Selisse Berry, the founder and CEO of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, has announced that she is stepping down. She will stay with the organization in an advisory role.
Berry launched Out and Equal in 1996.
Growing up in Oklahoma, she relocated Dallas, Texas to take up a career in education. Later, she went to San Francisco to attend a seminary and train to be a Presbyterian minister. However, she was unable to graduate when it became known that she is a lesbian.
The experience of not being able to follow her first career choice stayed with her. It prompted her to launch Out and Equal – an organization that campaigns for LGBTI diversity and inclusion in the business world.
The nonprofit has continued to grow – and now employs over 20 staff, with a turnover of $8million. It offers training to corporate clients and runs popular annual summits.
The organization was born in San Francisco but opened up an office in Washington DC in 2015. Selisse Berry relocated to the capitol (along with wife, Cynthia) to oversee the expansion.
‘Selisse’s work transformed the landscape’
In a statement to supporters about her decision, Berry said, ‘with Out & Equal stronger than ever, I know this is the right time to make a change. I am pleased to let you know that I will be transitioning from founding CEO to an advisory role in August.
‘I’ve often shared my story of going to seminary to become a Presbyterian minister and the sadness I experienced when I learned that I could not follow my chosen career path, simply because of who I love.
‘As I was starting Out & Equal, I realized I was creating an organization I wished could have been there for me during that difficult time. And, I am incredibly grateful for the gift of getting to be there for so many others.
‘In divinity school we shared moments of experiencing a calling– I thought my calling was to the church but in fact, it was to you.’
‘When Selisse began her work in 1996, only four percent of Fortune 500 companies included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policies,’ said Out & Equal Board Co-Chair and General Manager at GE Charlene Grabowski.
‘Today, 92 percent of them have inclusive policies. Selisse’s work transformed the landscape and showed what is possible when determination, collaboration, and vision come together.’
Out and Equal says it has launched an executive search to find a successor.