From Exclusion to Power: LGBT-Founded Organizations That Drive Business Value

Jennifer Brown | |


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Louise Chernin, President & CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) joins the program to discuss the benefits of being a LGBT-owned business entity and the efforts that the GSBA is making to have an impact both locally and internationally. Louise discusses her own diversity story, which includes moving from New York City to the Washington State, and the lessons and takeaways she learned from her experiences. Louise also reveals her thoughts about the unique challenges that LGBT business owners of color face, and how the common struggles of being a business owner can unite the LGBT business community.

In this episode you’ll discover:

  • Louise’s diversity story and her experience moving from New York to Washington State (2:00)
  • A key moment that led to Louise redefining her identity (7:00)
  • Types of diversity that exist even among a seemingly homogenous population (12:00)
  • Why we have to think beyond only race and gender when thinking about diversity (19:00)
  • Louise’s efforts to make the GSBA more diverse (21:00)
  • The need to be intentional when it comes to hiring and filling board positions (23:30)
  • The unique challenges of people of color in the LGBTQ community (24:00)
  • How common struggles and challenges can bring business owners together (25:30)
  • How the GSBA is having a global impact (27:00)
  • The benefits of being a LGBT-certified business entity (29:00)
  • Why corporate America is investing in diversity (32:00)
  • The positive business impact of being a values-based business (33:30)

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

JENNIFER BROWN: Welcome to The Will to Change. This is Jennifer Brown. Today my guest is Louise Chernin. Louise is the President & CEO of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), one of the oldest and largest LGBT Chambers in the U.S. with over 1300 members.

Louise is a board member of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, and in 2015 was appointed by the governor to the Seattle Colleges Board of Trustees and is the current chair.

She was honored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) with its Leadership Award, and also named by the Puget Sound Business Journal as one of the top 20 most influential women in Puget Sound.

In 2013, the Seattle Storm—Washington State’s WNBA team—presented Louise with its 2013 Inspiring Women Award, and the UW Women’s Center honored Louise with their Women of Courage Award. In 2016, Louise was honored by the Puget Sound Business Journal with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Louise Chernin, welcome to The Will to Change.

LOUISE CHERNIN: Thank you, I’m delighted to be here.

JENNIFER BROWN: I am so honored to have you on. You are a true institution, not just in the Seattle area, where you’re based, but everywhere in terms of the supplier diversity community.

We’ll get to that in a moment and the work that you do with the GSBA, which is North America’s largest gay and lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

But I want to keep it on a personal note for a moment and welcome you and have you share a bit about what you consider to be your own diversity story. Answer that how you would like.

LOUISE CHERNIN: Now, living in the northwest for over 40 years, I do believe coming from Brooklyn, New York, adds diversity out here in the northwest. (Laughter.) It was quite shocking when I moved here.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

LOUISE CHERNIN: New York has a very large Jewish population, so you start thinking, “This is a lot of the world.” And being that, obviously, I’m also a parent, I have two daughters and four grandchildren. I am part of the LGBT community, I am a lesbian, and I have a partner of about 26 years.

In the northwest, being Jewish, though, as I first mentioned, it was such a minority when I first moved here. People didn’t even know what to make of me and my children. Like, okay, you’re white, but you have dark hair—because we only knew the Scandinavians that were all white, they were all blond. And then we had Native Americans, and we had some Asian people, very few black people. And so this white person who had other dark features, that was very unusual, interestingly enough. And that’s what I had to deal with out here was quite a bit of anti-Semitism at the time—and I think there still is.

But that, and of course being a Lesbian, and then a parent, and a single parent.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

LOUISE CHERNIN: I was married at one time and my husband died, so then I was a single parent. I got involved in the National Organization for Women, where I was their local director. It was during that time that I ended up coming out as a lesbian. So my children were already born, and we had to deal with what it meant, especially over 40 years ago, to be a lesbian in the community, and for my children, starting to realize how often they had to come out because I was very active. I was very active in the women’s movement, in the peace movement, in the anti-nuclear movement, the anti-pornography movement. So they were raised holding placards and going to marches and protesting, but then they also always had to identify themselves as who they were as children of a lesbian activist mother.

JENNIFER BROWN: (Laughter.) Oh, to be able to claim that!

LOUISE CHERNIN: They love it now, I believe. And they’re feminists themselves, but I don’t think they loved it at the time when they were little.

JENNIFER BROWN: I’m sure. If we learn nothing else as LGBT women, we had inclusion issues within the early days of the women’s movement.

LOUISE CHERNIN: I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but when the early books came out, we were called “the lavender menace.” And were we going to dilute the movement for women’s equality by wanting to be included and considered equal as well? And it was very controversial. It’s no different than how hard it was to go from the gay movement to the gay and lesbian movement to the gay, lesbian, bi, and trans movement. And as we see, it takes a very long time, even within a group that’s been marginalized and has barriers before they embrace all the differences within their own community.

JENNIFER BROWN: Isn’t that true? What do we internalize from society about ourselves and each other that makes that so difficult, and a lesson we need to continue to learn over and over?

LOUISE CHERNIN: Well, I think we all want to be included. To be included, people try very hard to be whatever that narrow definition is of acceptable, mainstream, successful. Of course it doesn’t exist, so you’re always aspiring to something that nobody really could aspire to. But the more differences that you have, more visible differences, whether it is skin color and accent and other things, the more differences you have.

I grew up as a Jewish person when it was very popular for Jewish people who survived the Holocaust to change their name, get nose jobs so that their noses didn’t look Jewish. I certainly grew up where people always were trying to pass. They tried to pass in more of a Christian world, they tried to pass more mainstream in every way because that’s what we all want—we want to be accepted. And your children want to be accepted so when they have parents who openly identify with things that are of a minority population, they have a lot to grapple with, too. In the long run, it makes us all stronger and more resilient and more empathetic and richer in terms of our souls and our hearts and what we do. The journey can be rocky and painful, and we all carry a lot of hurt for what we’ve had to overcome.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s for sure, Louise. That was beautifully said. Was there a moment in your career where you got fed up with managing and downplaying stigmatized identities that you brought? Whether you were the “lavender menace” or the Jew or whatever it was. Was there a moment where you remember where you were finally in a place and you had the power, influence, job, or platform to say, “Finally, I feel totally aligned and I’m working from all of the truth of who I am and the beauty of my intersections”?

LOUISE CHERNIN: I think it did happen, first of all, when I became widowed. That was very hard. It was 1974, my second baby had been born. I had a child that was only four months old, and suddenly I was a non-entity. I was married to somebody who was a medical resident, and we had no money at the time, but he had prestige by the fact that he was going to be a doctor. Especially in the world of Jews, that’s a big thing.

Suddenly, I had no identity. My charge card was not going to be valid because I couldn’t have one in my own name. So your credit. The phone company, even though we’d had the phone for years, suddenly wanted a deposit because I hadn’t existed. Even though I had paid all the bills.

JENNIFER BROWN: Incredible.

LOUISE CHERNIN: That was quite an awakening. Like, wait, I was on the path to being mainstream. Yes, maybe I was a Jew in the northwest, but I was still living this dream of going to someday we’re going to be more successful and have more financial resources.

And, suddenly, I was a single parent woman. And more than a lesbian, more than anything else, that just stripped me of anything—being single with children.

When I started working for the National Organization for Women, no holds were barred for me. I started working on violence against women issues—really working against violence, whether it be global or local violence, it became my world.

And then you are who you are. You’re out there. I was part of one of those raging feminists. There’s a lot of anger there when you start realizing—I mean, it was the era when rape was just called a crime for the first time because it wasn’t illegal to rape. Domestic violence was just being named. None of these things existed until women started really fighting for them and being literally out in the streets. Whether you’re a bra-burning feminist or whatever you were called.

One day, I was at a meeting during the Anita Hill hearings. I remember saying at this meeting, we thought a few people would show up. Hundreds of women showed up. People were talking about what it’s like to be seen as this angry woman. I remember being asked, “If someone says they think you’re a loud-mouthed, radical, bra-burning, lesbian feminist, what are you supposed to say?” And I said, “Thank you.” We made a T-shirt, made a lot of money off that T-shirt. (Laughter.)

JENNIFER BROWN: I want one of those!

LOUISE CHERNIN: That was the start of that. Yes, you have to be visible. And you learn that as a feminist woman, but you certainly learn that when you are a lesbian. If we’re going to change the world, we have to be out there and visible. We have to be visible not just in a civil rights organization, but in our children’s schools, and we have to be visible in our workplaces and that’s the only way that things are going to change—when we put a name and a face on who we really are.

JENNIFER BROWN: I agree. The other challenge, of course, with the women’s movement is the question of race and ethnicity, and the realization that you are a white activist. That’s never really an accurate way to describe a group of people. You shared the story with me about your partner, who grew up in North Dakota. One of the many lessons about “white is not white” necessarily as a unilateral community. Tell us the story about that realization about how she grew up, and how it opened up your eyes and led you to do some work on where you fit from an ethnicity, racial, and cultural perspective maybe into the camp that is viewed as not understanding diversity. I think we’re still having that conversation.

LOUISE CHERNIN: Absolutely. I always want to say at the very beginning, I do believe race has to do a lot of the leading, because the racism in our country is so deep, is so much from our founding, and has been so ignored and misunderstood. No matter what other forms of diversity in my heart and soul, I believe race must lead. I always like to say that at the beginning.

When I met my partner, she is from North Dakota, from a little town—Wing, North Dakota—a town of 250 people, already I could not even imagine that from Brooklyn.

JENNIFER BROWN: Right? (Laughter.)

LOUISE CHERNIN: People always say, “What’s your relationship like?” I say, “She’s from North Dakota, I’m from Brooklyn.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Yeah, do the math. (Laughter.)

LOUISE CHERNIN: One that won’t shut up, and one doesn’t talk.

Anyway, she always was saying to me that she came from a diverse community. Now, North Dakota is very white and was very German, as I saw it. She, then, went from Wing, North Dakota, to Bismarck, so the name itself, obviously very German roots. I’m a Jew from Brooklyn, and I’m going, “Wait, I lived with every race and ethnicity in New York. You go on the subway and people speak every language, they’re very color, they’re every background. And you’re from North Dakota.” And she said, “What do you mean? I’m from a little town of 250 where everybody was from a different country—from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Armenia. And everyone ate different foods and spoke different languages.”

So what I saw was all white and eastern European and the same, she saw as incredibly diverse, where she actually had to learn everybody’s customs. And, in fact, I grew up in a Jewish ghetto, so there was probably more sameness in my community than there was in her community. I had my own biases. I had a bias about North Dakota, about a small town, and that there were no Jews, there were no people of color, certainly in Wing. So it was really interesting that she had a breadth of experience that I denied. I denied it because I didn’t know about it, I didn’t understand it, and I didn’t see it.

Certainly, as my experience opened my eyes and I started working with different women and different women’s groups, especially during my time with NOW, realizing the movement was a predominately white movement, middle-class movement, and it really denied the realities of the lives of women of color and what they were facing.

It was a movement in the early days that not only didn’t truly embrace the conflicts of women of color, but also women in the sex industry—that was a big divide in the women’s movement—the lesbian and trans women in terms of the women’s community. Trans women, we hardly recognized at all.

We all live in our little worlds that we want to see as diverse, but it is with blinders and our own biases of not recognizing the different backgrounds and experiences that people have and grow up with because of who they are, who their families are, or where they lived. It was very eye opening.

I think I shared with you an article that I read in 1983. I was involved in the Puget Sound Women’s Peace Camp. I was one of the founders. It was the second Women’s Peace Camp in the world, the first one in England, and our commitment was to stop the cruise missile. And we camped and surrounded Boeing, which is in my hometown here.

But one of the articles I was reading at the time in the peace camp movement was written from the founder of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Bernice Johnson Reagon. And it was about coalition work. I shared the story with you about how women wanted to organize a peace camp in Upstate New York, and one really was organized around the time ours was here. They put out signs everywhere, “All women welcome, we want to see all women come to this meeting.” And women came, and they flocked in, and they did not look like the women the organizers were expecting. They were wearing rollers in their hair, make-up, nail polish, they were working-class women, they were women who were not pro-choice, they were rural women who worked on farms, maybe they didn’t even believe women should work outside of the home. These women who invited them were shocked, these women were not who they expected.

The article is about, first of all, when you said “all women,” did you really mean all women, or did you mean only women who look like you? Now, you might have meant women of all colors, different religions, but you meant women who had certain political backgrounds, and you didn’t mean the other women.

The group ended up sharing a lot in their time together, but I love that the article ended, “You probably didn’t mean all women, but you are doing real coalition work.” When you leave a meeting and you’ve really done coalition work and you’re feeling good, something didn’t happen. Working across different sectionalities of people’s lives is hard work. It’s very hard to understand each other and other people. Intellectually, it’s easy; we read books, we see movies, we feel it. But in our hearts, to really understand why someone is different and why their experience is important for me to understand if we’re going to get along and change the world.

I always love that story. And it brought me back to Mary’s story, where here she was in what I saw as a very homogenous, small community that really was filled with a lot of diversity and difference.

JENNIFER BROWN: So apropos of the times we’re living in right now. When we say “inclusion”—and I even wrote a book on it, right?

LOUISE CHERNIN: Yes.

JENNIFER BROWN: We’ve all been challenged to think about whether we’re truly being inclusive of all viewpoints and backgrounds. When we just talk about race and gender, that has always been such a reduction of all of the diversity that makes us who we are. It’s visible and invisible diversity, it acknowledges that somebody who looks white and male and heterosexual also has a diversity story. It’s not the “pain Olympics,” as Kenji Yoshino famously talks about. It was such an unlock to hear him say that. It gave me—and maybe people like you, too, Louise—a legitimacy to be in this movement and talking about our stories. Somebody has to come along and give you permission. Otherwise, you assume, “Well, maybe I’m not diverse enough or I’m not a person of color.” I would imagine people who are not in the LGBT community, there’s a feeling of asking, “How do I come into this conversation and what is my moral authority to be in it?”

It was so powerful for me to be told that we all have stories, they may be hidden, and our job is to reveal them. I’m so excited to speak at your dinner on the 15th. I’m thrilled. February 15th for anybody who’s listening, the Business and Humanitarian Awards. The 37th year. I get to keynote with Louise and the community in Seattle.

We’re really excited about the message I bring, which is my diversity story—a combination of my privileged identities, and my lesser-privileged identities, and really calling that out from the stage. More often than not, I feel like an ally these days more than I’m aware of my LGBT identity. I agree with you, race and ethnicity is the conversation we need to have, and inclusion of our trans colleagues is the conversation to have. I feel like I want to jump into being an ally with my energy these days because I’ve been given so much relative privilege. For me, that means cisgender privilege, it means socioeconomic privilege—the things that make it relatively easier for me to walk through this world.

It comes with a lot of responsibility, and that’s what I’m mindful of. I know you are, too. I’m curious, as you are an executive director of an organization that’s shepherding business opportunities for the LGBT entrepreneur ecosystem, you struggle with diversity when you look at gay founders of organizations. I don’t have stats on this, but I would imagine they’re more male than female, more white than people of color. We have our own diversity issues in the community.

With the mandate you have, you’ve got to hold this space to make the GSBA more diverse. It is so important to you. I’m curious, how have you done that? How have you held that vision and north star for the organization, for a community, for a business association that in many ways, is largely white and largely male as well? And I hope that’s changing, but I’m curious.

LOUISE CHERNIN: Absolutely. GSBA, yes, was founded by nine white, gay men. We always joke because the first woman who joined the board, Harley Broe, said another woman came into the supermarket and saw her and said, “Oh, my God, GSBA formed, you’ve got to join, we need lesbians.” (Laughter.) So we always introduce her as “the first lesbian.”

JENNIFER BROWN: Yay!

LOUISE CHERNIN: Hopefully she’ll be at the dinner, you’ll get to meet her. Quickly thereafter, it’s interesting. GSBA has actually had a fair amount of gender parity in the organization, although not necessarily transgender. Gender parity, but not in activism.

What it took was once I became the executive director, right around the time we brought in one of our first women—we’ve had only four or five women board chairs. While I was ED, we had a board chair, Mona Smith. Suddenly, what’s very interesting, just like it is in every other situation, you invite the people, or people are attracted to join things where they see themselves.

With a woman chair and a woman executive director, suddenly, more women are getting engaged or wanting to serve on the board, wanting to chair committees. We got to a point after a few years when we’re thinking of board people saying, “Do we know any men?” (Laughter.)

JENNIFER BROWN: Really?

LOUISE CHERNIN: We were starting to think we were going to get out of balance. But we have gender parity on our board. We’re getting closer to a third of the board are people of color. We’re getting better, but we have to be very intentional. We have to say, “If we are not going to fill this position with a person of color, a woman, or transgender person, the position will not be filled.”

Now, we couldn’t do that originally. We had to wait until we got a little stronger, but we do that now. We are intentional. We talk about it a lot. I talk about it with my staff, I talk about it with the board. It is not only where we invite people to join us, but where do we show up? Are we showing up with ethnic chambers of commerce? Are we supporting issues such as Black Lives Matter or the huge struggle around immigration and the Dreamers?

Also, we have to show up not just because we want to support those communities, but we have to recognize we are those communities. LGBT people are in every community. And, yet, LGBT people who are people of color face racism in the LGBT white communities and they might face homophobia or transphobia in their communities of color or in the LGBT community.

Recognizing the different hats we wear, the different backgrounds we have, and the struggles within each of our communities is very important.

But we have changed it. Just a couple of years ago, we started working with the Ethnic Coalition of Chambers of Commerce. We were working with a coalition of about 11 different chambers—Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Latino—and we also recognized a couple of those chambers were of people from countries where it is illegal to be LGBT, where you can be killed because you are LGBT. Suddenly, we’re working together as business people.

Economic issues bring people together because that is something that’s similar. A struggle of a small business person is really very similar regardless of your race, ethnicity, or religion. You might have different struggles getting loans based on racism, but women also have more struggles getting loans. Often, the LGBT community has those same struggles.

You start finding different commonalities. That has been very powerful for us. We are doing more and more about it. This year, for the first time, we were invited by the head of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce to go on the very first trade and cultural mission to Taiwan. It was just as Taiwan was about to pass marriage equality. We brought people, we met with LGBT leaders in Taiwan and walked in the pride parade, one of the largest pride parades in all of Asia. It was an amazing experience.

There, the diversity in the pride parade, what was interesting is Mary and I were there, and two of the other people in our group who are older, and we did not see one older person in this parade besides us.

JENNIFER BROWN: Wow.

LOUISE CHERNIN: We recognize it’s because older people are not out. They’re not going to be seen in a parade. Many come from other Asian countries where it is not legal for them to be out as gay people.

The age struck me. What a privilege it was for us to be part of this and to meet amazing young activists who are where maybe we were 40 or 50 years ago it the jeopardy that they were putting their lives in by fighting for LGBT equality.

We had the opportunity to do that with the LGBT community from Seattle to Taiwan. It’s been a new journey for us. The Mexican consulate has met with us, the Japanese consulate is talking about meeting with us, and we’re talking about actually doing more global work together as business people. That’s very new. The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has certainly started that with more and more LGBT chambers in South America and Europe and Mexico as well.

It’s changing, but it requires going out of a lot of the boundaries around us—geographic boundaries, boundaries around how we hold ourselves and who we interact with. Breaking those down is both scary and exhilarating.

JENNIFER BROWN: Tell us how many certified LGBT-owned businesses you have as members in the GSBA currently.

LOUISE CHERNIN: I think we’re at about 50 or 55 businesses right now.

JENNIFER BROWN: That’s incredible.

LOUISE CHERNIN: It’s interesting. I’ll be very honest, we were slow to embrace LGBT supplier diversity in GSBA, even though we are the largest chamber, and that was because it’s a different concept to think you will be certified as an LGBT business owner the same way as a woman-owned business or a minority-owned business or veteran-owned business is. That’s a certification not recognized in a lot of the country.

We now have a lot of allied members. They would not be able to be certified. We have some businesses that we’re not sure if certification would provide them much. And it took me a while to recognize the power of certification. It’s not just whether you can compete for a contract, but it starts a dialogue with corporations to raise their awareness. Where do you spend your money? Our corporations have phenomenal wealth, the successful ones, and they do business as usually with the same vendors they know, probably part of the same old world.

JENNIFER BROWN: Yes.

LOUISE CHERNIN: But when you say, “Show me where you have spent that money,” and they start looking, it raises awareness. Well, have I used women-owned businesses? Have I used minority-owned businesses? Have I used LGBT-owned businesses? Did I even know there we LGBT-owned businesses? Did I realize that we might have passed laws, but the LGBT community still faces huge barriers.

The trans community is one of the most discriminated-against communities in the country with many states trying to roll back civil rights for our transgender brothers and sisters.

What about the LGBT communities of color, what they face? Yes, certification is about opportunity, but it’s also about dialogue. And I think that’s the greatest power—it raises awareness in corporations and government entities to be more conscious of what they do to strengthen the other entities around them, to share that wealth, and bring more of that around the table.

JENNIFER BROWN: To put another pitch in for supplier diversity, we are the big companies of the future. When a big corporation looks at their spend and makes a commitment to diversifying that spend, it creates economic opportunity for us to grow our businesses, hire more people, be more visible, be the innovators of today and tomorrow, and bring more innovative ideas as well to the companies that we are being hired to serve.

In my company, we have created incredible relationships because they’ve sought us out and wanted our innovation, wanted our identity. Being on the outside, we have a different way of solving problems, we have different communities to pull on. We look at problems in a unique way because of our challenging life circumstances. There is something that’s created when you’ve got to fight your way in and through something from an economic opportunity perspective, unconscious bias, conscious bias, or stigma that forces you to get very clear on your value proposition.

That’s one of the reasons I find this community I’m in so inspiring. Just the personal courage to be an out business owner, and then to get certified and go on record. And in my case, to know that corporate America is looking for us. They’re looking to do business with us because this is another way that they are putting their money where their mouth is, that they are investing in diversity. It’s a different twist on that word, but it’s been incredible. It’s given us such a lift in my business. And I’m so proud to be certified, particularly as a woman-owned, LGBT business.

I know we’re very short on time, but is there anything you’d like to leave us with? We have a lot of entrepreneurs on our broadcast. How can people educate themselves about being a diverse supplier? We have a lot of women business owners, a lot of business owners of color, a lot of LGBTQ business owners and allies on this show. How can they all get involved in this movement from wherever they stand?

LOUISE CHERNIN: Right. Well, I think it’s very important to realize that there are great opportunities if you identify your business in all the ways that is unique.

There’s a lot of competition out there, but there are also many, many people who want to spend their money where it makes a difference. When you identify yourself as LGBT-owned, woman-owned, minority-owned, or in some states they recognize veteran-owned businesses, you are showing that you might have different values in your business.

I realized when you said that we are a community that because of our struggles, we might have some of our own uniqueness. I absolutely agree with that. In fact, when people ask me, “Do you think we still need an LGBT Chamber of Commerce?” I say, “First of all, we’re not just about fighting things. We actually like each other, actually our own culture. And we appreciate seeing each other, spending time together.” And many other people want to be with us because they recognize that we are one of the unique chambers that is a value-driven chamber. We are about business, absolutely. We’re about success, definitely. But we are about using our platform and our economic power to change the world and incorporate those values of inclusion, diversity, and equity into our business model.

Being with us is good. You will enjoy being our customers and our employees. By identifying yourself, you do set yourself apart showing that your bottom line includes a value for people, and all the different people that bring their unique skills and talent into your workplace or your diverse customer base. The world has changed, and the more you can show what you stand for and what you care about, the more successful you will be, not just financially, but holistically.

Being able to find out, how do you get that identifier if you are 51 percent or more owned and operated in one of those categories—LGBT, women, minority owned? Get certified. Get connected to your Chamber of Commerce or LGBT chamber, your minority chamber in your community. Get together and figure out how you can get your voice about equality and the importance of equity and inclusion and diversity in business out there.

We have a lot of battles going on worldwide—certainly in our own country, but all over the world to make the world a better and safer place for everybody. Business can be a central player in changing the world.

JENNIFER BROWN: Louise, I could not agree more. Business’s role and voice is more critical than ever. They are going to lead this conversation about equality—at least for the short term. They are doing it. They’re putting their money where their mouth is and making LGBT—our community in particular—a priority. In the future, we’ll be focused on people with diverse ability and those business owners.

This whole conversation continues to mature. I know you and I are so excited to more inclusive of those who have been outside of those opportunities that have been relatively easier for others to procure.

I underscore everything you said. If you’re listening to this and you’re not certified and you suspect that you could be, you owe it to yourself to get involved with your local chamber. Don’t be afraid of certification. Don’t be afraid of the kinds of forms and paperwork and documentation you need to provide. As Louise says, the time is now for diverse talent and for diverse business owners. We are sought after for so many reasons. Get into the conversation, you will learn so much. Even as an ally, you will learn a tremendous amount and you are so welcome in every gathering that we are a part of in the LGBT community. We welcome our allies enthusiastically.

Thank you for being such a guiding light for so many. You’ve been a pillar in Seattle, but bigger than that. I can’t wait for the dinner, to celebrate our community and be together as a bunch of suppliers and corporations, and continue to spread the word that we are an inclusive community and that there’s so much left to capitalize on to do good business.

Thank you, Louise, for joining The Will to Change, this was very special.

LOUISE CHERNIN: It’s been an honor and a pleasure to chat with you and others out there.

JENNIFER BROWN: Thank you.

USEFUL LINKS

Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA)