summit.

Clorox CEO Don Knauss said practices like those showcased in the anthology have positively impacted employee productivity, and in turn, business results. Can you tell us how certain diversity initiatives do this?
Employees who are able to bring their full selves to work are more committed to their jobs and happier at work. Therefore, they are more productive.The bottom line is that creating workplace equality and inclusion isn’t just good sense – it’s good business – recruiting and retaining the brightest and best LGBT employees and customers.

What challenges do you face in bringing equality to corporate workplaces?
One of the greatest opportunities for many corporations is rolling out equal policies around the globe. While many countries globally have better protections than the U.S., many still have laws criminalizing homosexuality. For many workplaces the policies were the first step. This has to be followed by cultural change.

What were the steps you took to lead Out & Equal from a great idea to a successful organization?
Early in my tenure as Director with Building Bridges at the United Way, I realized that the best way to ensure the success of this LGBT diversity-training program– and to maximize our impact on Bay Area workplaces – would be to move beyond nonprofits and offer the program to local businesses and larger companies. As the years passed, our programming expanded to include major events like the Out & Equal Workplace Summit. I found like-minded people committed to similar missions of workplace equality and worked together to create Out & Equal Workplace Advocates into what it is today.

How has Out & Equal advanced workplace equality in the U.S. and across the world?
Out & Equal works with multinational organizations, executives, leaders of employee resource groups, and diversity professionals to create more inclusive workplaces. Out & Equal mobilizes tens of thousands of corporate employees, managers and executives in Out & Equal Regional Affiliate Networks and their Employee Resource Group Registry. Through LGBTCareerLink, an online job search and career development portal, Out & Equal serves diversity-friendly employers and LGBT job seekers. Out & Equal has earned the trust and respect of LGBT employees and employers for producing the best attended, most informative and inspiring summit on LBGT workplace issues held annually in a selected city in the USA.

You share your own story in the book. How have your personal experiences formed your path to becoming an advocate for LGBT people?
I was studying in seminary to become a Presbyterian minister when I came out as a lesbian. I learned very quickly that, if I came out and chose to live my life honestly and openly, I would not be allowed to be ordained as a minister. I have dedicated my life to forwarding equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in the workplace because I believe that no one should ever have to choose between a career they love and living their lives with authenticity and integrity.

How did you choose the 35 other essayists?
The contributors in the book are leaders who have worked closely with Out & Equal over the years. Their commitment to creating diverse and inclusive work environments has been a true inspiration to me. I wanted their voices to be heard so that they could inspire others as well.

Why is it important for LGBT executives and Allies to tell their story?
Facts and figures often put people to sleep, but stories serve to engage and inspire. When LGBT people and allies share their stories, we put a face to the issue. A lot of the contributors in the book have had duel challenges in life – such as having a physical disability or dealing with racism, in addition to prejudices against them for being LGBT.

How does the work done by Out & Equal organization and reflected in the book help in those areas as well?
In diversity training, we always put LGBT issues in the context of broader diversity issues. Out & Equal has Advisory Committees for historically underrepresented groups: Transgender Advisory Committee, Bisexual Advisory Committee, and People of Color Advisory Committee. These committees inform our programing throughout the year, and help ensure that we are meeting the needs of all of these groups. We also work with groups to ensure commitment to people who are differently abled, minorities, and women.

What do you hope people get out of reading the anthology?
The particular message we want to convey is that these stories can be your story, too. Regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, you can achieve your full potential in the workplace and help others do the same. An increasing number of companies stand beside us in creating environments that value and respect all of their employees.