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Dramatic increase in LGBTQ-supportive companies on Nasdaq: report

Out Leadership survey shows 50% have inclusive board policies

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Todd Sears (Photo courtesy of Sears)

A gay-owned organization called Out Leadership that advises corporations in the U.S. and abroad on how to adopt LGBTQ-supportive policies has released a report showing that the number of companies trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market that have adopted such policies for their boards of directors increased 1,556 percent from 2022 to 2023.

The actual number of companies trading on the Nasdaq that have adopted LGBTQ-supportive policies for their boards increased from 113 in 2022 to 1,871 in 2023, which the report describes as “astonishing.”

Todd Sears, founder and CEO of Out Leadership, called the report “a clear indicator that executives are responding to the opportunity to expand the diversity of their boards, and fully embracing the power of inclusion to fuel their companies’ success in today’s marketplace.”

In a statement released at the time the report was released on April 19, Sears added, “We’re proud to share today’s global report, which shows that for the first time in history, over half of all Nasdaq companies have adopted board diversity policies – and done so at a record-breaking pace.”

He concluded by saying, “We look forward to working with the other exchanges and companies around the world to continue this exciting momentum.”

An announcement by Out Leadership, which Sears launched in 2010, says the report showing the dramatic increase in LGBTQ supportive corporate board policies was its third annual report on this subject, called “LGBTQ+ Board Diversity: Progress & Possibility.” The announcement says the report was prepared by one of Out Leadership’s projects called OutQUORUM.

The report includes these findings:

• 50% of Nasdaq companies now have LGBTQ-inclusive board policies – a record-shattering 1,556% increase in one year (113 in 2022, compared to 1,871 in 2023).

• 61% of Nasdaq companies now have gender-inclusive board diversity policies, a 206% increase since 2022 (750 in 2022 compared to 2,298 in 2023).

• 59% (2,197) of Nasdaq companies now have inclusive board policies based on race, a 318% increase since 2022 (526). 

• The 2023 OutQUORUM report also shares for the first time data on LGBTQ board inclusion across the global stock exchanges of the FTSE, the ASX, and the Hang Seng.

Sears told the Washington Blade that corporate boards are important because the CEO of a company reports to the company’s board.

“They are responsible for the governance of the company itself,” he said. “They cannot do day-to-day hiring decisions,” he told the Blade. “But they are responsible for setting the strategy for the company and holding the CEO and the CEO’s leadership team accountable for the success of the company.”

He said his Out Leadership company is known as a Certified B corporation. The company’s website provides details of what it does, including projects it pursues in other countries as well as in the U.S.

“A global LGBT+ business advocacy membership company advocating LGBT+ equality by creating positive economic and societal impact through the power of business,” the Out Leadership website describes its mission as including.

“Our network of nearly 98 multinational companies and 450+ CEOs entrust us to leverage their platforms for social change while working alongside policymakers to publicly advocate for LGBT+ equality in order to positively impact the economy and their bottom lines, employees, customers, partners, and community,” it says.

Sears said many of Out Leadership’s 98 member companies, including Wal-Mart, Microsoft, IBM, and Coca-Cola, are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange, which is the world’s largest stock exchange. He noted that Nasdaq follows closely behind the New York Stock Exchange as the second largest stock exchange.

But Sears said Out Leadership has not yet had any official interactions with the New York Stock Exchange itself.

“As it relates to board diversity requirements, in contrast to the Nasdaq new rules, the NYSE has taken an approach that ‘advocates diversity’ without either suggesting new disclosure requirements or recommending diversity goals,” Sears told the Blade in a statement.

“It is worth noting that nowhere in NYSE’s public discussions about diversity is LGBTQ mentioned or included in any definition,” he said. “They only speak about diversity in vague terms of gender and ‘diversity,’” Sears said.

Sears has been credited with being among the first to emerge from within the corporate world to advocate full-time for LGBTQ supportive policies among businesses large and small.

He describes himself as a “recovering banker” and a “bit of a serial entrepreneur” who started his career in the investment banking industry in 1996 as an analyst in New York with Schroders, the British multinational asset management company.

From there, according to his LinkedIn page, he served from 1999 to 2001 as vice president of business development for DeSilva & Phillips, an investment bank focusing on media, technology, and marketing industries, before joining Merrill Lynch, the internationally known investment management and wealth management division of Bank of America, where he became Head of Strategic Initiatives at the firm’s Office of Diversity during his close to seven years there.

Finally, before launching Out Leadership, Sears served just over two years with Credit Suisse, a global investment bank and financial services firm founded and based in Switzerland with offices in major financial centers around the world, including in New York City.

Sears makes no apologies for launching Out Leadership as a for-profit corporation with a business model of advocating for LGBTQ equality in business and beyond. He notes that, among other things, Out Leadership helped arrange for 65 business leaders to speak out against a proposed anti-LGBTQ law in North Carolina five years ago and helped line up 60 Wall Street banks to sign an amicus court brief in support of the Obergefell marriage equality case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“My philosophy is every place in the world these companies do business, LGBT people should be protected, respected, and legal,” Sears told the Blade. “We are still illegal in 67 countries. But in all of those countries our companies do business,” he said.

“And so, the goal of our leadership is to use that kind of power that these companies have to roll back all 67 sodomy laws around the world as well as all the anti-trans laws obviously that we’re seeing here in the U.S.,” he said. “The idea is that the economic power that these companies have is in my opinion how we will also win equality.”

The Out Leadership report on the Nasdaq company LGBTQ policies can be viewed here.

Further information on Out Leadership’s work can be accessed here.

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Real Estate

A look at down payment assistance programs

Pride in ourselves, Pride in homeownership

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(Photo by GaJaS/Bigstock)

One of the most popular questions at our home buyer seminars is “What are the down payment assistance or first-time homebuyer programs available where I live?”  There are various programs sponsored by multiple jurisdictions with the help of local banks, federal grants and loans as well. Knowledgeable lenders in the area will direct their eligible borrowers to these programs when a home purchase is being considered. Some of the programs are frequently mentioned in the local news: HPAP, EAHP, and DC Open Doors. There are also other options such as:

• FHLB grant for down payment assistance and/or closing costs

• Bank portfolio loans such as the Sandy Spring Bank loan, which can be 3% of the home purchase price – paired with a 97% first trust loan which is 100% financing at market rates

• Citibank Home Run

• Bank of America Down Payment Grant or Home Grant

• Chase Dream Maker Grant

• DC Open Doors – (DC Purchases only)

• HPAP/EAHP (for DC purchases only, when funds are available.)

All of these programs, grants, and loans come with guidelines and regulations, which may include income limits, household size limitations, geographic boundaries, homebuyer education classes, occupying the home as a primary residence, and funds availability. Some are easier to use and implement than others. Others may be available but can take 60 or more days to close on a home purchase, where another buyer may offer a seller a 30-day close. Some of these options may be stacked together to help build the buyer’s purchasing power.  

In many cases they are worth exploring, and “seeing if the shoe fits.” A knowledgeable lender will be able to help a prospective home buyer to “try on these shoes” and see if there is a good fit. The best local Realtors and lenders will help a buyer understand which can be used at the time of purchase, and what types of documentation are necessary for each instance.  

In our experience, the programs are there for those who need it, and in many cases make the difference between what a buyer has available to bring to the table, and what they need to get the “Sold” sign put out on the lawn, and the keys in their hand. Some buyers may decide to investigate these options and go without the program or the available funds anyway.  Perhaps the interest rate is higher when using a program as opposed to going without it, meaning the monthly payment will be more when you use these programs.  Each buyer has their own criteria of what makes a good fit for them.  As with anything, “Mama said you gotta shop around.”  It’s worth considering the various down payment & first time homebuyer assistance options available when looking to purchase and deciding which option(s) provide the best fit.  

Don’t hesitate to reach out for more information.

Joseph Hudson is a referral agent with Metro Referrals. Reach him at [email protected] or 703-587-0597. Tina Del Casale is a mortgage banker at Sandy Spring Bank. Reach her at 301-850-1326.

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Real Estate

Totally radical home buying

We should celebrate advancement of homeownership rights

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The phrase “totally radical” came of age in the 1980s and was defined as cool, wonderful, or awesome. Its synonym, wicked, can be found in nearly all Ben Affleck movies and a cry of “Excellent!” will bring back memories of an adventure had by Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) in 1989.

Although some people are not ready for cocooning yet, homeownership is still a cornerstone of financial strength and wealth building. For LGBTQ individuals, owning a home can provide a sense of economic security and a sanctuary where they can express their personalities freely and without fear of discrimination or harassment. 

Whether house, condominium, or cooperative apartment, owning a place to chill allows you to build a legacy and provide for future generations. It offers the stability needed to plan for the future, whether that involves raising a family, supporting aging parents, or ensuring a spouse’s or partner’s financial security.

Homeowners are also more likely to invest in their communities, fostering strong, inclusive, bitchin’ neighborhoods. For many LGBTQ people, a home is “In the District,” which prides itself on diversity. Homeownership allows individuals to create personal spaces that reflect their identities and values, contribute to the city’s rich cultural tapestry, support local businesses, and participate in community events and governance.

The journey toward homeownership for gay individuals has evolved over the years, reflecting broader societal changes and the struggle for LGBTQ rights. The stark contrast between the ’80s and now highlights the progress made, the challenges that still exist, and future uncertainties brought forth by the space cadets in our political system. 

In the 1980s, homeownership for gay people was bogus. The decade was marked by lame, pervasive discrimination and limited legal protections. The HIV/AIDS epidemic further stigmatized the gay community, intensifying societal prejudices. This climate of fear and hostility permeated various aspects of life, including the housing market.

Gay individuals faced overt discrimination from landlords, real estate agents, and mortgage lenders, even in the rental market. It was not uncommon for same-sex couples to be denied housing simply because of their sexual orientation. Even in the late ’90s I had clients looking for homes in Prince William County, Va., who had to hightail it out of an open house when told to take a hike. I kid you not!

Financial institutions were often unwilling to grant mortgages to same-sex couples or openly gay individuals. When they did, the terms were often less favorable than those offered to heterosexual couples. This made the dream of homeownership significantly harder to achieve, even though DINKs (dual income, no kids) tended to have more household income than so-called “traditional” families.

Additionally, the lack of legal recognition for same-sex relationships posed harsh challenges. Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples faced difficulties in co-owning property and ensuring that their partner had legal rights to the home. Estate planning was complicated, as inheritance laws did not recognize same-sex partners, potentially leading to the loss of a home upon a partner’s death.

The landmark Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide, was a fantabulous moment. This ruling provided same-sex couples with the same legal rights as heterosexual couples, including the ability to jointly own property and inherit without complication.

Anti-discrimination laws have also evolved. The definition of sex under the Federal Fair Housing Act has been expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity, as have protected classes in Maryland and Virginia. The District has taken that a step further; our protected classes also include gender expression and personal appearance. 

Organizations like the DC Center for the LGBT Community and the National Association of Gay and Lesbian Real Estate Professionals (NAGLREP) offer resources and advocacy for LGBTQ+ homebuyers. These organizations provide educational workshops, networking opportunities, and support to navigate the housing market.

The advancement of homeownership rights for gay people is a testament to the righteous resilience and determination of the LGBTQ+ community. As society continues to strive for equality, it is essential to address the remaining challenges to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can achieve the goal of homeownership.

In 2024, the only limitations on owning a home are finding one and being able to afford it. Pride weekend is a great time to go to open houses. You’ll probably be walking right by several. 

But if you’re not ready yet and just feel like getting your ’80s jams on, grab your disco balls and check out the Totally Tubular Festival at The Anthem at The Wharf on July 14.I’ll be Desperately Seeking Susan and will, as they used to say in the ’70s, catch you on the flip flop.

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Real Estate

Decorating tips for Pride in D.C.

Perfect time to add a dash of creativity to your living space

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Hang your Pride flag and other LGBTQ-themed décor this Pride month. (Washington Blade file photo by Daniel Truitt)

As the vibrant LGBTQ community in Washington, D.C., gears up for the much-anticipated Pride celebrations on June 8 and June 9, it’s the perfect time to add a splash of color and a dash of creativity to your living space. Normally, I know you’re used to reading more educational and serious articles in this space. In the spirit of D.C. Pride this year, I thought a bit of levity would be welcomed.

Whether you’re in a cozy condo, a spacious home, or a rental apartment, here are some fabulous ways to zhuzh up your indoors and outdoors with Pride-themed décor. 

Indoors: Celebrate with Style

1. Colorful Accents Everywhere

Transform your living area into a festive space by incorporating the colors of the rainbow. Here’s how:

• Throw Pillows and Blankets: Swap out your regular throw pillows and blankets for those in bright, rainbow colors. This simple change can make your space instantly feel more festive.

• Pride Flags: Hang LGBTQ Pride flags on your walls or in your windows. The traditional rainbow flag is a staple, but also consider including other flags like the bisexual, transgender, or pansexual flags to celebrate the diversity of our community.

• Art and Posters: Display Pride-themed art or inspirational quotes from LGBTQ+ icons. Local artists often have prints and posters that reflect the spirit of Pride.

2. Light It Up. Lighting can set the mood for any celebration:

• Fairy Lights: Drape rainbow-colored fairy lights around your living room or bedroom for a magical touch.

• LED Candles: Use multi-colored LED candles to safely add a warm glow to your space.

3. Tabletop Décor. Celebrate at every meal with:

• Tablecloths and Runners: A vibrant rainbow tablecloth or runner can turn every dining experience into a celebration.

• Centerpieces: Create centerpieces with flowers in hues of the rainbow, or use colorful glass bottles as vases.

4. DIY Pride Crafts. Get creative with DIY decorations:

• Rainbow Paper Chains: Make paper chains in rainbow colors and hang them across your rooms.

• Pride Mason Jars: Paint mason jars in rainbow stripes and use them to hold utensils or flowers.

Outdoors: A Festive Façade

1. Balcony or Patio Pride. If you have outdoor space, make it a part of the celebration:

• Rainbow Banners and Streamers: Decorate your balcony or patio railings with rainbow banners and streamers.

• Outdoor Flags: Fly a large Pride flag from your balcony or in your garden.

2. Welcoming Door Décor. Your front door can be a bold statement of support:

• Pride Wreath: Create or buy a wreath featuring rainbow colors or themed around different LGBTQ+ flags.

• Welcome Mats: Greet visitors with Pride-themed welcome mats.

3. Garden and Window Dressings. Let your garden or exterior windows echo your Pride:

• Window Decals: Use removable rainbow decals to decorate windows facing the street.

• Garden Flags: Place small rainbow or other LGBTQ+ flags throughout your garden or in plant pots on your porch.

4. Lighting the Night. Make your outdoor space shine:

• Solar Rainbow Lights: Use solar-powered lights in Pride colors to illuminate pathways or garden borders.

• Projection Lights: Project rainbow patterns or Pride flags onto your home’s exterior.

Community Engagement

1. Share the Spirit. Decorate your shared spaces if you’re in an apartment building:

• Bulletin Boards: Put up colorful notices or flyers announcing local Pride events.

• Community Areas: If possible, decorate communal areas with small flags or posters.

2. Local Pride. Support local LGBTQ businesses by buying decorations or craft supplies from them. This not only helps the community but also promotes local artists and crafters.

Safety and Considerations

• Check with your landlord or HOA: Before hanging decorations outside or in shared areas, make sure to check if there are any restrictions.

• Be Mindful of Neighbors: While celebrating Pride, ensure your decorations are respectful and mindful of your neighbors.

By decorating your home for Pride in Washington, D.C., you’re not just brightening up your living space; you’re showing your support and solidarity with the LGBTQ community. Let your Pride shine brightly, and make this year’s celebrations unforgettable!

Scott Bloom is owner and senior property manager, Columbia Property Management. For more information and resources, visit ColumbiaPM.com.

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