By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer
For the second time, the Procter & Gamble Co. is one of three major sponsors of the 2003 Out & Equal Workplace Summit, the nation's largest diversity conference for gay professionals.
The conference, held in Covington in 2001, runs Thursday through Saturday in Minneapolis.
This year's event has seen a 20 percent increase in corporate backing since last year. Best Buy and Honeywell are major sponsors this year along with P&G.
P&G continues to support the conference because issues of inclusion are critical for big and small companies, said Linda Ulrey, spokesperson for P&G.
"We want to make sure we have an equal-opportunity workplace, and part of our ongoing work is to stay connected with organizations that offer insight in this arena," said Ulrey.
"We've been a participant in this summit for some six years. We recognize that we have a wide range of employees."
Besides holding the annual conference, San Francisco-based Out & Equal holds diversity training workshops for companies. It also gives out annual awards to individuals, groups and corporations that are fair and equitable to their gay employees.
Having the support of companies like P&G may encourage other firms to take a more active role in fostering a diverse workplace, said Orlando DeBruce, director of communications for Out & Equal
Companies realize that corporate support to the conference can bring an emerging customer base to firms and, as a result, expand sales, DeBruce said.
"This is an emerging market that not only affects who (companies) market their products to but who they hire," he said. "By supporting the Out & Equal Conference, it shows that this emerging market matters to companies."
This year's conference will feature numerous sessions and featured speakers that include: Mitchell Gold, president of the Mitchell Gold Co., a North Carolina-based company that makes leather chairs and slipcover sofas sold at stores such as Pottery Barn; Esera Tuaolo, a retired NFL player turned gay activist and singer; and keynote speaker Ann Richards, the 45th governor of Texas.
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