Black and Gay in Corporate America - Black Enterprise
Career Magazine

Black and Gay in Corporate America

Curtis Pate III, Global Training Manager of Finance, American Express (Photo: Lonnie C. Major)

American Express two years ago as global training manager of finance, Pate says he is now in a welcoming corporate environment for a black gay man in a highly visible role. He shares a home near Philadelphia with his partner of 13 years, who works for a major insurance provider. “We are getting to a point of comfort where we can talk with our colleagues about wanting to have children and wanting to get married,” he says.

Pate is involved in the LGBT and African American employee resource groups at American Express, which is on BE’s 40 Best Companies list and the Human Right’s Campaign’s Best Places to Work roster. “All of our employee networks have a common ground which is built on mutual respect. They also partner with each other,” says Pate. “There are a good number of members of the LGBT group that are members of the African American group. That alone helps bridge some of the gap.”

Over the past three decades, employee resource groups (also called affinity groups or business networks) were started, mainly as social networks to provide a safe space for women and minority employees. At the most basic level, such groups focus on employee retention but can also support business opportunities with LGBT consumers and other initiatives. Today, employee resource groups are used for diversity recruitment, promotion, leadership development, supplier diversity, and increasingly for business development, says Orlan Boston, a principal with Deloitte Consulting L.L.P. and chief diversity officer for Deloitte Consulting. Having such groups not only indicates an investment and commitment to challenges facing LGBT and African American employees, but it also demonstrates a bottom-line impact, adds Boston, who is Hispanic, African American, and gay.

There are issues beyond the control of even the best companies that have philosophical practices and principles around diversity and inclusion. This is why it is important that