The Third Annual West Coast OUT for Work LGBTQA College Student Career Conference, a non-industry specific career conference that educates LGBTQA students on the transition from academia to the workplace, took place at Pomona's Edmunds Ballroom last weekend.
According to Riley Folds, Out for Work Founding Executive Director, the organization chose to hold the event at the Claremont Colleges because of the closeness of the seven schools and the student profile. Folds said there are a large number of students at the 5Cs interested in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and sees the conference as a valuable resource for helping LGBTQA students make the transition to the real world.
“They walk away with tools and resources,” he said. “It brings a safe environment to ask questions.”
The conference’s keynote speaker was Amanda Simpson HM '83, a senior technical advisor in the Department of Commerce and the first openly transgender female political appointee. She spoke about the difficulties facing the LGBTQA community, especially in the realm of politics, claiming that differences in sexuality are exploited simply for political posturing. She also called on students to challenge the establishment, asserting that incremental progress is still progress.
“Change always comes,” she said to the audience. “You are the future! Society will be what you create it to be.”
The conference also offered seminars on being “out” in the workplace and offered opportunities for students to connect with LGBTQA friendly employers, including the aerospace behemoths Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
Students attending the conference said they thought it was a good resource for networking, although some had expected it to focus more on the LGBTQA community than on careers.
Michael Hernandez-Henderson PZ '12 said he attended the conference partially to engage with others in the community, but found that students were more interested in meeting employers and that LGBTQA issues were only minimally touched on.
“It's graduate students who are more focused on recruiters [than on meeting other students],” he said. “It's an interesting dynamic. It’s a way of using sexuality as a resource.”
Queer Resource Center Coordinator Adriana di Bartolo added that the Colleges are considering applying to host the event again next year, though she added that the decision is “definitely going to depend on student input.”