Tuesday, April 12, 2011

UBS Straight Ally Launch

Before I tell you about UBS, let’s back it up a day and fill you in on some mysterious twitter posts – this whole Yankees thing. Basically, a friend Jon Harris from Athlife (whose wedding I photographed a few years ago in NYC) has introduced me to multiple sports teams so that I can begin to build a relationship with the Miss NY Organization for some fun appearances like celebrity tip off at the Knicks game, puck drop with the Rangers, 1st pitch with the Yankees, etc. Well the Yankees said they have a million people ask about the pitch but would like me to audition to be a pregame hostess. So I did and just last week, I had my first few games on the big screen. It’s a lot of fun and just cool to be back behind the scenes at the scoreboard at Yankee Stadium! Thursday, I did an afternoon game, jumped on the C to the garment district for a fitting with Rolando Santana to borrow a few dresses for the GLAAD Awards in LA and then went home to change for UBS – I ended up wearing a Rolando Santana dress there too!

A few months ago, I had a mock interview at UBS - Wealth Management | Investment Bank | Asset Management - so naturally, I thought this speaking opportunity was because of that. However, to my surprise, I was brought into UBS independently because of my platform. UBS has an LGBT Affinity Group, Pride Americas, but felt they were lacking in providing an opportunity for people to identify as straight allies in the workplace. They started an initiative to open Pride Americas up to straight allies and officially launched the program on Thursday when I spoke. I was joined by Brian Hull, Senior Manager of Wealth Management, Rich Johnson and Chad Eisenberger. Chad is such a passionate ally who joined Pride Americas with so much support, but hesitation, wondering “Am I allowed to join since I’m straight? Am I welcome?” Those questions are natural, and show us that we need to create specific opportunities for people to self-identify as allies. At this launch alone, 90 people signed the Straight Ally pledge at UBS. Before the event, there were only 123 straight ally members total.

It is incredibly important to have senior management in corporations stand behind diversity and inclusion because it shows that supporting Pride Americas or your respective LGBT affinity group is not just an opportunity, but it is an expectation. This senior support sets the bar high, creating a safe, respectful and cohesive workplace environment, which we all know fosters the best practices, teamwork and productivity. It is exciting and necessary to witness a firm as large and influential as UBS doing this.

I often recognize the groundbreaking measures I have taken in the eyes of others, but refer to my advocacy as just “the right thing to do.” This concept was supported by the other speakers but also taken further to say in an investment bank like UBS, it’s also “the smart thing to do” from a business perspective. We had so many valuable and unique perspectives – I always recognize the elephant in the room of being a “beauty queen,” then thrive in blasting that stereotype out of the water by the end of my speech and Q & A. A very special thanks to Jason Shaw and Matt Koehler.


Fascinating people and conversations – once again reminded of two things I’ve thought a lot about lately: Opportunities like this is why I wanted to be Miss America, yet why I’m so incredibly happy that I am Miss New York and able to continue with every single opportunity I had planned for my year.

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