On May 11, Start Proud MTL held the second edition of Gathering of the Next Generation, a LGBTQIA2 networking event at Thomson House. Formerly known as “Out On Bay Street,” Start Proud MTL is a non-profit organization that seeks to support LGBTQIA2 students’ professional development and promote a more LGBTQIA2-inclusive culture in workplaces in Canada. After 10 years of campaigning, the organization now seeks to expand its operations in Calgary, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, and its hometown of Toronto.
The networking event included a panel featuring three notable LGBTQIA2 speakers: Laura MacDonald, an assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Canada; Élisabeth Brousseau, a founding member of the LGBTQIA2 committee of the Barreau du Québec and co-president of the Canadian Bar Association's conference on sexual orientation and gender identity; and Norman Carra, a member of the McKinsey Montreal office’s LGBTQIA2 association.
According to Emma Goyette, president of Start Proud MTL and one of the event’s moderators, the panel sought to address many of the issues faced by LGBTQIA2 people in the workplace.
“The goal tonight is to [encourage] students and young professionals to network and to use [their LGBTQIA2 identity] as a networking tool instead of discrimination criteria,” Goyette said.
The panelists discussed some of their concerns about openly identifying as LGBTQIA2 in the workplace. MacDonald explained that although she was initially uncertain of the reception she would receive when launching the Montreal chapter of PwC’s LGBTQIA2 network, Gays, Lesbians, and Everyone Else (GLEE), she said she was met with a very positive response from her co-workers.
“I feel like there a was a [positive] response from people in management positions,” MacDonald said, “They were all extremely stoked, which was fantastic [….] Some of the highest up people in the firm who, if I saw them I would be genuflect and pass them, were sending us emails asking to have meetings and talk about GLEE and they were very excited.”
For James Guarascio, a Start Proud MTL member and attendee of the event, inclusivity is a central part of the group’s mandate that will guide its members in their plans to expand further in the future.
“[Start Proud MTL] is an organization where, although there is the LGBTQIA2+ aspect to it, it is very [professionally] oriented,” Guarascio said. “We are really trying to be inclusive [….] We have three bilingual panelists. We also want to expand the types of people that we attract to these events. Mostly, right now, we get people in law, management, and engineering, but we would like to see this expand more broadly.”
Start Proud MTL hopes to grow by attracting the attention of companies and corporations that will contribute and sponsor larger events in the future, and Start Proud’s Toronto branch supported the group’s latest Montreal function.
“We hosted the first event for Start Proud MTL on the 41st floor of Place Ville Marie,” Tazeen Hussein, RBC representative and event attendee, said. “I think that the main thing that we want to be able to see is a room full of people. I have been going to these paneling events now for about two years, and we have seen a slight increase. So what I would like to see for the future of this organization is the ability to fill out a big room.”