“We want to help break down barriers and help companies create a culturally competent environment to come out of the closet and be open at work,” Tansill says.
Out & Equal Atlanta has been around for two years and is run completely by volunteers. Tansill is co-chair with Chip Newton, who works for Deloitte LLC. Other board members work for such companies as Delta Air Lines, UPS, Hewlett Packard and Macy’s.
Out & Equal also focuses on building support for allies of LGBT people.
The “Ally Empowerment Tour” hosted by Out & Equal Atlanta on Thursday, June 23, offers training and education for straight allies and was inspired by the book “Allies at Work” by David M. Hall, a straight ally.
The tour includes an optional two-hour seminar for potential straight allies about the experiences of LGBT people as well as information on how the workplace is affected and “what makes an ally and how attendees can become powerful allies to their LGBT friends and colleagues.” The afternoon workshop will be followed by a reception and program open to the public. Because the tour stop in Atlanta is being sponsored by Home Depot, the entire program is free.
From the national Out & Equal organization about why the Ally Empowerment Tour was started:
Out & Equal recognizes that our straight allies are often our best resource when it comes to achieving workplace equality and inclusion for LGBT people in the workplace. Yet all too often our LGBT workplace leaders don’t know how to get more allies involved, or how to even find them. At the same time, many of our straight colleagues who want to be allies don’t know they are welcome – or how to get involved.
Tansill knows firsthand the importance of having allies in the workforce. She worked at Coca-Cola for 20 years and left five years ago. But she remained in the closet for much of her career at the soft-drink company until she was promoted to senior management. She decided she had to come out to ensure her colleagues could trust her.
“If they found out, they might think if she’s hiding this from us, what else is she hiding,” Tansill says.
While at Coca-Cola, Tansill had a good friend who was an ally, helping make it more comfortable for her to be effective at her job and be who she is.
“Anytime you can have someone walk in someone else’s shoes it helps develop better understanding,” she says.
Top photo: Sibby Tansill, co-chair of Out & Equal Atlanta, says the nonprofit’s mission is to help companies create safe spaces for LGBT employees to come out in the workplace. (Photo via Facebook)