Gordon Ford panel discusses LGBTQ+ issues of the workplace


Jake Moore

From left to right: Director of Commonwealth Financial Resources Jonathan Hendricks, Branch Manager of PNC Bank Scott Payne, Assistant Provost of Institutional Effectiveness Molly Kerby and Director of Student Financial Assistance Bryson Davis discuss the challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community face in the workplace on March 8, 2022.

Jake Moore, Content Editor

Members of WKU’s faculty as well as local business figures offered their thoughts on the challenges members of the LGBTQ+ community may encounter in the workplace at a panel in Grise Hall on Tuesday evening.

The event was organized by the Eta Omicron chapter of Beta Alpha Psi, WKU’s honorary fraternity of the accounting profession, as part of its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Week, and was hosted by the Gordon Ford College of Business.

The panelists began discussion by emphasizing how important it is to be your authentic self at work and explained why they were passionate about ensuring comfort for everyone in their professions regardless of personal identity.

Bryson Davis, director of student financial assistance, shared a personal anecdote from a past interview at an investment firm where a potential employer inappropriately inquired about his sexuality.

“I met every criteria that they were looking for,” Davis said. “Everything was hunky-dory. I was thinking, ‘okay, this is coming to a close, this is going well, I may have landed this job if I wanted it and I might consider this, this will be different’ – then the [interviewer] says, ‘I’ve got one question for you. Are you a homosexual?'”

Davis said that it is not legal for an employer to ask that kind of question during an interview, but “those are situations that you will run into and people will be that brazen.”

Dr. Molly Kerby, assistant provost for institutional effectiveness, shared that she has “always been a fighter” for diversity, equity and inclusion. Kerby, a lesbian who first got involved with activism in the 1970’s, hopes to create a world where people are free from discrimination in the work place.

“I hope that we can make it to where you won’t have to worry about that,” Kerby said. “You can walk in and say ‘my wife’, ‘my husband’ if you’re male, or if you’re non-binary, ‘please call me ‘they’, those are my pronouns’.”

Kerby brought up specific ways diversity and inclusion can be better achieved in WKU classrooms by examining the kinds of media that are discussed throughout different courses.

“We do a lot of workshops here on campus, we work with a lot of faculty on inclusivity in their classrooms,” Kerby said. “We have an inclusive teaching academy going on right now that we started this semester about how you include everyone in your classroom, down to looking at the PowerPoints that you use – are all your PowerPoints white straight males? A lot of them will be.”

Davis offered words of encouragement for anyone who may be holding back their authentic selves at work in order to avoid awkward, unpleasant or hateful encounters.

“You may be in that situation, depending on where you live, and if you do, it’s okay – you’ll survive,” Davis said. “You’ll make it. I did. It gets tough, and people ask awkward questions, and you have to find a way of educating people on what is appropriate and what’s not. Sometimes you have to draw that line, and that gets a little tough, especially if your boss asks you something.”

Kerby said that one of the most important things to be aware of is where to go for help if you encounter unfair treatment or discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

“I don’t even care if it’s about LGBT [discrimination], you need to know your chain of command and where to go when you need help with your business no matter what the situation,” Kerby said.

Title IX claims can be filed at WKU’s Title IX website.

Content Editor Jake Moore can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @Charles_JMoore.