The tide is changing in America and it’s a momentum that’s being celebrated and cherished by millions across the world. As we celebrate the inauguration of a new president and a White House administration that openly embraces the LGBTQ community — advocates say President Biden will be the nation’s most pro-LGBTQ president in history — we should also take a moment to acknowledge the progress made in the name of equal rights over the last decade.
On a state level, there have been significant increases in the number of LGBTQ Americans protected by nondiscrimination and relationship recognition laws over the last ten years.
And, of course, we will never forget that moment in 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was a right nationwide — a moment, long overdue, that changed the course of history.
Just four years earlier, my husband and I were engaged in July 2011— the same month the Marriage Equality Act legalized same-sex marriage in the state of New York. This kind of progress brings me and my husband hope that we can continue to raise our son in a kinder, gentler, and more accepting world. A world that embraces all individuals as their authentic selves— at home, at school, and at work.
It’s a world that I definitely could not have imagined growing up in a place like Louisiana. It’s a world I didn’t know existed, until 2005, when the devastation of Hurricane Katrina had me seeking a new home in New York. I came out of the closet that December — after experiencing first-hand a community and culture in the Big Apple built on tolerance and inclusivity. A few years later, both my little brother and sister came out as well, and 10 years later, my nephew came out as transgender.
Before that point of my life, I spent my college experience and first few years of my career in the closet — not being fearful that being gay might impact my career, but not knowing that my diversity was something that could ever be celebrated or could add value to the professional world.
After college, I got incredibly lucky — spending the majority of the last decade working in the career space for Tulane University, my alma mater, who immediately embraced both my personal and professional abilities. My boss of almost 18 years helped me realize how my authentic self at work isn’t just about making me comfortable, but about how my diverse background can and should enhance the professional experiences and personal development of those around me.
Over the last decade, I’ve been able to help 2,500 students build, strive and reach their personal and career goals, and to do so by being their authentic selves — people first, candidates second. In 2017, I decided that I wanted to increase that number to 250,000. That’s when I started building HIVE Diversity.
I realized an untapped opportunity to innovate how personalized technology can make the career process easier and equitable for everyone, and at the same time connect students and recent grads from diverse backgrounds with companies looking to scale a workplace culture of inclusivity. From the beginning, I set out to empower the next generation of talent with the ability to self-identify with and share an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds and experiences with employers whose workforces and cultures are enhanced with an ever-evolving range of needs and priorities specific to representation.
Thanks to a phenomenal team of people who share a commitment to that purpose, HIVE DIVERSITY launched in October 2020. After building for so many years, we couldn’t have arrived at a more meaningful and important time.
A mobile-first platform that gamifies the career development and recruitment process, HIVE has already attracted students and recent graduates from over 625 universities and colleges, who uniquely demonstrate commitment to employers, build professional skill sets, learn about diversity, equity and inclusion in the workforce, and create a perfectly formatted resume and digital application that provides a more holistic version of themselves and their diverse backgrounds to employers.
We’ve only just begun our journey, and I’m thrilled to share that our unique product offering has attracted the attention of major companies brands like Wells Fargo, Accenture, Chobani, Steve Madden, Saks Fifth Avenue, Atlantic Records, Michael Kors, and the International Rescue Committee, among others. The corporations that partner with us are committed to our mission — they understand that one of the key steps towards building an inclusive workforce is recruiting junior-level talent, with an ever-evolving range of diverse backgrounds, skills and interests.
I recognize there’s still a long way to go in the name of diversity.
Twenty states protecting LGBTQ rights is a leap forward, but more than half of the U.S. remains without such regulations. More needs to be done, on a state, federal and global level, before LGBTQ rights can become universally accepted as a standard.
Only four Black CEOs are on this year’s Fortune 500 list, reinforcing how Black executives are severely underrepresented in C-suite roles. Black women are even more disproportionately marginalized, making up only 1.6 percent of vice presidents and 1.4 percent of C-suite leaders, but 7.4 percent of the national population. More needs to be done before racism, prejudice, and implicit bias no longer impact the lives, careers and opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds.
Diversity largely indicates race and gender identity, but it’s more than that. The workplace should look like a mosaic of races, religions, ethnicities, abilities, sexual orientations, first- and second-generation Americans as well as first-in-the-family college graduates — all working together on common business and cultural pursuits for the America that is, not the America that was.
A recent study by the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute found that background is a key source of identification for first- and second-generation college students, who are “more likely to come from immigrant families than in the past, and are more likely to be racial and ethnic minorities.” The MPI report also reveals that these students accounted for 58 percent of the increase in the number of students in U.S. higher education between 2000 and 2018 — in a nation where immigrant-origin workers have been projected to drive labor force growth until at least 2035.
Altogether, more needs to be done before we can reach a point in time where it’s no longer necessary to promote and strive for diversity — because diversity of thought, experiences, and backgrounds is welcomed and ingrained in every element of our society.
Still, in the wake of a new year, and a new federal administration championing positive change, I choose to focus on progress and possibility.
We can strive to build a better world together — where President Biden is the first of a long line of presidents who openly advocate for LBGTQ rights. Where Vice President Kamala Harris is the first of many Black and Asian American women to hold positions of power in the highest level of government. Where representation across all diversities — in everywhere from the White House to Wall Street — is no longer a goal, but a reality.
Promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at every level is at the very heart of the mission of HIVE. We democratize the hiring process, so that any undergraduate student or recent graduate can have meaningful connections with companies that value diversity in the workplace. Our hope is that all companies will soon work towards creating systemic change.
One of the first — and the most critical — steps is to lay the foundation for an inclusive workforce. That all stems from who a business is hiring and when they are being brought on — which involves innovating a recruiting process and ensuring the prioritization of diversity and inclusion in that system. That’s something HIVE DIVERSITY helps facilitate. At the very heart of HIVE is a key belief: While our individual diversities help define who we are, collectively they can empower us with the ability to define the future.
For myself, my team, and the rest of the world, that better, brighter future of equality starts now — with the next generation of talent leading the way.
Byron Slosar is the CEO of HIVE Diversity.