Difference was celebrated at Club 101 in New York City on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at the ‘Top Corporate Allies for Diversity’ Gala, hosted by Difference Matters Magazine. The sold-out gala honored organizations for their commitment and support of employees in five different categories (LGBT, Disabilities, Women, People of Color, and Veterans), instead of solely LGBT like the past three awards galas. A portion of the proceeds were donated to Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), which trains and places women in careers in the skilled construction, utility, and maintenance.
A mix of well-dressed attendees mingled over cocktail hour before a sit-down dinner and panel discussion. Various impressive guests posed for photographs on the “Rainbow Carpet.” “Not only is the rainbow LGBT,” says Lori Sokol, Ph.D, founder of Difference Matters and one of the nation’s most influential writers and editors covering women’s issues, politics, business, and LGBT issues. “But all the different colors show that we all have something different to contribute.”
The importance of diversity was the overarching theme of the evening. “It’s really important to have different perspectives, ideas, opinions, backgrounds, because more than likely, the outcome will be better,” panelist, Dara Richardson-Heron M.D., CEO of the YWCA USA, said underscoring Sokol’s message. Loreen Arbus, Producer/Disability Rights Activist and President of the Loreen Arbus Foundation, another panelist agreed. “Diversity and inclusion—that’s what the world should be!”
The panel of esteemed women explored the corporate benefits and necessity of diversity and spoke to under-represented groups in the workforce. Loreen Arbus offered statistics showing how disproportionally few disabled people acquire jobs while Dara Richardson-Heron spoke about current issues affecting women in the workplace. Both women challenged society to include difference. Sam McClure, Vice President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC), expressed the importance of “not only having a seat at the table, but also a voice.”
Lori Sokol read off the names the recipients of the awards for companies that champion diversity. They were AT & T, Barclays, CA Technologies, Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft LLP, Delta Airlines, Discovery Communications, Interpublic Group (IPG), Merck, Mondelēz Global LLC, Morgan Stanley, Nielsen, Quest Diagnostics, Turner Construction and Viacom. “We honor companies that are at the forefront of supporting diversity inside and outside of the workplace not only to pay tribute to their accomplishments, but also for others to learn from these pioneering organizations so that they, too, understand the importance of supporting their employees’ differences.” In speaking to the group, Lori Sokol emphasized, “Diversity helps to keep companies competitive.” During the panel discussion, Sam McClure echoed that sentiment, saying, “Economic strength comes from diverse perspectives.” In addition to the awards, each honoree will be profiled in Difference Matters.
The event recognized twelve women figures in the male-dominated real estate industry. Sara Mirski of Sapir Organization and Mary Dietz of Silverstein Properties talked about their experience as women working in the field.
As Dara Richardson-Heron put it, “Everyone should have an opportunity to play a role in making a better world.” Difference most definitely matters.