By Victoria Fulkerson, senior vice president, NGLCC
This summer marked the 10th anniversary of the Aspen Ideas Festival, an event dedicated to bringing together leaders from around the globe and across many disciplines to engage in deep and inquisitive discussion about the ideas and issues that shape our lives and challenge our future. Produced by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the festival unites leaders in business, the arts, politics, philanthropy, technology, education and many other areas to create and consider cross-discipline solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.
I was honored to attend this year’s festival through the Aspen Ideas Festival Scholars program. As one of the first scholars to be nominated by Shell Oil Co. and the only scholar from an LGBT organization, I was proud to represent the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and bring a unique perspective to the dialogue from the intersection of the LGBT equality movement and the business community. As speakers and attendee groups discussed the future of the workplace, global dynamics, climate change, cultural identity, diversity and sustainability, the voice of LGBT entrepreneurs and economic inclusion for our community was heard loudly and clearly.
Now — more than ever — there is a great opportunity for LGBT entrepreneurs to consider how they contribute solutions to pressing issues like climate change and international human rights. As many of the world’s largest companies consider how their footprints are shaping the future of the global workplace and impacting our planet, entrepreneurs that are innovative, nimble, strategic and on the forefront of new technology have an unprecedented opportunity to make real contributions. Consider one Aspen Festival speaker, Tony Fadell, founder and CEO of Nest Labs, producer of the Nest Learning Thermostat. He re-considered the design and function of a common household item that hadn’t seen significant innovation in decades. Not only does Nest facilitate consumer savings, it contributes to energy conservation by facilitating smarter usage and consumption of resources.
As leaders from Shell, PepsiCo Inc. and others considered the future of energy leadership and sustainable business practices at the festival, entrepreneurs like Fadell are tapping into the unlimited possibilities of the “Internet of Things” to shape the way we live, work and influence the future of our environment. During her Aspen Ideas Festival interview with Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson, Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of LGBT rights both here in the United States and internationally. In the same week, the White House announced the NGLCC-U.S. Agency for International Development partnership to impact global LGBT equality through economic development and entrepreneurship.
There is no mistaking that now is the time for LGBT entrepreneurs to bring their brightest ideas to the table. Leadership, innovation and solutions from the LGBT business community can and will impact everyone’s future. Game-changing ideas aren’t limited to the Aspen Ideas Festival, so I challenge LGBT entrepreneurs to think bigger and work together to create communities and workplaces that value inclusion, promote strength in diversity and champion innovative solutions to our largest challenges.