DEIB at Ability Beyond Takes Another Step Forward with Pride
Ability Beyond has announced its second-ever employee resource group (ERG)—Ability Pride—to support, represent, and celebrate LGBTQIA+ members of the workforce!
“By the very nature of the work we do—which is caring for people—we have to care for our team members,” said Shaileen Brighton-Ortiz, Director of Services and DEIB at Ability Beyond. “The creation of Ability Pride shows the strides we have made as an agency committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.”
Lead Human Resources Recruiter Bradley Miller will serve as Chairperson of the ERG.
The openly gay HR professional has been advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights since high school, and earned a Master’s Degree in Organizational Psychology from the University of New Haven, where he produced a thesis on kindness in leadership. It’s a trait he intends to put forth in this new role.
“Through Ability Pride, I want to learn other people’s stories and support them,” he said. “I’ve already had people come forward to say how impactful it is, to have a space where they can celebrate who they are, bring their true self to work, and even learn how to support a friend or family member at home.”
ERGs at Ability Beyond are part of an organization-wide DEIB program called Ability Stronger, designed to ensure that all employees can bring their “whole selves” to work. Ability Stronger launched in 2020 with the creation of Breathe Equality, an ERG to support Black employees.
Three years later, the workforce has voted to start Ability Pride.
“There are so many firsts at Ability Beyond that have taken place in a short time,” Shaileen said. “The first woman president and CEO of the organization. Our first ERG for Black employees, Breathe Equality. And now the first official recognition of LGBTQIA+ employees. It was needed.”
Bradley said the ERG is more than just an affinity group. It’s a sign to members of Ability Pride that they are accepted, respected, and appreciated for who they are.
“You can really be yourself at Ability Beyond,” he said.
“This is the first job I’ve had where I wasn’t intimidated to be myself, even in my first interview, when I was hired. To have this opportunity as Chairperson adds another meaning to being not just accepted but celebrated at work.”
A reason to come to Ability Beyond and stay
ERGs are gaining prominence because they reflect the inclusive values of today’s workforce, and they can strengthen a nonprofit’s mission. A 2023 ZipDo report found that staff participation in ERGs can lead to a 14% increase in employee retention and a remarkable 39% boost in job satisfaction.
“People want a job where they can be appreciated and valued for who they truly are, and have some fun,” Bradley said. “We can always get people in the door. ERGs are one way to keep them.”
One reason is because ERGs like Ability Pride produce meaningful outcomes. When Bradley has a full leadership team, he said the group will collectively set goals and pursue projects such as:
- Professional development support for LGBTQIA+ employees
- Events to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community
- Special campaigns to highlight contributions of LGBTQIA+ employees
- Engagement with local LGBTQIA+ organizations
- Participation in Pride events
- Broader advocacy to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ people
“Ability Stronger is not just cosmetics,” Shaileen said. “It’s doing the work. Sometimes quietly, always proudly. Being leaders in this work isn’t always comfortable, but real change comes with discomfort.”
More Than a Workplace Program
The launch of Ability Pride signifies not just progress but also the work that’s yet to come, Bradley said.
“It was just eight years ago that same-sex marriage became legal in all states,” Bradley said. “It hasn’t even been a decade. People were happy for that milestone, and celebrated. A lot of people shed tears that they could even be recognized. Fast forward and there is still a lot of tension in the world when it comes to LGBTQIA+ rights.”
He added: “The creation of Ability Pride was a call to action.”
Bradley also emphasized the importance of allyship, which has played a crucial role In the advancement of LGBTQIA+ rights, recognition, and inclusion in society.
“Our community is rooted in allyship,” he said. “With Ability Pride, I think a lot of people voted not just because they are a member of the community, but also because they 100% know someone who is.”
Inclusion has been part of the very fabric of Ability Beyond since our founding more than 70 years ago.