CommunityPam's House Blend

On the Michelangelo Signorile Show today @ 2:30 ET

We’ll discuss Mike’s recent interview with Joe Solmonese (full audio here), and talk/brainstorm about some ideas on how to foster more diversity at the top, not just concrete actions, but by cultivating broader and more creative thinking that could lead to solutions.

Listen to The Michelangelo Signorile Show weekdays live from 2-6 pm ET on Sirius XM’s OutQ: Sirius 109, XM 98 and on the Sirius XM iPhone app. Not a subscriber? Not a problem! Listen online any time with a free three-day pass or, if you have an iPhone, go to the app store and download Sirius XM for free, for a 7-day trial, and listen on your phone.


UPDATE: I just finished the show. If you missed my suggestions for HRC, here they are from my post.

[I] took a few minutes to think about ways to address the diversity problem, since I think we can all agree that leadership that is more like the LGBT population at large is a healthier organization than one that is largely homogenous — or at least one would hope that would be desired in 2009. A couple of ideas to ponder…

1. How about saving a couple of seats on the board as elective posts? Right now, you have to have $$$ to get into the game and on a board.  These positions could be selected by membership in a vote, perhaps regionally, to identify activists with promise in terms of leadership. This does two things — identifies talent and grooms them at a very high level in our movement. Surely any organization would benefit from this more grassroots approach to representation. A presence and a voice from another socioeconomic perspective can save an organization from committing grievous, PR mistakes because of the blind spots that are common in groups that are too homogeneous. It’s almost never out of malice, the errors in judgment are because of being in a bubble of ignorance or insensitivity that can easily be corrected by simply engaging on a peer-level with someone who is not like you, as opposed to relating to someone you are in a paternalistic role with.

2. How about making space at the (dinner) table? Surely some mondo goodwill and PR could be gained if some of those “captains” who buy a whole table at a gala could participate in a matching donation to buy four $250 seats for activists of note around the country who cannot afford the ticket but who are just as politically savvy and successful as the rest of the people in the room. They could be selected by the board (or an HRC committee) that would bring the work they do that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves in a forum that has such a high profile. This could motivate so many people out there to get active.

3. Have a table captain host one activist that they sponsor? This would earn HRC tons of good publicity and goodwill as well, and encourage those with means to get to know and learn about an activist in the field effecting change. HRC could provide a list of activists that these donors could connect with, and everyone benefits — particularly those with wealth who want to do more than just write a check, but not necessarily do canvassing or the field work and then find there’s not much between that appeals to them. Building person-to-person relationships on that level toward a common goal certainly builds more bridges to understanding.

I’m no expert on the subject, I’m just trying to open the door to discussion. What would really be helpful is if someone on HRC’s board would go on the show and pull back the curtain and let us know…

1) How much does someone have to bring to the table to be on the board(s), either through donation or fundraising;

2) Are there any board members who do not have to donate or raise funds to have a vote on the board?

3) How many on the boards are POC, women, etc. who  are not of wealth? And what do they, as board members think of the level of socioeconomic diversity of HRC decision-makers?

4) What is the process for appointing people to the board(s)?

5) How is Joe Solmonese, as President, evaluated on his job performance?

6) How many members of the board(s) are also grassroots activists (as opposed to activism by writing a check to support programming)?

7) What is the regional diversity of the board(s)?

8) Has there been discussion about making the boards more diverse in the past? If so, what was the outcome?

Those are honest questions that make no indictment. What they might be is intimidating because they may lead to uncomfortable or embarrassing discussions. Given the level of unfocused vitriol by many toward HRC, it would be understandable. But it’s time to stop thinking that not discussing the elephant in the room will make it go away, or buy better PR for the organization to gloss over it. A good example of that were Joe’s foot-in-mouth statement on CNN that…

perhaps the crowd at the dinner last night was a little bit more politically aware and had a better sense of maybe, you know, what’s at stake and what needs to be done.

That he told Mike during his interview with him a couple of days later that Joe didn’t see anything divisive that weekend was an indication that the gloss-over approach is still preferred rather than problem-solving ways of addressing matters.

Also, my questions above aren’t particularly hard if HRC wants to be more transparent about its membership, leadership and make clear that its mission and goals are in alignment with the assertion that it represents “the voice of the LGBT community” on the Hill and to the media.

In my own professional experience, revisiting goals, mission and alignment from time to time is a sign of a healthy organization, not one in crisis. Good leaders know that.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding