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Authentic Advocate: Bryan Parsons '97
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
Bryan Parsons '97 is working to redefine equality in corporate America. As associate director of risk management at Ernst & Young and an activist for LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) equality, he understands the benefits of an inclusive workplace for companies and individuals.
Parsons’ advocacy has personal roots. He kept his own sexuality under wraps for the first three years of professional life.
“When talking with my co-workers, I felt like I was running on a 15-second delay,” he says of the pressure to censor a core element of his identity. Over time, he concluded that hiding part of himself had a professional downside. He needed to build trust with fellow staff and with clients to be more effective in his work.
Parsons came out to co-workers and, soon thereafter, resolved to help others do likewise.
“For the firm to function at its best, I knew that other people needed to feel comfortable bringing their whole self to work,” says Parsons, who joined the San Francisco office of EY in 2012.
His LGBTQ activism began like that of many employees in workplaces around the country. Parsons joined a small, informal group of EY colleagues who were personally connected to the cause. They organized meetings after normal work hours and reached out to other companies that had robust LGBTQ efforts underway.
As a first initiative, the group sought to add LGBTQ to the diversity platform at EY. The company already offered formally structured programs for gender and ethnic diversity, and the LGBTQ group recognized a need for similar focus.
The EY group went on to align with the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBTQ activist organization in the country. In addition to providing advice and counsel to LGBTQ people in the workplace, the organization compiles an annual Corporate Equality Index (CEI), whose criteria include demonstrating an inclusive environment for LGBTQ employees. EY earned a perfect score on the index for 2013 and 2014.
“Corporate America loves awards, so we thought the CEI would be a productive initiative,” Parsons says with a smile.
With a current focus on promoting LGBTQ diversity as a business driver, he sees positive signs among leading employers. For example, 278 companies filed a “friend of the court brief” on behalf of United States v. Windsor, as non-litigants in the case with a strong interest in the issues being considered. The case precipitated the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Never before have so many respected companies publicly used their collective voice on the courthouse steps in the name of equality,” he says. “They understand both the power of inclusion and the real cost of inequality.”
Share experiences and professional advice with Bryan Parsons and other members of the Pride affinity group, a subgroup of the Bentley University Community on LinkedIn. To learn more, contact Joseph Dreeszen, senior assistant director, Center for Alumni, Parents and Friends, by phone (781.891.2109) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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Bentley University is named one of the country’s best institutions for undergraduate education in the just-published 2016 edition of The Princeton Review Annual college guide, “The Best 380 Colleges,” (Random House/Princeton Review).