Affinity groups, by definition, are groups of people linked by a common interest or purpose. They’re a valuable way for companies to promote inclusiveness and diversity in a work environment, and are often seen as an extremely important asset to company culture in today’s society.
When I first joined LMI, I was sent a list of the company’s current and previous professional groups. Upon looking over the list, I quickly noticed it didn’t have a group that supported the LGBT community. It was at that moment that myself and another analyst approached our project manager and asked what the processes were to get an official LMI-sponsored affinity group started.
As this was the first affinity group established at LMI, the process to create the LGBT group had a few obstacles, to say the least. Our first step was to convince management that our goal was not to organize a group solely for the purpose of getting together to talk about how unaccepting the organization was of the LGBT community; it was, quite frankly, the exact opposite. We wanted to show LMI’s colors and how our company is a diverse community that people are proud to be a part of. We wanted to let employees know that our company is a welcoming place where nobody has to hide; personal and professional lives should be able to live in harmony.
The conversations started with our fantastic Human Resources (HR) group, which was very supportive and accepting of the new addition of an LGBT group to LMI. Once it was clear that we were not trying to cause problems and rock the boat, the development process for the group was finally set in motion. The boat would not only be un-rocked, it would be pristinely polished.
One of our biggest supporters through this entire process was Catherine Nelson, the senior vice president of our Business Development group. As a previous employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, she was heavily involved in their LGBT affinity group, which happened to be one of the biggest and oldest LGBT groups of any consulting firm. Upon hearing about our efforts, she graciously agreed to become our sponsor, and has been a huge advocate for the success of our group ever since.
“Promoting what our employees are passionate about is key to our organization’s success,” said Catherine Nelson, LMI’s senior vice president of business development and sponsor of LMI Alliance. “LMI Alliance embraces our diverse workforce and encourages an environment where inclusion is not just a goal, it’s a core value.”
Once our initial kick-off meeting occurred, things took off quickly. We held additional meetings to plan our goals, solidify our group structure, and hold our officer elections. Pretty soon we had an email distribution list of over 40 employees and 4 officer positions confirmed. Our vision had become a reality in the form of LMI Alliance.
While I have plenty more planned for my long-term goals as LMI Alliance’s president, like earning a top rating on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index, I know that progress happens one small step at a time. A short-term goal of mine is to help establish more affinity groups at LMI, specifically one catered to women.
I firmly believe that affinity groups are the easiest form of marketing; people are passionate about it! You’re involved in the group because you’re either passionate about the cause or it’s literally who you are, so working for a company that not only supports but is proud to employ people who are engaged in their passions is a win-win for everyone. I’m excited to help LMI start utilizing the best assets that it has; its empowered employees.
June is designated as LGBT Pride Month, a month to welcome diversity in communities and to celebrate the acceptance of others, regardless of sexual orientation. As DC Pride Week kicks off on June 10 with the Capital Pride Parade in Washington, DC, LMI will be supporting those who are "unapologetically proud"—this year's official Pride 2017 theme—by walking in the parade for the first time ever.