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CIA sponsors major LGBT international business and leadership conference

CIA sponsors major LGBT international business and leadership conference

John Brennan

The National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) in the US has announced that the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) will be a major sponsor of its forthcoming International Business & Leadership Conference.

The annual event, presented in conjunction with American Airlines, is due to take place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from 11-14 August and will be attended by LGBT business owners from within the States and beyond.

In a statement, the NGLCC said, ‘The CIA has developed a strong working relationship with the NGLCC since 2012. NGLCC has provided introductions to affiliate chambers across the country, which has enabled the CIA to dispel myths and misconceptions about the agency, discuss current diversity and inclusion efforts, and highlight the many internships and job opportunities at CIA.’

In a statement to Gay Star Business, Ryan Whaylen, a media spokeperson for the CIA said, ‘Given our global mission, no government agency stands to benefit more from diversity and inclusion than does CIA.

‘Excellence in foreign intelligence demands broad perspectives, both in our understanding of a complex world and in our approach to challenges and opportunities.

‘Diversity – of thought, ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences – is essential to CIA’s mission success, and we need it at every level of our enterprise.’

Last month, the CIA published a report examining its lack of leadership diversity. In a statement to accompany the report’s publication, CIA director John Brennan said that the report’s findings were unequivocal: ‘CIA simply must do more to develop the diverse and inclusive leadership environment that our values require and that our mission demands.’

Although the number of employees working for the CIA is a kept secret, the report said that minorities made up 23.9% of CIA officers but just 10.8% of its senior leadership.

Indicating that the CIA may not yet be an organization where everyone feels able to be themselves at work, 34% of LGBT respondents questioned in the study agreed with the statement, ‘There are aspects of my identity I feel I need to hide in order to be successful at CIA’, compared with 17.5% of non-LGBT respondents.

Brennan stated that within a year of the report’s publication, ‘every officer on my senior leadership team will attend diversity and inclusion training’ as part of efforts to increase diversity throughout the organization.’

This year’s NGLCC International Business & Leadership Conference will feature guest talks from finance expert Suze Orman, CNN’s business correspondent Richard Quest, and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart, among others.

The conference comes after 12 months that have seen significant advances in LGBTI rights in the US – most notably the US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage in July. In many of these advances, businesses have played a notable role, often lobbying for change or speaking out against laws that would allow some businesses to discriminate.

‘This has been a momentous year for the LGBT movement. That is why it is so important to keep the momentum going and continue to push forward,’ says Justin Nelson, president and co-founder of the NGLCC.

‘Looking beyond domestic issues, NGLCC is committed to fostering the growth of LGBT entrepreneurs and business organizations around the world,’ added Chance Mitchell, co-founder and CEO.

‘This year’s conference will reflect this emphasis; we will be hosting discussions and workshops intended to realize this goal.’