GLENDA launches business mentoring program

The Gay and Lesbian Neighborhood Development Association has launched a mentoring effort that pairs young gay professionals with mentors who are willing to share their business world experience.

      GLENDA’s DiversityWorks program was formed in 2005 by Joseph Khanh D. Bui, who said he felt a need to foster professionalism among today’s young gay adults.

      The issue of being candid about one’s sexuality in the workplace is unique to GLBT professionals, organizers noted. “It’s difficult to be out at work for many white-collar young adults,” DiversityWorks program director Trish Oleska told Out. “Working with our program, they can learn how to succeed at their careers and not be hindered by the fear of losing their job or promotability because of their orientation.”

      But being out at work is not a requirement for becoming involved in the program. “When speaking to GLBT professionals, if you ask how many ‘out’ managers or executives there are in their workplace, more often than not, the answer is ‘none,’” Oleska said. She noted that Pennsylvania, along with 38 other states, still allows employers to fire workers for being gay, but Oleska is hopeful that DiversityWorks will “aid in the breaking down of that ‘lavender ceiling.’”

      Networking skills will be an integral part of the project. Social get-togethers are planned as a part of the program to allow mentors and their protégés to connect with one another, discuss business strategies and exchange ideas.

      Networking is also believed to be an effective way to discover which companies are “gay-friendly” or progressive in respect to GLBT issues, Oleska said.

      In addition to assisting young professionals, there are other benefits for those who choose to become mentors. “I believe that many in the GLBT community want to help others, but often don’t know how or where to do that,” Oleska said. “Perhaps by providing opportunities for them to network or to mentor young workers, they can help grow the presence of GLBT people in business.”

      DiversityWorks currently plans to make available mentors in professions including business, finance, medicine, the arts, social services, training and development and law. In addition to the mentoring program, DiversityWorks also hopes to encourage businesses that may benefit from such a program to take advantage of their services.

      To become a mentor or a protégé, request an enrollment package by sending an e-mail to diversityworks@glenda.org. Protégés should have an established career goal; DiversityWorks is not meant to act as a career counseling service.

      Oleska said she believes that participants in the DiversityWorks program will “rise to his or her career potential and become future leaders in the Pittsburgh community.”

      GLENDA is a group of concerned gays, lesbians and friends who have organized to provide volunteer services to the greater Pittsburgh community. The organization is focused on promoting diversity and dedicated to building respect and acceptance of all people, including gays and lesbians. GLENDA does not charge dues and does not have attendance requirements.