In recognition of the fifth anniversary of AlixPartners’ LGBTQ employee resource group, PrideMatters, members reflect on how a visit to the site of the Pulse Nightclub shooting helped lay a foundation for how the group would make an impact inside our firm and out.
In 2017, AlixPartners held its annual all-firm meeting in Orlando, Florida. Traditionally, the firm supports local community service groups in conjunction with the all-firm. With that year’s meeting held during Pride Month and near the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, the firm decided to donate to the nascent onePulse Foundation, which was established by the club’s owners to honor the victims’ lives. The firm also took up an invitation from the Foundation to visit the site.
“I remember thinking there’d be a small group who would want to go, and we’d just need a few Ubers to get there, but people kept signing up,” said Chad Schwarz, AlixPartners’ Diversity & Inclusion Lead – ERGs. “Seeing more than 400 of my colleagues waiting outside the hotel, and this long line of buses ready to take them to Pulse was a very memorable visual for me.”
The symbolism and optics of the event, which included remarks by AlixPartners CEO Simon Freakley, resonated with PrideMatters leaders. For many people who self-identify as LGBTQ, clubs like Pulse were the only places they could be their authentic selves.
“To know that the CEO of your company unequivocally and publicly affirms commitment to the LGBTQ community is something that I am proud to be a part of in my career,” said Val Dunn, People Business Partner for AlixPartners’ TRS group.
AlixPartners was the first large corporation to hold an official event at the site, and the turnout and the engagement from our firm showed the Foundation that they had a larger role to play in promoting LGBTQ awareness and advocacy.
“That evening was the catalyst of onePULSE Academy, the education arm for the National Pulse Memorial & Museum. We learned that we had both an opportunity, and an obligation to teach the 76 million annual visitors to Orlando, and future generations how the power of love can rebuild and endure,” said Barbara Poma, CEO of the National Pulse Memorial & Museum.
Since the visit, the firm and PrideMatters have continued to support onePulse and its mission, including sponsoring onePulse’s legacy scholarship program, which awards 49 scholarships annually in honor of the 49 individuals that lost their lives at the shooting, and by continuing to support the Foundation’s efforts to establish a permanent memorial and museum on the site.
“It’s so important that our ERGs and our firm are active with groups whose missions align with our core values,” said Cindy Godwin, Head of Social Responsibility at AlixPartners. “The way we have partnered with onePulse is a great example of how to help one another in a way to bring deeper education to a cause, for ourselves and for the communities in which we all live and work.”
Leaders of PrideMatters, which was launched the previous year, credit that visit with reinforcing its mission to promote an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ community within our firm and out.
To that end, PrideMatters has done so much in its first five years to make an impact, from partnering with AlixPartners’ People team to introduce new benefits and policies supporting our LGBTQ colleagues, to giving back to our communities by donating or volunteering with organizations like Affirmations, National Center for Transgender Equality, Opening Doors London, and Associazone Quore.
One area that PrideMatters has led the way on and will be a key focus moving forward is addressing the needs of trans and gender nonconforming people. In 2019, PrideMatters developed and rolled out our “Workplace Gender Inclusion Support Guidelines,” which details the ways the firm supports colleagues who decide to transition and provides clarity around the use of pronouns, privacy, use of restrooms, dress code, and other considerations.
PrideMatters also developed a gender-neutral language/use of pronouns guide to promote allyship, started a “self-ID” program, hosted events with transgender trailblazers including Bobbi Pickard, the founder of Trans in the City, and Anastasia Biefang, the first transgender commanding officer in the German military, and signed on to support the Equality Act.
“With more than 100 anti-trans bills introduced in state legislatures across the US and a rash of policies globally that are clawing back LGBTQ rights, it is critical for companies like ours to use its influence to counteract such measures,” said Filip Nemeth, an SVP in AlixPartners’ Retail industry group and one of PrideMatters global leaders. “Through our first five years, PrideMatters has been committed to creating a safe haven where everyone feels comfortable bringing their full selves to work. We look forward to doing even more over the next five.”