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It's Time for LBTQ Women to Claim Our Seats at the Table

Jane Castor and Lori Lightfoot
Jane Castor and Lori Lightfoot

Gaining power -- like Mayors-elect Jane Castor and Lori Lightfoot have done -- will mean working together.

The 50th anniversary of Stonewall and World Pride create the perfect opportunity for women who identify as lesbian, bi, transgender, or queer to collectively reflect on our place in the larger movement for understanding, acceptance, and equality. These momentous events also provide the women of our communities a moment to emerge from the shadows, amplify our voices, and celebrate who we are, both on the job and in our daily lives.

Like most women, those of us who identify as LBT or Q don't always tout our accomplishments or stand proud in our successes. It doesn't matter our industries or countries of origin. Whether corporate CEOs, small business owners, stay at home mums, artists or athletes, we're often reluctant to draw attention to ourselves and seek out others with a shared desire to connect and help the community.

And yet, when prompted on these matters, when we get even a small push from a colleague, ally or friend, we're more inclined to take actions and form bonds with our fellow LBTQ females. The desire to form such connections has become our life's mission. Three years ago we gathered a group of 12 LBTQ women for a dinner discussion in London. That led us to send out a survey with 20 questions related to how LBTQ women wanted to be involved in the community. To our shock and pleasant surprise, 1,200 people responded to our questionnaire with answers like: "Yes, I want to see inspirational role models." "Yes, I want to help the community." "Yes, I have a skillset." "I am out at work, but I don't think it's a benefit or a hindrance."

LBTQ Women was born. In a nutshell we're a global organization that works to connect, uplift, and celebrate successful women in our communities and leverage the support we receive from our amazing allies. In some sense we're still in our infancy. At the same time, we're growing faster than we ever imagined. A recent gathering at the UK Parliament showed us just how far we've come, with 30 people attending from the U.S. alone, along with others from Switzerland, Portugal, Italy, and Paris. We're aiming for an even bigger turnout at an upcoming all-day conference at Microsoft in New York this June. We believe who you are is relevant to the organization you work for, however big, however small, and we encourage everyone in our network to know their value. If you value yourself, your organization will value you more. By partnering with us, women are also demonstrating that they come from a community, they come from a volume of people.

And we're asking women to mentor other women through a mentoring app developed by a tech company called WERKIN. That unique collaboration has led to blossoming relationships around the world. One of us has even had the good fortune of working with a woman in Nigeria, providing resources, advice and friendship. And our OUT Directory, the cornerstone of our digital global gathering place, has grown into a beautiful tapestry, filled with the names of talented and dynamic LBTQ women who are demonstrating their leadership in business and in life. Being seen on this global whiteboard is one powerful way for all of us to say to the world: "We are here. We are bold. We are fierce. We count. We are changing the world for the better.

In the words of the pioneering civil rights activist Audre Lorde:

"When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid... When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak... Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now."

As we celebrate Stonewall 50 and World Pride this year, we will take Ms. Lorde's wisdom to heart and do our part to build on her legacy by proudly claiming our seats at the table and urging as many LBTQ women as possible to do the same.

Dale-garrettx200Pippa Dale and Sarah Garrett are two of the founding members of LBTQ Women, a dynamic network created to inspire, inform and celebrate success of lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer women.

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Pippa Dale and Sarah Garrett