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Dallas author takes a new look at workplace diversity

by Renee Baker
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Jun 13, 2008

A co-worker once told Dr. Susan Gore that she would burn in hell for her lifestyle. That same man, however, also said he would go to great lengths to support her equality in the workplace. While many would find these two beliefs incompatible, Gore saw it as a jumping off point for healthy communication between diverse groups of people, and proof that it's possible to work together while still maintaining different values.

Gore, principal of the Dallas-based Mentor Group, addressed a crowd of about 50 at Sue Ellen's nightclub in Oak Lawn on Tuesday, June 10th. Gore has been active in the gay community for over 20 years and is a consultant on diversity in the workplace. Her new book Gays, God and the Workplace: Not Mutuall Exclusive will be released this summer.

Ron Ausemus, Regional Affiliate Council Chair for Out and Equal, invited Gore to speak at the event to bring another perspective to the diversity table. "The diversity we have now is great...in the workforce, but there is still work to do," he said. Out and Equal is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit national organization advocating for safe and equitable workplaces for GLBT people.

Gore, whose background is in social psychology, looks for ways to bring people together and find inclusion for those not generally accepted. She specifically has found that while gays and evangelicals don't always agree on family values, they can find common ground and work together in ways that are mutually supportive in the workplace.

She realized this, she explains, when training a Human Resources trainer who bluntly told her, "I believe you are going to burn in hell for your lifestyle." Gore, who is in a relationship with another woman and is getting married soon in San Francisco, says the HR trainer continued, "And there is one more thing...I will go to the mat for you to be treated fairly in the workplace." It surprised Gore that someone who could stand so boldly against her sexuality could also stand up for her at the same time. The idea for her new book came from this insight into the notion of diverse people working together despite holding separate values.

"I believe you are going to burn in hell for your lifestyle. And there is one more thing...I will go to the mat for you to be treated fairly in the workplace." Dr. Gore’s co-worker

Gore says her book creates "that arc" between gays, and evangelicals who are against the gay lifestyle. She says we should look for ways in our conversation "that respect religion and sexuality...it is all about communication." Though Gore personally doesn't regret her experience growing up as a Southern Baptist, she believes the church has caused terrible damage.

When asked how we should handle the workplace conflicts, Gore says we have to get people talking. She points to Texas Instruments as a leader in diversity, as they are one of the very few companies to have employee resource groups for Christians, Muslims and gays. It is with the formation of gay resource groups, that other religious groups feel they can form too. Gore says that religious groups are finding acceptance too, in places they are not always welcome, and that "TI had the foresight and courage" to move in this direction of allowing diversity and building upon it.

She also says we can reduce conflict by learning to speak in the language of the other person, one "they are comfortable with". She says, for example, that being a Unitarian Universalist, she doesn't believe in the word "sinner." Yet, when she speaks to a religious person, she may agree, "yes, I am a sinner too" so as not to get hung up on the matter of words. "Religious language is way intense - that is the hook. But the hook is not them. It's me."

Gore adds that we also have to be fully part of the conversation and not project our own beliefs onto the other person. "I want to hear what they are saying, not what I think they are saying." As with anything, she says it takes "practice, practice, practice." She adds too, that "the job of the evangelical is to save, so we should see it that way, one of understanding. We have to meet them half way."

Much of it boils down to fear: "People are fearful on both sides of this conversation," she says, meaning that gays can't forget their part too. She believes gays have to let go of the expectation that others will be afraid of us as well, such as when walking into a room full of evangelicals. "The assumption that I would be attacked is what I bring into the room, not what they bring." Instead, perhaps we should expect allies. "We have many, many allies out there...every company has champions for you: Find them."

Gore feels we are living in a fascinating time, and she's optimistic about the future with a welcoming workforce. She believes that our youth are really the ones to carry us forward. "I've lived long enough that I see things continue to change. That's what keeps me sane."

Dr. Renee Baker is a massage therapist, transgender consultant and board member of Youth First Texas. She may be reached on her website at www.renee-baker.com


Comments

  • , 2008-06-18 12:45:25

    Is this article really about true workplace diversity or rather about the issues of religious views and celebrity notoriety ??? Please remember that just because a corporation has a diverse employee resource group program in place, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the company has a diverse culture. Discrimination occurs within employee resource groups as well, yet this is the subject that is the least addressed when speaking about this issue. I would encourage you to gather stories from those trans folks who are not in the corporate celebrity


  • , 2008-06-18 12:51:39

    continued......circle. I can assure you that they have a different perspective than that of the corporate "champions". Name intentionally withheld for fear of further retaliation from the corporate "champions"


  • , 2008-06-21 10:58:17

    Interesting, however Dr. Gore didn’t mention quite everything, or the author failed to include it in the article. Gore mentions TI specifically, but yet subtly omits the fact that a few members of the Out and Equal Board are corporate Managers for TI, the very non-profit organization who asked her to speak and also the very organization that condones another board member who has engaged in discrimination of one of our very own community !! Additionally, Gore fails to mention that anyone can be a "consultant" and hang a shingle these days and we have not seen any substantiated research in the field of workplace diversity and corporate HR policy. This is not about who is qualified to address these issues at our corporations, its about who is in bed with who and who met who at the last corporate luncheon mixer. Why don’t you interview GLBT employees instead, they are the true experts in workplace diversity. Lastly, interesting how Gore only mentioned "Gays" in her interview. Way to go Susan !!! A real "diverse" approach to this issue.


  • , 2008-06-21 11:18:51

    I agree with the reader above about the fact that this article doesn’t quite tell the entire story. Quite frankly I am surprised that Mrs. Baker would endeavor to write about such a topic of workplace diversity when her actions have proved otherwise. It has been my understanding, Mrs. Baker that during the summer of last year that a member of our community was discriminated against and excluded from volunteering with Youth First Texas by you and another Dallas therapist who sits on that board because you both didn’t agree with her political and corporate views. And isn’t it true that you stood by idly while this same person was discriminated against by her employer ??, yet you saw fit to patronize the very organization which supported it. If you are going to tell a story, then please respect the public’s intelligence and tell the entire story of hypocrisy and not your filtered journalistic version.


  • Heartsalive, 2009-02-23 10:09:52

    Having been firsthand in the "inner circle" of a major corporation when I was closeted I know there is a great deal of hypocrisy within people. The problem is that because they are "people" they drag their personal prejudices and fears with them wherever they go. Until they are personally coaxed and encouraged to change and other institutions such as their Minister, Teachers and Mentors begin supporting that change it will be difficult to banish all forms of bigotry. Companies must continue to support and "embrace" diveristy and demonstrate in their hiring, promotion and retention decisions that all diversity is a valued consideration in staffing and succession planning. I applaud Drs. Gore and Bakers efforts to promote civility and diversity in our world.


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