Finding a job after college with an environment well disposed is difficult for anyone.
But for graduates within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and asexual (LGBTQA) community, the search can be even more challenging, considering that laws and attitudes pertinent to LGBTQA issues vary greatly across the country.
To answer some of the questions that students within the community have about finding a job with an environment that will welcome them and that is sensitive to LGBTQA issues, the Cal State Northridge Alumni Association hosted a panel Wednesday night in the Grand Salon of the Grand Salon with LGBTQA alumni and advocates.
“If you’re going to go in to work for a company … ask the question ‘How are you with LGBT issues?’” said Pat Baillie, a CSUN alumna and director of training and professional development at Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. “Start with diversity inclusion and say ‘What do you do for that? Do you have employee resource groups? Which ones are they?’ And if they happen to mention that they have an LGBT one, then ask to talk to some of the members.”
Speakers at the panel discussed resources for both students and alumni to use in their job searches that will help them find culturally competent companies.
Baillie introduced tools such as the corporate equality index, which benchmarks corporate policies and practices involving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.
“There is some research which indicates that even if you’re not LGBT, when you look at a company, and if you see that they aren’t taking care of all their people and they’re discriminating, then you start to question them,” Baillie said.
As well as discussing tools, the panel gave advice on networking within the LGBTQA community and professional groups. The panelist said that through professional groups students are able to gain a better understanding of the inner working and social life of a company.
“One is looking at the group within the company and the other is looking at your professional group,” said Zeke Zeidler, CSUN alumnus and Los Angeles Superior Court judge. “[Get] involved with lesbian and gay professional groups within the industry you want to get into you, then meet people who are [insights] into businesses, and then [find] out if that is a business that you want to be employed with and want to go into.”
Ron Silverman, vice president of development for the Trevor Project — a crisis intervention and suicide prevention non-profit for LGBTQ young people — and panelist, said that the goal of discussions like these are to educate and promote cultural competency and acceptance.
Silverman said that while the LGBTQA community has made a lot of progress in terms of civil rights, the community must stay vigilant.
“There are still teachers that are unaccepting; there are still administrators that are unaccepting; there are things that children still say, and there is a way that society still behaves,” said Silverman. “At a politically correct cocktail party or a ‘friends over for the holidays,’ or in a mixed group, no one is going to tell a joke with an African-American punch line — just not going to happen. But you know what, sometimes you can still get away with telling a fag joke.”
Mike Bloch, a CSUN alumnus and senior vice president and business support executive at Bank of America, said that to make progress on LGBTQ issues and end societal and corporate intolerance toward the community, it needs to get more involved both politically and professionally.
Bloch says that for him getting involved has meant pushing his company to support the LGBTQ community by helping politically.
“I’m usually the guy saying there is this [LGBTQ supportive] non-profit you can throw some money over to,” he said.
Moreover, Silverman said that individuals in support of these issues need to be more politically active if they want professional life to improve.
“We have to have a voice,” Silverman said. “And when it comes time to vote, we have to stop whatever else we are doing and we have to go vote. It’s really important that we do that and that we vote for the change that we know has to occur, and we vote for those things that we believe in and that we know are right.”