This July 1st and 2nd, the IE Out & Allies Club is hosting the 14th annual LGBT+@Work conference. We chatted with Rewire Editor and co-organizer of the conference, Eddie Carrillo, to get the inside scoop about this unmissable virtual event.
Tell me a bit about the conference. What’s its purpose?
LGBT+@Work is now in its 14th year. It was created by IE’s Out & Allies Club, our student-led LGBT+ organization, and is completely student run. It’s the longest running and third-largest LGBT+ business school conference in the world.
Ultimately, LGBT+@Work was built as a networking platform to celebrate diversity, promote the free exchange of ideas, and explore what it means to be an LGBT+ business professional in different parts of the world.
We invite LGBT+ business leaders and allies from across the globe to share their stories, challenge our perceptions, and teach us how to integrate new ideas into our own lives and companies’ Diversity & Inclusion programs. It’s an educational platform and a celebration, and always comes just at the end of Pride Month.
The theme this year is ‘Diversity as a Catalyst for Innovation’. What was the idea behind this theme and how’d you land on it?
Diversity is a lot more than a “nice to have” or a token on a PR checklist––it can fundamentally improve the bottom line of a business. But not everyone knows this.
We had spent a lot of time thinking about a theme that was relevant and actionable––both for the LGBTQ+ community and for society as a whole. It’s a business conference, so the biggest question was: How can we craft a topic that will give people tangible takeaways to improve their organizations?
The final theme actually came from one of my professors, Enrique de la Cámara. He said the phrase while we were brainstorming ideas for a different event, and boom, it was perfect.
The conference’s panel of speakers this year is impressive. What was the selection process like? What challenges did you face along the way?
I’m happy you like it! They’re all incredible people, so I couldn’t be more thrilled with the speaker lineup this year.
Our idea from the get-go was to really delve past surface-level definitions of diversity and explore its more multifaceted layers––even within our own community. This meant across country, race and ethnicity, gender and gender identity, sexuality, and more. With this in mind, we wanted to build a lineup of global business leaders that each had unique and important stories to tell.
The challenges came down to navigating the search for the best speakers. How can I get in contact with such high-level people? How do I leverage my network for introductions? What do I do if I have no connection? How do I conduct interviews?
But the biggest challenge, by far, was Covid-19. The world was changing every day. People were concerned about their health, their families, borders closing, their jobs, the future. We had to continually analyze the situation and adapt our approach as we went. Thankfully, with patience and making the right decisions, we were able to make everything come together.
What was it like moving the conference online? What were the pros and cons of this transition?
Honestly, stressful! Planning an event while the world shuts down is tough, but our team was able to shift and adapt and make it work––all through Zoom meetings and phone calls from our respective quarantines. Tyler Brklacich, the Out & Allies Club president, was awesome in reworking logistics and figuring out how to work with sponsors in the middle of a pandemic.
The main con is that we don’t get to physically come together for a beautiful event ahead of Madrid’s Pride festival (which will also be virtual this year). But the pro is bigger––while the event has always been large, you can’t reach everyone who might be interested in the event from Madrid. Being online opens that door to anyone in the world.
What made you pursue a leadership position for the LGBT+@Work conference?
I mean, honestly, I wanted to be a part of building something special and something that I thought was important. The fight for LGBTQ+ equality is still far from over. The fact that it was only this week––in 2020––that the Supreme Court ruled that LGBTQ+ people can’t be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is telling. And that’s only the tip of the topic––homosexuality itself is still illegal in 73 countries.
This conference isn’t going to eliminate those issues, but creating a space for leaders in the community to share their stories, ideas, and give the audience actionable things to do to improve their own communities is huge. It’s through this kind of education, listening, and understanding that we keep pushing forward towards progress.
And on a personal note, I wasn’t “out” yet while I was in college, and my own journey to self-acceptance and pride in who I am took a little while. I knew that co-leading the conference would be something special for me, and I wanted to take those steps in becoming a leader for my community.
How do you think companies can move beyond diversity quotas and become authentic allies?
A lot of companies and business leaders are now prioritizing diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and it’s wonderful to see. A lot of change in the world happens at the corporate level.
But what’s key is authenticity––if your company turns its logo rainbow for Pride Month but fails to support the LGBTQ+ community throughout the rest of the year, are you really an ally?
With inclusive leadership at the core and a year-round commitment to supporting minority communities at work, companies can truly become genuine allies and build workplace cultures that work for all.
Eddie Carrillo is from San Diego, California. He got his bachelor’s degree in economics from UC San Diego and is now pursuing the Master in Digital Marketing at IE HST. He’s a marathon runner, a writer, and spends a lot of time listening to music. Connect with him on Instagram, LinkedIn, or via email.
This interview was conducted by Meag Gardner, who has been working in content creation and editing for the past four years. She now proudly serves as Rewire Mag’s Editor-in-Chief, and works hard to ensure its content inspires current and future HST students to drive change in the new world of work. Link up with her here.