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Comcast and COH host reception for Pride collection and ERGs
by Gretchen Rachel Hammond

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Neither the pouring rain nor game seven of the World Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians were enough to deter a large crowd of people from visiting the state-of—the-art Comcast Studio Xfinity corporate flagship store in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood Nov. 2.

Co-sponsored by the Center on Halsted and in partnership with the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, the event offered networking, an education on Xfinity's new LGBT collection of films and television series as well as a panel on the benefits of Employee Resource Groups ( ERGs ).

"Our mission is about building community," Center on Halsted CEO Modesto Tico Valle said. "Our work is about diversity, an inclusive voice reaching the Chicago area and making sure our programs are relevant and reflective of our community."

Valle went on to note a number of new programs COH has adopted in the organization's new strategic plan "that takes us to the South and West Sides of Chicago and a youth homeless initiative that ensures diversity, inclusion, geographic reach and relevance are all part of our work."

Diversity and inclusion are ideals ingrained into both Comcast's corporate culture and, as of June 2016, its programming.

As described by Comcast Executive Director, Multicultural Product Development Jean-Claire Fitschen, those who enjoy Comcast's services can now access the Xfinity LGBT Film and TV Collection "an LGBT community-informed and driven showcase of over 500 films and shows entirely focused on featuring positive and authentic stories and very entertaining LGBT-character driven storylines."

Those who own the new Comcast voice-activated remote control can simply say "Pride" or any terms such as "Gay and Lesbian" or "transgender" into their device to access a collection of award-winning and international LGBT films, coming-out stories, television programs and a best-of-the-web feature for free.

Fitschen noted that Comcast's LGBT and allied-focused employee resource group OUT "has grown to nearly 3,000 members. OUT engages people at all levels of the organization and, as a result, have a unique opportunity to inform our business strategy."

A panel moderated by COH Chief Operating Officer Kim Fountain and featuring inQUEST Consulting CEO and founder Scott Hoesman and COH Director of Trans Relations and Community Engagement Vanessa Sheridan focused on how LGBTQ civil rights have been accelerated and can be further achieved through the work of the business community and, in particular the growth of ERGs.

"Even at the start of our movement, there were [business] leaders who said 'I'm going to take a risk, I am going to stand behind the LGBTQ community and we're going to support this movement,'" Fountain said. "All along, ERGs have been a part of that engagement."

Hoesman emphasized three levels of ERG performance.

"Many organizations start with simple networking," he said. "Level two is about how we move from networking to professional development. Step three means that now ERGs are focused on business results. It's no longer enough for us, particularly in the LGBTQIA ERG space, to focus on flags, food and famous people. The mission is to get into business."

Sheridan noted that ERG trans inclusion is often dependent upon each organization.

"I don't believe you can have full social equality until you first have economic equality," she said. "I don't believe you have economic equality until you provide people with employment opportunities. It's incumbent upon the LGBQ people in our ERGs to wrap themselves the T members, because the T is often silent, and help bring them into full equality. My hope is that we can then move from full equality into equity. That is where we are going to make some progress and an impact."

For more information about the Center, visit: .

For more information on the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, visit: .

For more information on the Comcast LGBT film and TV collection, visit .

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