Not long ago, I’ve attended a breakfast with Rita Izaguirre, Senior VP of Talent Acquisition & Diversity at SunTrust. The reason why I went there is because I have several gay-friends and am aware of the challenges they face daily in their personal and professional lives. One of my friends from Coca-Cola had recently invited me to the ALLY project event – company’s way of supporting the gay-community. I met some wonderful people there, which made me think more about how our society separates people to “normal” and “not normal” and why. That created more interest, and so, here I am, at The Georgian Club in Galleria, listening to Rita on SunTrust’s strategy for diversity.
She explained that recognizing the importance of different sets of ideas allowed her bank to shorten the distance between SuTrust and the people it serves. The bank has 16 regional Diversity Counsels who represent lesbian, gay, bisexual communities as well as veterans and people with severe disabilities (60 of whom work in SunTrust, and those are people who either can’t see, or hear, or have no arms or legs). Rita said “Diversity is an opportunity to take people who are different, and expand relationship with them by accepting them and getting them involved.” This is one of the ways to engage people in an organization to express their leadership in a way they would not normally do. Diversity, Rita said, is not our skin or gender – it’s rather what we bring to the table with ourselves.
Did you know that according to a recent Harris Interactive national study, 7 out of 10 LGBT consumers said they are likely to remain loyal to a brand they believe is friendly and supportive of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, even when the less friendly companies offer lower prices or are more convenient. This loyalty, coupled with the estimated $845 billion consumer spending power of the LGBT-community, has national, mainstream brands actively courting LGBT consumers. Among the companies that are LGBT-supportive, there are famous names like Showtime Networks, Office Depot, Coca-Cola, Cox, Monster Energy, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo.
How does this all relate to Emotional Intelligence? Directly, my friend. I believe that the higher the organization’s leaders’ Empathy and Personal Relationships EQ scores, the better their chances are to be more open-minded, acceptive, and better relate to others, regardless of their gender, sexual orientation and believes system. The more likely the company is to feel respect for people who are considered “different” by the majority. The higher the likelihood of the business to take initiatives to become more active and visible in the LGBT-community.