The 7th annual Florida LGBT-Allies Diversity Summit was held this past Friday at the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality. Companies from across the state sent representatives to attend panels on “LGBT Equality and Civil Rights” as well as “Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace.”

The morning began with a panel on “Allyship: Voices of the LGBTQ Community” made up of George Wallace the Executive Director of the LGBT+ Center Orlando, Jennifer Walls the Senior Vice President/Area Sales Director for Lee Hecht Harrison, Marco Antonio Quiroga the Program Director for the Contigo Fund, and Kellie Parkin the Executive Director of MBA Orlando – LGBT Chamber of Commerce answering questions on the challenges and benefits of LGBTQ visibility at work. As noted by Parkin, it is estimated that 50% of employees are still in the closet and need support. Walls added that there are still large companies with annual revenue of $100M+ who believe that they do not have LGBTQ employees.

After the breakout panels, the summit attendees reconvened to listen to the keynote address “How Allies are Made” by Pulse owner Barbara Poma. In her talk, Poma relayed the story of why she and her husband, both LGBTQ allies, came to open Pulse as a “place for everyone” and the community input and research that went in to opening the Pulse interim memorial. As a parting thought, she encouraged the audience members not to cut off on social media those who don’t share similar views as it means a lost opportunity to change minds.

Poma was awarded the Ally Ambassador Award, only the second time that award has been given. To close the summit, Ally Awards were given to Elizabeth Saltigerald an executive board member of Pasco County Pride, John Mina Chief of the Orlando Police Department, Matthew Cox Specialized Member Services, Service and Solutions Management at USAA, Cindy Watson CEO of JASMYN and Trevor Pettiford reporter at Bay News 9.

Photos by Melody Maia Monet

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