CELEBRATE | October 4, 2018

Economic Empowerment is Our Best Bet for Equality

Photo Credit:

Did you know that firing someone for being LGBTQ is still legal in 27 states in the United States of America (and more for being transgender)? Or that over a span of 10 years, more than a million jobs created by LGBTQ entrepreneurs in areas with discriminatory environments subsequently moved to more inclusive places like some coastal cities and Chicago to be more successful?

Research shows that equal opportunities for entrepreneurs of “minority” groups result in jobs and higher tax revenues for local communities. It also has a strong economic impact on their communities at the global level, through inspiration and role models. We know how powerful role models can be in the development of any business leader or entrepreneur.

At StartOut, we are convinced that economic empowerment is our best bet for equality. Economic empowerment leads to independence, and with independence we control our own destiny. Thus, we support the LGBTQ segment of underrepresented – and underestimated – entrepreneurs who are the most likely new net job creators. The common bonds among our 15,000+ LGBTQ and ally members who support each other create a dedicated community that challenges the status quo. Since 2009, more than 30,000 entrepreneurs and supporters have attended our networking and educational events in six cities. The 2016 launch of an online portal expanded our support to entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. and beyond and includes the 27 states mentioned above. The entire community now has access to each other, to expertise and emotional support, and to inspiration from like-minded entrepreneurs.

StartOut also features the journeys of our innovators to generate the respect they deserve and inspire others. By hearing from and directly engaging with those role models in the LGBTQ community, we are equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the validation and inspiration they need to be successful.

However, we still have a long way to go to empower the LGBTQ business community with both tools and inspiration. Too often, we encounter yet another obstacle we would have hoped to be overcome by now. As an example, female representation within the LGBTQ community is still lagging behind, as it is in society as a whole:

  • A quarter of lesbian women live in poverty.
  • LGB women of color are three times more likely to live in poverty than their white peers.
  • Transgender women are four times more likely to have a household income under $10,000 and twice as likely to be unemployed.
  • One in five transgender women has reported being homeless at some point.
  • Less than 1 percent of TV characters are lesbians. In 2016, 25 queer female characters were killed on-screen – continuing a decades-long trend.

Thanks to the support of the eBay Foundation, StartOut just launched an initiative to support LGBTQ women and gender nonconforming entrepreneurs. By organizing a Women Event Series and providing scholarships to 50+ LGBTQ women entrepreneurs, StartOut wants to inspire and support female-identifying LGBTQ entrepreneurs.

At some point, and no matter how hard others may try to prevent diversity, this grassroots economic support will be hard to undermine, and over time, equal access to resources and opportunities will become more and more of a reality. Now more than ever, it is up to all of us to offer our respective expertise.

Andres Wydler is the executive director of StartOut, the largest nonprofit organization to support LGBTQ entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. A… About the author