LGBTQ+ Center panel discusses navigating professional world


Matthew Brown

The LGBTQ+ Center is located on the lower floor of Kent State’s Student Center and is open to any and all students.

Faith Fistler, Reporter

A diverse panel of speakers shared their experiences on how to navigate the workplace authentically at the “Being LGBTQ+ in the Professional World” virtual event Wednesday.

The LGBTQ+ Center presented the event that featured panelists of varying identities across different professional industries. Topics ranged from intersectionality, managing mental health as a working professional and finding community within the workplace.

Yvonna Washington-Greer, assistant vice president of equity, identity and success, introduced the event and why these conversations matter.

“So few things are more rewarding than feeling like you belong in your professional life,” Washington-Greer said. “In fact, belonging is linked to a 56% increase in job performance and a 50% drop in turnover. So when you feel comfortable bringing your authentic self to the workplace, you can focus on doing your best work and growing in your career field or even in your company.”

Former Kent State alumni and current student success programs coordinator Tyrone Berry Jr. said they found community in the workplace by being transparent about who they are.

“Finding community with the students and being able to be that face and that resource,” Berry said. “Like, you can be queer and have a really beautiful open relationship with yourself and others, while being a working professional.”

Courtney Greer, a technical program manager at Microsoft, shared that therapy, self reflection and having personal connections are valuable wellness strategies and key to professional development.

“If you’re weighed down by this, and you’re trying to think through those different identity boxes as a way to solve it, a lot of the times you’re not showing up 100%,” Greer said. “Having those resources in your toolbox … you’re going to easily find your way through those career challenges.”

The panel also discussed how to ensure that a potential employer cultivates an inclusive work environment. Advice on this topic included looking at the company’s diversity training, asking questions during the interview and looking for LGBTQ+ friendly signs around the workplace, like a rainbow pin or flag.

“But if you’re not seeing anything in the spaces, I would certainly advise you to challenge it in the trainings and meetings of like, ‘What does diversity look like?’” Berry said. “‘What does intersectionality look like? What does acceptance look like?’”

The panelists also stressed that self love and an openness to new experiences and failures are important for a student’s development and success.

“Don’t be afraid to get uncomfortable, as I said before. Live in that uncomfortability because it’s gonna just sprout growth,” Berry said. “That is some pieces of advice that I have for students.”

The LGBTQ+ Center has several more events planned this semester. To be notified of future events, follow the center’s Instagram.

Faith Fistler is a reporter. Contact her at [email protected].