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diversity on DVD

diversity on DVD


For 33 years Brian McNaught has been training corporate executives and the general public how to handle gay and transgender issues in the workplace. The author of four books, McNaught, who himself was once fired for being gay, has become one of the most sought-after corporate diversity trainers in the world. But the intense amount of travel was wearing heavy on McNaught, so he decided to offer his gay diversity training through a four-part DVD series that seeks to build bridges of understanding at work.

When did you decide to go to DVD? I have a variety of videos already available, most of which were filmed for PBS stations. But when the director of diversity at Merck heard that I might be pulling back and not available to do the education, she said, "Can we have you come in and have you do your whole program so that we [can record it], because we don't want to lose you." I said, "Sure, and how about I take it and make it available to other companies?"

Is the workplace better now for LGBT employees than it was 10 years ago? Initially our focus was to try to get companies to pass policies that would make it easier for people to feel good at work, such as nondiscrimination policies, domestic-partner benefits, the creation of gay and lesbian employee business networks. Most companies, major corporations, have done that. But that did not address the culture. Now the really hard work begins. How do you transform the culture so that gay people don't feel [merely] tolerated at work but feel valued? That's the basic message of my presentation, and that's what people are resonating with.

So how do you transform that culture? Gay people are not afraid in most places of being fired for being gay; they are afraid of being marginalized. They are afraid of not having someone ask on a Monday morning "How was your weekend?" They are afraid of being invisible at work when they come out. The reason for that is not the hostility of the heterosexual colleague but their fear or ignorance. Their strategy is to avoid openly gay people. My message to them is, Avoidance is not a successful strategy, personally or professionally.

Are some industries, such as entertainment, better than others? Or is that a myth? I think that's a myth. But my experience--and I sometimes have to pinch myself when I'm doing these trainings--is that the financial institutions are way ahead of other cultures in the business world. They want to attract and retain the best and brightest people. My message to them is, You have done a good job in attracting people by having corporate policies that protect them, but how do you keep them?

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