Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

In a recent interview, Todd Sears discussed the accomplishments of Out Leadership, its annual LGBTQ+ business-climate index and the role of the LGBTQ+ community in the business world.

While at Merrill Lynch, Sears developed a plan to work with LGBTQ+ couples and nonprofit organizations. It was successful, brought in sizable assets and provide the business rationale for working with these groups. When he left Merrill, he decided to replicate that program and founded Out Leadership in 2011. He wanted to spread the word and get more businesses to support equality because back then CEOs and corporations don’t speak about gay rights.

In 2018, Out Leadership released its first annual LGBTQ+ business climate index. It focused on issues such as nondiscrimination policies for LGBTQ+ people and the difficulty in changing a gender marker on a driver’s license or birth certificate. Sears said the rankings are intended to shed light on how a state is perceived and its ability to draw business talent.

New York got the top spot in Out Leadership index for the second straight year, while South Carolina ranked lowest for the third consecutive year. Florida ranked 31st, but Sears believes its so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law could affect the state’s ability to attract talent. He said some businesses are already considering whether they can and should do business in Florida.

Sears underscored buying power of the LGBTQ+ community, which constitutes a $5.2 trillion global market. It also has an “ally market” that will allow LGBT-friendly companies to tap a much broader consumer base. He also expressed concerns about the discrimination against the transgender community. The trans population is relatively small, but there are more than 150 anti-trans bills across multiple states.

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