MyEO is one of the most popular member benefits of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO). It’s a program that allows EO members to join groups or events that connect directly to their interests and passions.
Here’s the story behind the creation of one of the latest MyEO groups: MyEO LGBTQ+.
We recently talked with Jeff Smith, former president of EO Los Angeles and CEO of JS2 PR, and he explained how EO’s Global Leadership Academy inspired him to create MyEO LGBTQ+. The group will make its organizational debut during EO’s Global Leadership Conference (GLC) at a kick-off reception on Monday, 16 April, from 3–4 pm in the Provincial Ballroom South at the Sheraton Toronto.
What role did EO’s Global Leadership Academy play in the formation of MyEO LGBTQ+?
JS/ I’ve been an EO member for years and was honored to be invited to participate in the Global Leadership Academy in November 2017, a five-day immersive program in Washington, D.C. The learning we experienced was incredible, insightful and deep, inspiring each of us to further our paths of leadership within EO.
Each of the 28 participants came away from the experience with something, both professionally and personally. For me, after sharing my story of being a gay man in this organization, and taking inspiration from the vibrancy of the MyEO Women of EO group, I wondered: Are there other EO members who self-identify with the LGBTQ+ community or have close ties to the community who wish we had a group to share experiences, learn and grow together as entrepreneurs?
I’m not an activist, so starting this group is a major step out of my comfort zone. But that seems to be a natural result of GLA―the experience, the speakers and the immersive qualities of the program changed my life in several ways.
Why is now the right time to establish this group?
JS/ Actually, I’ve been thinking that we needed a group like this for a long time. I originally joined EO when it was YEO in 1996. At that time, one of my questions to the friend who encouraged me to join was whether there were other people who identified as part of the gay community in the organization. But, he assured me it wasn’t an issue because the organization is about peer-to-peer learning, so orientation or identity wouldn’t be a factor. So, I joined, and I agree: Being an EO member is a transformative experience and however you self-identify, you are a valued member because of the entrepreneurial experiences you bring and share.
That being said, aren’t we missing an opportunity? Since joining EO, I’ve only met two or three gay members. That’s an unbelievably low number out of 12,000+ members. I wonder if it’s because while EO isn’t an exclusionary organization at heart and every member knows it, without specifically being inclusionary to the LGBTQ+ community, we may risk being perceived as exclusionary to people who may otherwise want to join our organization.
I spoke out about this issue during GLA and was met with a lot of encouragement to take my idea for a MyEO group to the next level. Specifically, Mary Evelyn of EO Toronto, who was at the forefront of the MyEO Women of EO group, is my co-Champion in this effort. We’ve gotten invaluable input from Winnie Hart, Champion of the MyEO Women of EO group, and have enjoyed exploring the idea, establishing messaging and beginning our outreach.
When will the MyEO LGBTQ+ group launch?
JS/ We’re having a kick-off reception at GLC on Monday, 16 April, from 3–4 pm in the Provincial Ballroom South at the Sheraton Toronto. I’ll also be at the MyEO booth during GLC to speak with members about the new group. I encourage everyone to drop by and say hello.
MyEO LGBTQ+ is a MyEO group whose dual purpose is to embrace diversity and promote inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, in addition to recruiting LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. By sharing our experiences, celebrating individuality and respectfully engaging one another, we affirm a richer EO culture. Whether you identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community or have someone in your life who does (family, friends, colleagues), this group is for every EO member.
Who is invited to participate?
JS/ Everyone in EO is invited to participate! Our vision is to build a diverse and inclusive group for all identities and orientations within the global entrepreneurial community. The spectrum is wide!
And let’s be clear: This initiative is not about tagging specific members who identify with the LGBTQ+ community. We’re coming at it from an inclusionary point of view that emphasizes how valuable diversity is within our larger entrepreneurial ecosystem. In EO, we value experience sharing from people from different walks of life, different countries and cultures. These groups bring extraordinarily unique observations to the conversation, and we all learn and benefit from them. The same is true for the LBGTQ+ community.
By sharing our experiences, celebrating individuality and respectfully engaging one another, we affirm a richer EO culture. Our hope is that we will give a platform to people who both identify with the community and also those who may have a business partner, friend, employee or family member who identifies LGBTQ+. Because, isn’t that all of us?
How will MyEO LGBTQ+ benefit EO?
JS/ It’s important that the LGBTQ+ community have visibility and representation within the larger EO group so that potential members who identify or have ties to the community will feel even more included and welcome into our amazing group of 12,000+ entrepreneurs worldwide.
But members who self-identify as a part of this community aren’t the only ones who will benefit. When I was exploring this idea and having conversations about it, an EO member from Canada shared, “I’m straight but my son is gay, and I want to know more about the culture. I’m in: How do I join?”
Our new MyEO LGBTQ+ group will embrace and promote diversity and inclusion from an experiential viewpoint. Our member experience in EO is enhanced by a tapestry of differing perspectives, and this will be another one of them.
In addition, it will help those who self-identify with the community feel more welcome in our organization and its programs. When people see that we embrace the LGBTQ+ community with a specific group that promotes diversity and inclusion, members of the community will feel more comfortable joining our organization. That’s what this is all about: expanding options. And growth. It will be just one of the many, many reasons to join the organization, but it’s a powerful statement of inclusion.
Where can interested EO members learn more?
JS/ EO members who are ready to join the MyEO LGBTQ+ group can do so at this link. They can also request to join our closed Facebook group. We’ll use Facebook as a communications tool where people can speak about topics they want to address.
The only criterion for joining is membership in EO. We’re eager to connect this community and foster personal and professional growth by embracing each member’s individuality, thereby enriching our commonalities. You’re all invited to join us!
See you at our kick-off reception at GLC—Monday, 16 April, from 3–4 pm in the Provincial Ballroom South at the Sheraton Toronto!
Any EO member with questions about the MyEO LGBTQ+ group is welcome to contact Jeff Smith directly by emailing [email protected].