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LGBT Chamber, Loop Alliance host business panel on inclusion
by Melissa Wasserman

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LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois and the Chicago Loop Alliance ( CLA ) teamed to celebrate the 50th snniversary of Stonewall with a panel event on June 12 at the Palmer House Hilton.

The event, titled "50 Years Later: A New Way of Doing Business," fostered discussion around the evolution of diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion, being part of large corporations or small businesses that are inclusive in hiring and consumer practices.

"Obviously, the title of the event is '50 Years Later: A New Way of Doing Business,' so I really wanted us to be able to have a conversation, to talk about how companies have evolved in engaging LGBTQ clients, customers, employees and what that has looked like, but still where we have to go, of course," said Jerome' Holston, director of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois. "So I wanted to recognize that progress, but still have a moment to reflect about where we have to go before us."

The panel included David Martin, senior advisor of diversity and inclusion at BMO Harris; activist Pat McCombs; Jill Rose Quinn, attorney and counselor at law; and Marty Grochala, associate director of development and senior director of major and planned gifts at Goodman Theatre. Chicago Reader Publisher, Windy City Times founder and LGBT Chamber of Commerce of Illinois co-founder Tracy Baim moderated the event.

I love that the panelists all brought a little bit of a different perspective," said Sarah Morse, director of membership relations and events for CLA. "I kept looking up there being like 'this is truly what diversity looks like.' The people up on stage were a good representation of why we're here and what we're talking about, but also who makes up our members and who makes up the Chamber's members."

The panelists shared their own work experiences, describing what it is like in their specific fields and being an LGBTQ individual. Each answered different questions that allowed them to speak on various topics including past and present obstacles, observations, recognition, things that fuel them in their work, corporate activism, selecting business partners, networking with diverse organizations, diversity among employees, diversity and inclusion initiatives within the workplace and things they would like to see in the future.

"We wanted to get as many different industries as possible," Morse explained about putting the panel together. "Because we were talking about the business community, it wasn't necessarily like we were just talking about this one thing. The business world in Chicago is obviously very diverse and we wanted to make sure that everyone in the audience could maybe have a speaker to identify with."

Following the panel, attendees participated in a question-and-answer session and networking event.

Holston emphasized and agreed with what was said on the panel that while it is a good first step to be engaged during pride month, companies have to identify other ways to be more active and more engaged beyond having a float in the Pride parade and sporting rainbow buttons.

"You have to think about year-long engagement strategies to be really inclusive and be more active toward the LGBTQ community," said Holston.

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