June is Pride Month so we’re kicking things off with a conversation with Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah. Here’s what they do, how they can help your company or community, and how you can help them.
Tell us about Equality Utah.
Equality Utah is celebrating our 20th anniversary this year. Our mission is to secure legal protections for LGBTQ Utahns and their families. We do that through lobbying state and municipal governments, conducting public education programs, trainings, and lectures.
We want to build bridges based on shared values. Our belief is, that despite our many differences, we can draw on the threads that connect us all to create a better Utah.
What are the services that the EDCUtah investor base could take advantage of?
We provide diversity, equity, and inclusion trainings for Utah businesses, and our goal is to certify all of you as Business Equality Leaders. We teach “LGBTQ 101,” the language of inclusion, the gender spectrum, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission policies, and provide guidance for creating a more inclusive workplace. As a new service, we provide ally-ship training, which looks at the crossroads of LGBTQ and race identity.
Our trainings are fun, engaging, and designed to meet people where they are. The great gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk once said, “If we are to live in harmony, we have to build bridges from community to community.”
Our objective is not to shame anybody or to call anybody out. We want to call people together. We want to figure out how to identify the things we have in common to create more loving communities.
There’s no better place to do that than in the workplace, where we interact with people most of the day. Through our trainings, we can help you to create more cohesive workspaces.
What’s the business imperative for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
We’ve heard from CEOs and recruiters that there are a lot of stereotypes people have about Utah. Some of the stereotypes are justified, but most of them are not. We want to challenge those misconceptions and show people the incredible strides that Utah has made.
I look back at this last year, where we entered a pandemic, and experienced an earthquake and social upheaval over issues of race, and I look at how the state responded. Then Gov. Herbert, and now Gov. Cox, the Salt Lake Chamber, and others issued the Utah Compact on Racial Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This is a phenomenal document that really established some guiding principles about bringing people to the table. It’s about crafting public policy with the ethos of “Nothing about us without us.” That is to say, that when issues impact a community, that community is invited and engaged to craft those policies.
How have the approaches Equality Utah takes with the Utah Legislature informed the corporate training programs you’ve developed?
It’s all about finding common ground. When I sit down with a state leader, someone who belongs to a different political party than myself, I try not to presume to know who they are as a person and what they are all about. I like to go out and have lunch with them and actually break bread. You get to discover all sorts of interesting things about each other.
This week, I had lunch with a very conservative state senator. When we started talking, I learned he used to be in a rock band. He’s a huge Depeche Mode fan, and I’m a huge Depeche Mode fan. Before sitting down with him. I would have thought “We have absolutely nothing in common.”
But when you actually have a meal together and start sharing stories, you discover all kinds of connections that are beyond politics, that are beyond religion, and those are the magical moments where friendships can begin. You just never know! Today’s opponent may be tomorrow’s ally.
What are you most proud of over the last year?
In the midst of the pandemic, we hosted the nation’s first GOP gubernatorial equality forum. All four Republicans running for Governor sat down to be interviewed by Equality Utah. We looked around and asked, “Is this the first time this has ever happened in the nation?”
To our knowledge, nothing like this has ever happened before. We talked about LGBTQ issues, had a lot of fun, and explored some weighty topics. This is the kind of thing that Utah does that’s very unique. I’m grateful that we live in a state that is open to that level of dialogue.
This level of engagement is not happening in other conservative states, but I’m thrilled that it’s happening here. I think that is truly a testament to the caliber of people in our state and the openness of our leaders. We don’t always agree, but we always keep the door open to each other to see if we can find common ground. That’s what Utah does so well, over and over again.
How can our investors help your organization?
We’ve truly been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support we received from Utah’s business community. When we have proactive bills that elevate LGBTQ Utahns, the business community shows up in support. And when there’s legislation on Capitol Hill designed to marginalize LGBTQ community members, you are also there to support us. It’s really heartening to feel that.
So one big step that you can all take is to certify as a Business Equality Leader. That signals to your employees and future recruits that diversity is intrinsic to your core values. And it also signals that your business is welcoming and open to all. You get to brag about how inclusive you are!
You can also sponsor and attend the Equality Utah Allies gala at the Eccles Theatre on Oct. 2nd. We’re all coming back together after a long pandemic! It is a wild night of high fashion, theatre, and luminary speakers, and it’s hands down the most glamorous, fun, and inspiring fundraising event in Utah. Period!
As the name suggests, we celebrate our allies and we welcome people from all walks of life. This is where we build new friendships, celebrate our community, and discuss our vision for the work ahead. Tickets go on sale July 13th, which is the 20th birthday of Equality Utah. Check it out at equalityutah.org.
For more information on training opportunities, contact Mindy B. Young, managing director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senior Vice President of Strategy & Partnershipssfrohman@edcutah.org