“I am coming out as someone who needs glasses,” Equality Florida’s President and Founder, Nadine Smith, announced with a smile as she adjusted her reading glass on the tip of her nose to set the tone for the afternoon’s Equality Means Business luncheon and panel discussion.

The afternoon presentation, hosted by the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce and Equality Florida, included panelists from around the region who focused on the benefits of diversity in the workplace.

Event panelists included Donna Kimmel, SVP and Chief People Office from Citrix, Anna Karefa-Johnson, Affinity Manager Community Outreach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dr. Jose Hernandez, Associate VP from the University of South Florida, Nathan Bruemmer, TransAction Advisory Board Member with Equality Florida, and Elizabeth Frazier, the Executive Director of the Lightning Foundation.

From HRC rankings to transgender inclusion, panelists took their turns answering questions and addressing hot topics around LGBT issues.

“‘The right thing to do’ has become a much more accepting statement,” said Frazier when discussing why the Lightning Foundation has placed more emphasis on diversity in the workplace.

When asked about her reaction to North Carolina’s HB2 Bill, Kimmel chimed in, “It’s important to welcome all diversity. Millenials are helping to fuel that energy throughout our company.” She then went on to discuss her company’s progress and goals.

“We applied for the [HRC’s] CEI Top places to work and didn’t make it,” said Kimmel of Citrix. “We asked, ‘What didn’t we do? What do we need to get there?’ We applied in the second year and achieved 100% on the Corporate Equality Index.”

Equality Florida
Elizabeth Kimmel speaks to the audience at Equality Means Business Luncheon. (Image via Rachel Stevenson)

Karefa-Johnson interjected when the conversation turned to the topic of unconscious bias. “Making people uncomfortable, including yourself, is progress. The conversations need to be had.”

Bruemmer shared the goals and priorities of the transgender community through TransAction. “TransAction is a 3-year-long initiative of Equality Florida. We meet with state legislators and local politicians to teach about the Trans community. We also encourage law enforcement to seek out Trans inclusion training.”

Dr. Hernandez focused on supplier diversity. “Supplier diversity issues are really important. We need to focus on LGBT-owned businesses,” referencing the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber.

“We have to be more aware of diversity and intersectionality in the workplace,” he added.

The panel then answered questions from audience members.

“Are the university health systems getting better at supporting trans kids?” asked a mother of a transgender son.

“At USF the student health center has made a priority to provide good services and better services in working with transgender students,” said Dr. Hernandez.

Equality Florida
Audience members listen as panelists provide perspectives on diversity in the workplace. (Image by Rachel Stevenson)

Cal Jackson from event sponsor DataTech directed his question to both Karefa-Johnson and Frazier. “The work you are doing with your diversity council and the community makes sense, but I’ve always been curious…what type of education are you providing your players?”

While she didn’t directly answer the question in regards to LGBT-training, Karefa-Johnson replied, “At the Buccaneers, we have a very comprehensive player curriculum. We educate our players on how to handle things off the field. The all undergo community relations training. They also receive training on financial literacy to social and psychological issues.”

“We have lots of communication at the league level on doing the right thing,” replied Frazier in a similar fashion. “We get to know them as the individuals they are. There isn’t a formal social media training, but we remind them that they represent the Lightning. We all want to do the right thing. There’s training, but there’s also doing the right thing.”

To learn more about Equality Florida Equality Means Business, click here.

To find out more about the South Tampa Chamber of Commerce, click here.