For many, perhaps most, of those in the LGBT community born after, say, 1985, there was never any question about being “out.” Indeed, the term “outed” has become nearly quaint in many circles. But in certain professions, just as is true of certain regions, openness about one’s sexuality can still raise the occasional eyebrow—or much worse.
Today in Canada, even the historically conservative financial industry can at times be downright blasé about matters of sexuality. Much of the credit for that more inclusive attitude can go to groups like Out on Bay Street. Fresh off its annual conference—this year’s titled “Defining Yourself”—the organization’s president, Japneet Kaur, chats with IN.
IN MAGAZINE For a bit of history, please give an overview of Out on Bay Street—how long it’s been around, its membership, its mission, some of its most notable accomplishments along the way?
JAPNEET KAUR Out On Bay Street
is now in its ninth year as an organization. Over the past few years we have continued to grow our reach and programming. We offer opportunities for networking, education, mentorship and recruitment to students in post-secondary institutions who are interested in pursuing careers in business, law, technology or related fields. Our organization is 100 percent volunteer-led and is a mix of both students and working professionals. Some of our most notable accomplishments have been the growing of our conference (which now brings in approximately 250 students and 150 sponsor reps from 40 companies), the launch of our scholarship awards and our work in recognizing trailblazers in our community through our Leaders To Be Proud Of Awards.
IN Elaborate, please, on the conference theme this year: “Defining Yourself.” How did that come about, and what does that mean for a professional today?
JK We recognize that students who come to our conference are there because they identify themselves as a part of the LGBTQ community. We want to emphasize that there are many facets to one’s identity and that we should be empowered to carve our own path in the professional world.
IN What are some of the qualities that the seven leadership honorees this year have in common?
JK Our seven Leaders To Be Proud Of Award winners have all shown incredible courage in being their authentic selves and/or creating spaces for others to do the same.
IN Given all the Caitlyn Jenner publicity, there is tremendous focus on trans people. How do you think the workplace is doing in adapting to the trans employee? What more could it be doing?
JK Workplaces still have a long way to go with regard to trans inclusivity. Despite the recent media focus, many organizations and managers are not well equipped to foster inclusive environments for trans people. However, many organizations, especially ones we work with, are making great strides in educating and engaging their workforces around this issue. At our conference, for example, we have two workshops focused on providing students and sponsors with the tools they need to help build inclusive spaces on campus and the workplace.
IN Do you see it as a sign of progress for the LGBTQ community that many of the workshops (on networking or leadership, for example) might be held for any group, and not necessarily an LGBTQ gathering?
JK Certainly. Even over the course of my time with the organization, I have witnessed much of our dialogue change with the pace of the community around as well as the professional world. Despite that, many of our sessions and speakers still focus on LGBTQ issues.
(For more information, visit www.outonbayst.org.)