Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and an online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs and Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Fabrice Houdart, the executive director and founder of the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors. Let’s learn what’s happening there and how Fabrice is making a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Hi Fabrice, thanks a million for talking to me today. Tell me, what challenge is the Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors addressing?
Fabrice: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! We are working to ensure lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) people are better represented on US corporate boards. A board of directors is a group of people appointed as the representatives of a company's shareholders so they can make decisions on their behalf. Our association currently estimates that LGBTQ+ people only occupy 0.6% of board seats in Fortune 500 companies, while LGBTQ+ people are much more numerous than that. Depending on the estimates, the LGBTQ+ population represents 5.7% to 7% of society. In 2022, this disparity has to change, and this is what we are working on solving together.
Spiffy: What motivated you to do it?
Fabrice: My engagement with social justice and a more equitable society started with my own experience of discrimination. I was born in Paris in 1978. Being born white, male, French, and in an affluent family was a bit like winning the lottery. Because I was born with such privilege, discrimination came as a surprise to me when I experienced it after I came out in 2001 as a gay man. It upset me—maybe more than others—because I never expected it. To be able to come out, I left my family, my community, and my country behind. I also had to build a new persona from scratch. I often feel nothing about me was real or truthful until I came out at 22. That moment awoke in me a desire to fight for justice and fairness. It colored my entire life.
Spiffy: This world is more special with people like you! Thank you for sharing that proudly. What is the impact of your work?
Fabrice: LGBTQ+ people want to appear resilient rather than victims. Yet, what is done to them early on in life is not insignificant and often tints the rest of their lives, including their professional lives. At an early age, many LGBTQ+ people have to lie to the people they should trust and love the most: their parents, their teachers, and their religious leaders, among others. It affects our capacity to connect later on in life. So, companies have a role in creating an even playing field to ensure we have a chance at dignity and opportunity. When people ask, "Why are you celebrating Pride Month every single year? Isn't that a bit much?" I respond, "Pride is the daily medication I have to take to overcome the burden of shame I have been carrying on since childhood."
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organization milestone or initiative. What impact does it make?
Fabrice: On September 12th, we brought together people at JPMorgan in New York City. They were fifty of the most influential LGBTQ+ people in business as well as representatives from other organizations linked to corporate boards (such as NASDAQ). The idea is to say we have to elevate and help each other to succeed. This is the only way we will fill the representation gap in corporate boardrooms. It is much needed because, in these rooms, important decisions are taken that ultimately affect LGBTQ+ people as much as straight people. We should be in the room. We are going to make it happen.
Spiffy: Is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Fabrice: Now is the time to get involved. When I started working on social issues in 2011, I never imagined this would take such a huge place in my life, at the World Bank first, then the UN, and now through the Association. I learned a lot and met incredible people. However, our journey is far from over. When you look at racism in the US, it took the form of slavery, then Jim Crow, and now mass incarceration and police violence. The #MeToo movement shows that gender equality is far from being achieved. I wish LGBTQ+ people would better use their leverage as employees, consumers, and investors. There are many ways to get involved in these efforts. Besides my work, I volunteer on the boards of seven non-profit organizations including IDAHOBIT, Outright, HousingWorks, TransNewYork, and Witness to Mass Incarceration.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Fabrice—it’s been an honor!
Fabrice Houdart is the executive director of the newly-created Association of LGBTQ+ Corporate Directors. Fabrice is a member of the L'Oreal Global Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board and consults with many Fortune 500 companies. He serves on the editorial board of the Women's Forum. He volunteers on the boards of seven non-profits working on issues such as homelessness, re-entry, or LGBTQ+ inclusion. (Nominated by Allyn Shaw. First published on the Ladderworks website on September 30, 2022.)
© 2022 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Jason “Jackson” Block. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Corner here.