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Diversity (sexual) In Business Key To Success
By Cristina E. Martinez
here is a change ahead for all businesses, change that is shaped by demographics and markets. That change is the challenge of embracing not only diversity of race, gender, religion and political affiliation, but of sexual orientation as well. Any hoping to survive and thrive in the future should be listening and acting now.

Not long ago, the gay market in the U.S. was largely undocumented. None of the Fortune 500 companies or major corporations had yet discovered the value of the gay and lesbian consumer. Today, market research is clearly defining and validating the GLBT market. For the first time in history, marketing executives and mainstream Americans are recognizing the financial clout of the gay community.

Gay and lesbian consumers account for over $660 billion of worth of spending power annually. By 2011 that figure will rise to $835 billion.* Businesses are finding that in order to survive and compete they must move into this market.

We live in an age when flexibility and creativity are the keys to competitiveness. Yet too often we operate from old stereotypes and fears. Part of the human condition, reflected in business, is the desire to cling to traditional and safe patterns. We find solace in those whose appearance and outlook reflects

our own. However, what is needed is expansion and inclusiveness, working with new ideas and new people.

Diversity is the richest resource we have. It is the source of all creativity and innovation. No matter what the business, recognizing diversity benefits the individual, the organization and society as a whole.

Workplace diversity is no longer wishful thinking. It is an essential component of every successful business. The world is changing. Attitudes are changing. Gay and lesbian Americans finding acceptance in politics, media and in the boardroom.

Today, more than 80 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 now ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Over 50 percent of the Fortune 500 offer health and other benefits to the same-sex partners of their employees.**

As acceptance grows, companies, corporations and small businesses are reaching out to gay and lesbian consumers by expanding their marketing toward this very important market niche. And by doing so, they are finding success reflected in their bottom line.

Cristina Martinez is President and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages, President of MD Marketing & Advertising, Owner of Rainbow Graphics and founder of the San Antonio Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
* Statistics cited from “The Gay and Lesbian Market in the U .S.” (January 2007), a report published by market research firm Packaged Facts, in collaboration with gay and lesbian PR and marketing firm Witeck-Combs Communications Inc. **Fortune Magazine, April 26, 2006, “Corporate America backs gay rights” by Marc Gunther. (money.cnn.com/2006/04/25/magazines/fortune/pluggedin_fortune/)


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