The Lancaster Chamber strives to provide opportunity for local business and community leaders to share their insight and perspective on a variety of current topics.
This Words That Activate Change series is focused on uplifting voices in our community that encourage dialogue, cultivate transformation, offer thought-provoking ideas, and challenge all of us to be better, be stronger, and, most importantly, be advocates for systemic change within both our community and our workforce.
Our third article is by Todd Snovel. Todd serves as Special Assistant to the President for Strategic Initiatives and Development at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design. Prior to joining PCA&D, Todd was appointed by Governor Tom Wolf as the inaugural Executive Director for the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. Todd is active on several boards and serves organizations that promote his personal commitments to education, healthcare, the arts, and equality. He received a B.A. from Lebanon Valley College and an M.A., in organizational leadership, from Mansfield University.
Beyond Pride Month: Supporting LGBTQ Communities
By Todd Snovel
For LGBTQ communities, this year’s Pride Month has been complicated and complex. We witnessed events canceled or happening virtually due to the current pandemic. We grieved, again, for the loss of the 49 lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. Locally, we also grieved for Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells, a black trans woman of color brutally murdered in Philadelphia earlier this month. We painfully absorbed the federal government’s rolled back discrimination protections in access to health care and health insurance for LGBTQ Americans and then, within the same week, celebrated the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that the 1964 Civil Rights Act extends protections to LGBTQ employees from discrimination. And we have absorbed all of these things while also witnessing the continued systemic racism and violence facing Black lives in the United States.
What remains clearly evident, now more than ever, is that it will take each of us as business, organization, and community leaders to hold space for others and advocate for change. These moments in our history are incredibly difficult, but they also lead us to a renewed vision of the world as we want it to be.
As we consider ways to affirm LGBTQ colleagues, customers, and community members, strategies must go far beyond surface-level responses. Hanging a rainbow flag and creating Pride-inspired logos for social media campaigns demonstrate a perceived visible commitment to LGBTQ communities, but are far from the comprehensive and sustained plans necessary for an organization to make measurable improvements with diversity and inclusion efforts. Organizations model inclusion when they specifically engage diverse individuals and value the success of all people.
Leaders committed to making substantial change will not approach diversity and inclusion initiatives within a “check the box” mentality, but will spend time, energy, and resources to systematically evaluate policies, practices, and procedures to strategically identify areas of growth and improvement.
Commitments to equality also need to be visible at every level of the organization. At PCA&D, President Molla has recently created the President’s Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which includes broad participation from all campus constituencies to consider the College’s continued commitment to equality. In a recent community letter, he reiterated “our society’s collective history is full of plans left by the wayside after the crowds go home; of treaties broken; of watered-down promises never fulfilled. This cannot be the present case, for PCA&D, as an institution, or for the people who, together, make up its community. Our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and neighbors – all of us – deserve better.”
Organizations should also invest in community partners integral in supporting these initiatives. The LGBTQ+ Coalition of Lancaster provides workplace and team training that promote general competency and education, as well as strengthen best practices for hiring, retention, and workplace culture. The Keystone Business Alliance, Central Pennsylvania’s LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce, expands the success of businesses committed to LGBTQ equality and certifies LGBTQ-owned and operated businesses to ensure their ability to seek opportunities and strategic partnerships. As companies are able, their public collaboration, sponsorship, and membership with organizations such as these further demonstrate their commitment to equality.
Finally, we must holistically acknowledge and learn from each LGBTQ employee or customer based on their identities and lived experiences. Pride Month only exists as a result of an evening, 51 years ago, when trans and nonbinary women of color in New York City’s Stonewall Inn fought back against the ongoing discrimination they experienced through police raids. From this example, we realize that no equality efforts can take place without having an intersectional lens. Law professor and social theorist, Kimberlé Crenshaw, introduced the term of intersectionality, which refers to a framework to conceptualize the overlapping identities found in each person and the complexity of privilege or prejudice uniquely faced by the combination of these identities. For example, a program designed to celebrate Pride Month must do so by considering the overlapping and unique experiences of subsets within our communities (trans and non-binary folx, LGBTQ communities of color, LGBTQ folx with varying abilities, LGBTQ elders, LGBTQ immigrants, etc.) If the program essentially celebrates the experience of a gay, white, cisgender, able-bodied man of mid to high socio-economic standing, it has failed to truly understand the breadth and depth of LGBTQ communities.
As we begin to think beyond the month of June, every business in Lancaster County can commit to being a lasting champion of LGBTQ equality. Through core company values, hiring and benefits evaluations, marketing campaigns, and public support for comprehensive non-discrimination protections in Pennsylvania, our business communities can be advocates for protecting LGBTQ rights and supporting communities long after the rainbow flags have been put back into storage.
Catch up on other articles in the series:
The Lancaster Chamber is currently creating a diversity task force and sourcing inclusivity & anti-racism training. We are committed to making changes within our own organization to better serve everyone in Lancaster County.