Washington Work Out

Annual gathering to provide LGBTQ grads with guidance in being out at work

by Yusef Najafi
Published on September 15, 2010, 11:03pm | Comments

When Donna Rose began her transition from male to female at the age of 40, Out for Work wasn't there to guide her along the way.

''It would have been a huge help for me if it did exist,'' says Rose, of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Today, however, the two have joined forces. On Sept. 25, Out for Work kicks off its sixth annual National Out for Work LGBTQA College Student Career Conference in D.C., and Rose will be one of the speakers addressing attendees.

''I was a straight white man, an IT consultant for a Fortune 500 company … and my transition changed everything,'' she recalls. ''I had never previously been discriminated against, as far as I could tell. When I transitioned, all of a sudden I went from a world of privilege to a world of having to live with stigma.

''Helping to overcome that, it became apparent early on that it was all about education. That's kind of the heart and soul of Out for Work. It's about helping people be comfortable in who they are, not simply outside of the workplace, but throughout their entire lives.''

Riley Folds, Out for Work's director and founder, says the two-day conference will help sexual minorities navigate the workplace openly – and that it's crucial that they do.

''There are studies that show that those that are out at the workplace tend to stay and advance at organizations much longer and more quickly than those who aren't,'' he says. ''It relates back to professional development and advancement within the organization.''

Advice on achieving professional development will be offered from several prominent guests at the conference, including: Tim Gunn of Project Runway; Jonathan Capehart of the Washington Post; and the first transgender White House appointee, Amanda Simpson, who serves as senior technical adviser at the Department of Commerce.

Students attending the conference are given the opportunity to share their résumés for review, practice interviewing skills, and network with employers. The conference wraps up with a free career fair open to the public.

Folds says employers recruiting at the career fair will include such heavy hitters as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Nordstrom and PNC Bank.

''Out for Work is one of those organizations that fills a much-needed role,'' Rose says, ''because people fail to understand that corporate America, the workplace, has led the way for a long time in helping to humanize ourselves as LGBT people.''

To register for Out for Work's 2010 National Out for Work LGBTQA College Student Career Conference, Sept. 25-26, at the Washington Plaza Hotel, 10 Thomas Circle NW, call 1-866-571-5428 or visit outforwork.org. Students $45, professionals $75. Out for Work also hosts a fundraising reception featuring Tim Gunn on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Mova, 1425 P St. NW. Suggested minimum donation $20.