The LGBTQ community within the United States and abroad has achieved major accomplishments over the last few decades. This group encompasses a rich history that has worked towards equality and empowerment. From the Stonewall riots and Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s to the Gay Liberation Movement of the 1970s and even the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, this community continues to band together around central issues.
By engaging in the ongoing fight for economic, social, sexual and political equality, this group has remained committed to empowering one another and their allies. Through a larger understanding of what it means to be LGBTQ, the community has been able to assist individuals while also celebrating the uniqueness of those who make up this group. It is the vibrancy of this community and larger efforts to support, organize and lift one another up that has continued to make us empowered.
In the last twenty years alone there have been huge milestones that have been achieved: the legalization of gay marriage, the repealing of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the support of our causes for the first time by a sitting U.S. president.
While there have been great strides socially and politically to make this group even stronger, there is still much work that needs to be done on economic front.
Consider the role of the LGBTQ entrepreneurs and business owners. While there are several highly successful LGBTQ businesses today, they still face many obstacles. Did you know that the combined buying force of our community is estimated at $830 billion dollars? It doesn’t end there. There are an estimated 1.4 million LGBTQ businesses total in the United States, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
Obstacles to climb
These numbers are staggering; they point to the power that this group has within the marketplace and beyond. Despite these positive numbers, there are real issues that LGBTQ business owners must deal with. Some of these include disclosing their sexuality to their investors, co-workers and customers, and being a victim of harassment and discrimination based on who they are.
To combat the hardships that LGBTQ business owners face today, several organizations have been founded to address these economic concerns. Groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, Out & Equal, Out in Tech, and Lesbians Who Tech have been able to offer many resources to this community. So far, that has been in terms of access to capital, vital networking and mentoring opportunities, as well as a larger profile within the business world and beyond. The highest job growth in our country comes from small businesses and therefore it is imperative to continue to support and empower them.
An economically empowered LGBTQ entrepreneur is inspired by heroes and role models of their own community, and confident enough to chart their own course based on the knowledge that a community who cares has their back.
Andres Wydler, Executive Director, StartOut, [email protected]