The Common Sense Colloquy: Q&A with Stacey Stevenson of Family Equality
It’s June and that means it’s Pride Month once again. We’re continuing the tradition we started last year of focusing our June Common Sense Colloquy Q&A on an LGBTQ community leader. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity now to highlight a new leader in the advocacy community, Family Equality CEO Stacey Stevenson.
Stacey joined Family Equality earlier this year from a career in corporate America, most recently at Charles Schwab and Co. At Schwab, Stacey served as National Co-Chair for Schwab’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) and supported the development of several LGBTQ non-profit organizations. She and her wife Cheralyn have been married for 14 years and are the proud parents of 6-year old twin boys.
Stacey brings both corporate and lived experience to her role as the leader of the nation’s preeminent advocacy group for LGBTQ families. And she lives in Dallas, Texas, giving her a unique perspective on national issues from a place outside of the traditional centers of power for LGBTQ organizations. We think that’s both smart and relevant as the national conversation about the federal and state policies required to ensure equality for LGBTQ families and children continues to evolve and change.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with Family Equality numerous times over the past few years, including most recently when we had the pleasure of meeting Stacey as we supported Family Equality’s work promoting theintroduction of the John Lewis Every Child Deserves A Family Act. We consider ourselves fortunate to have had the opportunity to support Family Equality’s work – and although we’ve only just met Stacey, we’re already impressed with her approach and her commitment to the work ahead. We’re thankful for Stacey’s willingness to share her thoughts and insight here as the latest participant in the Common Sense Colloquy series.
My thanks to Stacey for sharing her wisdom with us – and you.
Q: As a chief executive of an organization with a wide range of activities, what’s your view on the role of communications in supporting your mission?
A: Communications plays a critical role in everything we do. Whether we are posting on social media, connecting with the press, speaking with congressional leaders, sending a monthly newsletter, etc., our messaging must be consistent and clear and always point back to our mission.
Family Equality exists to change hearts and minds to effect change. If we do not effectively and authentically communicate our mission and our “why” to our audiences, we cannot move our work forward.
So, we treat communications as a critical component of our strategy—never as an afterthought.
Q: It’s Pride Month and the annual debate about what companies and organizations should be doing vs. what they’re actually doing is taking place again. How do you think companies and organizations can best support our community during Pride and all year long?
A: Leaders in companies and organizations must shout their support from the rooftops and follow up with action in their community, in their workplaces, and in their field. And when I say “action,” I mean real action, not performative action, not action taken only because it’s Pride month. The first step is to look inward: We need vocal, explicit support at the executive level and corporate initiatives that elevate LGBTQ+ employees. This includes inclusive policies, diversity training, diversity metrics, and more. If companies are going to lend their support to the LGBTQ+ community during Pride month, they must demonstrate their commitment to LGBTQ+ employees all year.
Q: You have a strong corporate background as well as experience co-leading a national employee resource group for a major financial organization. What did you learn from this experience that is relevant to corporate communications professionals?
A: While I was co-leading the employee resource group, I learned two things: First, as an ERG, we had to prioritize communications and be intentional about our messaging and the value of the ERG. If we wanted people to join the ERG and attend our events, we needed to demonstrate the value proposition via regular communications. This meant assigning an ERG member specifically to developing newsletters and communications to promote our events.
Second, it’s essential that internal corporate communications departments partner with employee resource groups to lift up the work we do. Rather than taking on the massive lift of communications alone, we learned we could expand and amplify our message by partnering with the internal communications team. This resulted in high visibility for the National Pride ERG via features on the intranet, email blasts to the entire organization (not just our membership), and co-partnerships with other ERGs.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you’ve received?
A: Embrace your story, and don’t be afraid to use that story to effect change.
Q: What’s the best “common sense” advice about communications you've given to others?
A: Speak up and speak your truth even when it’s not popular.