Nina Kossoff at Out Women in Business Conference
I have attended many business conferences and pride events, but have never been more inspired than I was on Friday afternoon after hearing from the incredible women at the Out Women in Business conference.
As I am just starting out in my career and constantly navigating the various paths I could take, I often think about how companies, certain industries and coworkers are going to react to the fact that I’m a lesbian. I am always unsure about whether to refer to my girlfriend as my “roommate” or how much I should divulge about my weekend plans. After listening to the women at Out Women in Business, I was so happy to hear that by being out at work, their relationships and performance improved because they were able to be their authentic selves.
Hearing their stories took me back to my first few months at McCann when I hadn’t yet come out to my team, as I was unsure about crossing the personal-professional line. However, once I finally referenced my girlfriend, I remember how much closer I instantly felt to them. Now, when they ask about my holiday plans or ask to see pictures from my trip to Europe, I don’t have to consciously think about how to talk about it.
At the conference, some of the topics up for discussion may seem mundane to some, for example, what to wear to work. But this is actually a crucial topic for some LBTQ women going into business. Do you wear the tie bar and pocket square or go a tad more casual with no tie? Nina Kossoff, a strategist at McCann and ambassador for DapperQ, avolunteer-run queer fashion outlet, participated on a panel that addressed this topic. Women that feel more comfortable in gender neutral clothing or suits have a difficult time finding such articles that fit their body. While more companies are coming out to address this need, it’s still prevalent. My favorite piece of advice came from Nina, as she emphasized that at the end of the day, it all comes down to how you wear one thing – confidence.
The conference wrapped with a discussion around the past and future of LBTQ leadership, and it left me wanting to do more. I was the first out-and-open lesbian in my sorority in college, and even in those four short years, I saw how much that helped others. New members came to tell me that I was one of the reasons they joined, knowing they could be open about their sexual orientation.
After hearing the inspirational stories at Out Women in Business, I realized that I want to continue to lead through example. Making the transition from school to the workplace is scary enough; one shouldn’t have to worry about having to hide who they are.