Even though it’s 2019 and there have been several advances toward LGBTQ+ equality, being openly out and proud in the workplace still presents unique, relevant and daunting challenges to many. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day, RPA’s Pride Committee organized their first-ever “Out in Advertising” panel: a deeply intimate conversation about what it is like to be openly and authentically LGBTQ+ in our industry. While times have changed, we question if they’ve changed enough. And what changes do we still hope to see in the near future? More than 100 people attended RPA’s gathering to hear a diverse panel made up of three generations of successful LGBTQ+leaders discuss these issues.
The evening kicked off with a word from our generous sponsors at Comcast NBC Universal and Out@NBC Universal, followed by a presentation of RPA’s latest work for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, a not-for-profit organization seeking to raise awareness of their services to families of LGBTQ+ youth. Krystle Mullen—a Cannes “See it, Be It”alumna and Adweek Creative 100 recipient—introduced the heart-tugging video campaign, which aimed to remind us just how difficult it can be for queer youth to come out, and how families play a crucial role in their acceptance.
The centerpiece of the evening featured a panel comprised of three esteemed RPA associates: Jim Helberg (EVP Chief Media Officer), Isadora Chesler (SVPDirector of Video Production) and Paul Fung (Associate CreativeDirector). The discussion was guided and moderated by advocate and ally Lisa Herdman (SVP Director National Video Investment & Branded Content). Through an emotionally raw conversation, the evening shed insight on what it’s like to navigate the workforce as an LGBTQ+ person, both historically and today, and the unique challenges and stigmas that they still face in their day-to-day lives.
Getting to the heart of the matter, each panelist shared their personal coming-out story. Attendees were quickly reminded that coming out is not a one-time occurrence, it is a repetitive practice that persists throughout one’s career. Topics of bias, marginalization and homophobia were discussed, followed by how we can reframe the value of queer people in the workplace. Several firsthand accounts further detailed the consequential impact of being LGBTQ+ and facing a career crossroad.
Ultimately, it was an inspiring evening filled with stories of how people overcame barriers and followed their passion toward personal and professional fulfillment. It was nonstop heartfelt testimony from start to finish, with three generations of advertisers who shared something in common, yet also had incredibly different experiences. A positive sign that progress is slowly, yet surely happening. These role models onstage were paragons of what it means to live openly, truthfully and authentically,while succeeding and adapting to this ever-changing industry.