Ten Money Questions for Selisse Berry
For over a decade, Selisse Berry has been the queer voice of corporate America. Selisse is the founding Executive Director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates, a nonprofit organization focused on creating safe and equitable workplaces for LGBT employees. Most of us have to work for a living and Selisse strives to make sure that we are all are treated with dignity, respect, and equality! I asked her a few questions about promoting change in the workplace and the core value of money, on the clock and off.
1. Out & Equal recently had its annual Workplace Summit… what was the hot topic about diversity in corporate America?
There are so many great ideas generated at the Summit. If I had to narrow it down, though, I’d say that the big topics centered around the rapidly expanding number of companies who are embracing LGBT equality, how to embrace LGBT equality on an international level, and the specific challenges of policy and training needed for transgender equality.
2. What is your most significant memory about money?
My sisters and I would each get a couple of dollars to spend at the mall. I would always come back with 10 things and they each had 2 or 3 things. I remember thinking that if you were creative, your money went further.
3. What is your worst habit around finances?
Not paying that much attention.
4. I read that you have a master’s degree in theology. How does this experience impact your perspective on life and money?
Money has never been a real motivating factor in my life and I’m had a commitment to living simply. But I also really appreciate what money buys.
5. If you could buy one thing right now what would it be?
6. Do you and your partner see eye-to-eye on money?
Mostly. We’re both somewhat frugal, but enjoy spending money on traveling, good food, and good wine.
7. Time magazine recently had an article called Come Out. Move Up? It noted there are 33 states where people can still be fired for being gay. To lose a paycheck because of sexuality seems so unfair. What is Out & Equal doing to promote change?
Well, we start by working with companies and organizations, showing them that adopting LGBT equality measures regardless of state law is a sound and smart business decision. We know that when employees can bring their whole lives to work, they are happier, more productive, and have decreased rate of turnover. When companies realize this to be true, they often write their own nondiscrimination policies that go further, in some cases, than our existing protection laws.
Of course, it’s still important to fight for legal protection from employment discrimination (and other types). We’re also empowering LGBT employees at major corporations to convince their employers to vocally join the fight and turn their significant lobbying power toward promoting LGBT equality in the law.
8. Which is more important: how much you make or how you spend it?
Definitely how you spend it. Too many of us have become passive consumers in the world, buying things without much thought to the larger picture of what each purchase means. Whenever possible, I try to make smart purchasing decisions and select products from companies that promote equitable workplaces, make an effort to conserve the environment, and generally reflect my core values.
9. What did your parents teach you about money?
The importance of saving and spending creatively.
10. Does money buy happiness?
Of course not, but money buys ice cream, and ice cream brings happiness.
More about Selisse Berry
Selisse Berry began her notable career as founding executive director of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates in 1996. Based in San Francisco, California , Out & Equal is the nation’s oldest and only national nonprofit organization specifically dedicated to creating safe and equitable workplaces for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Out & Equal is best known for its annual Workplace Summit, the premier gathering of LGBT employees and human resources professionals from around the globe. The Summit brings together LGBT employees, straight allies and human resource and diversity professionals to share best practices that address all facets of workplace equality.
Prior to her tenure at Out & Equal, Selisse served several nonprofit agencies as executive director, such as Building Bridges and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. She has a master’s degree in special education from the University of Texas and a master’s degree in theology from San Francisco Theological Seminary.
Selisse has also worked as a special education teacher, a guidance counselor and has extensive experience as a diversity trainer around LGBT issues and broader diversity issues. She lives with her partner, Cynthia Martin, in Berkeley , California . Selisse has worked for the ordination of out LGBT people in various denominations and is co-editor of the book, Called Out: Voices and Gifts of LGBT Presbyterians. She serves on the board of the LGBT Center at the Pacific School of Religion. She has spoken before numerous corporations and organizations, and often consults on LGBT diversity issues.
Read other Queercents interviews in the Ten Money Questions archive.