Diversity and Inclusion

Giving a Voice to the Meeting Industry’s LGBT Community

Skift Take

Until six years ago, no association represented the LGBT community of meeting professionals. That all changed when David Jefferys founded LGBT Meeting Professionals Association.

David Jefferys is the founder and executive director of the LGBT Meeting Professionals Association (LGBT MPA), the first and only association dedicated to connecting, educating, and advancing LGBT professionals in the meetings industry. Jefferys is also President Emeritus of Altus Agency, which specializes in digital content marketing and brand consulting. An expert in LGBT tourism marketing, he created and produced the first LGBT advertising campaign for Philadelphia, “Get Your History Straight and Your Nightlife Gay.”

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Motivation Behind Creating LGBT MPA

Jefferys’ background is in hospitality management. The idea for LGBT MPA came to Jefferys when he discovered that no association was dedicated to the industry’s LGBT professionals, a powerful part of tourism and travel. Realizing this gap in the association market for the LGBT community, six years ago, Jerffrys founded LGBT MPA.

Things have improved for the LGBT community. Six years ago, a session at IMEX was marketed as being focused on diversity. Jefferys attended with interest, however, he felt it severely lacked diversity regarding the presentation and content. The session was hosted by two Caucasian women and focused on the importance of food diversity within the meetings industry. Today, IMEX and industry associations have evolved drastically in how they work with the LGBT community.

Blue Islands in Seas of Red 

Whilst there has been forward movement for the LGBT community and for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a whole. Unfortunately, there are also challenges and instances of regression. One example was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, which forbides instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school. In response, LGBT MPA created ‘Just Say Gay’ canvas bags for an event held in Florida.

There has been much discussion around boycotting destinations if their policies and values do not align with that of the organization and its members, a conversation that increased after the reversal of Roe vs Wade. However, Jefferys doesn’t believe in boycotting destinations with differing views, instead, he sees it as an opportunity for open dialogue.

A number of more progressive cities also reside within conservative states in the U.S. For example, Dallas, Texas, is a very welcoming city with a strong LGBT community. He also feels that there is more acceptance of Pan-Asian and Black communities, among others. 

Getting Diversity Right

Jefferys sees the industry progressing in its DEI journey in several ways. First, it continues to spotlight DEI. The more attention you bring to a situation, the more likely you are to address it. The second thing is there’s a deepening of intention and education. “Through education, we solve many misunderstandings, misconceptions, and prejudices usually founded on a lack of knowledge,” he said. 

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