Pittsburgh has long had many organizations that support diverse minorities such as African-Americans, Asians and Latinos in business and socially. Unfortunately, there was no such organization dedicated to supporting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered professionals within the Pittsburgh region.
In January 2009, a group of 25 influential Pittsburghers were asked to attend an informal meeting to discuss creating a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered professional networking group. These individuals were brought together because of their leadership roles with other GLBT organizations throughout the region. One of the major stumbling blocks for the group was that it needed to meet in a place welcoming to the GLBT community, a problem that was solved when WQED offered to host monthly events.
A month later, Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian Executive Committee was formed to provide diverse business networking, specialized programming, diversity speakers and related activities geared to the GLBT community and to members outside of the community who support its mission in a safe, supportive environment.
Since its formation, more than 800 people have joined, and among its members are CEOs, CIOs, COOs, business owners, bankers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, administrators, secretaries, educators -- the list goes on. The GLEC has created a diverse voice in the region that has represented its membership at the Mayor's Diverse City 365 Awards Luncheon, has helped form policy at the county level and has worked with local corporate diversity directors, Equality Pennsylvania and the city's commission on hiring diverse candidates for the Pittsburgh Police.
The GLEC serves as a "Welcome Wagon" for members of the GLBT community who are relocating to the Pittsburgh region and for those in business who are new to the GLBT community. Corporations in the region and those looking to relocate to the region view the executive committee as a valuable resource for recruiting GLBT candidates to support their diversity hiring initiatives.
The executive committee meets monthly at WQED, where members network and hear guest speakers share information on topics ranging from financial planning to legislative updates affecting the GLBT community. Social activities have included kayaking, speed networking and participating in an on-air discussion panel for WQED's "On Q Magazine." The GLEC also has gone on field trips to Pittsburgh Opera's headquarters in the Strip District, the Mattress Factory, the Pittsburgh Public Theater and the City Theater.
The executive committee's success among its members has proven results. Many new business and personal relationships have been formed, and members have helped each other grow their businesses, hire new employees, mentor young GLBT members and even attend college panel discussions for youth seeking to get into business.
The executive committee's goal is to make the Pittsburgh GLBT community closer and more aware of business and personal opportunities, financial issues, laws, politics and community events, and to strengthen the ties of the regional pro-GLBT business community. The diversity of the group provides value to the local and regional community. Today, each member has the ability to reach out to other GLBT professionals in the community for help and assistance that did not exist before.
Michael Testa is chairman of Pittsburgh's Gay and Lesbian Executive Committee