The GSBA Blog

  • State Tourism Funding: Steps in the Right Direction

    | Apr 29, 2016
    by Louise Stanton-Masten, Executive Director, Washington Tourism Alliance

    Since its founding four years ago, the Washington Tourism Alliance (WTA) has focused on maintaining vital tourism initiatives on behalf of our members and the industry while also laying the groundwork for a transformative long-term, statewide tourism funding plan. 

    As legislators continue to work toward a new budget and grapple with many competing priorities, the importance of tourism to our economy cannot be overstated. Annually, visitors to Washington State spend $19 billion, generate $1.1 billion in local and state tax revenues and support more than 163,400 jobs.

    Robust worldwide travel, combined with the individual tourism marketing investments of the state’s major cities, port districts and private sector companies, have helped buoy our industry since the state tourism office closed. 

    However, Washington remains the only state in the U.S. without a state-funded tourism office and our current returns cannot be assumed on a competitive landscape where Oregon, Idaho, California, British Columbia, Alaska are investing millions of dollars in destination marketing.

    The WTA is grateful for some interim funding from the legislature for two years which went to enhance the tourism website,, provide postage for mailing the Washington State Visitors’ Guide, fund the operation of a call center and support international tourism marketing. 

    This biennium the WTA requested additional interim funding to support these efforts. Currently, $198,000 is in the House version of the 2015-17 supplemental budget for further enhancement of the website. As of press time for this article, the House and Senate continue budget negotiations and we remain hopeful that the two parties will agree to include this funding in the final state budget. It represents an important statement about the value of the tourism industry.

    Compared to competing state tourism budgets, the WTA is an underdog. We’re doing a lot with a little. And as we continue to work toward a long-term, industry led and funded tourism marketing program, our current marketing and visitor service programs must continue. 

    In addition to our destination website, the Washington State Visitors’ Guide (a partnership with the Washington Lodging Association and Saga City Media) is distributed to 375,000 visitors and potential visitors. Other vital programs keep Washington State in baseline domestic and international marketing arenas, LGBTQ destination promotion and working in tandem with statewide destination marketing organizations, port districts and private sector tourism businesses for the benefit of all. 

    Yet another step was taken towards long term funding during this session. Four legislators – one from each caucus – wrote to their legislative leadership to indicate they will be working on a solution for long term tourism funding. These include Sens. Sharon Brown and Dean Takko and Reps. Cindy Ryu and Cary Condotta.

    All are particularly well situated to help solve this problem. Sen. Brown is the chair of the Senate Trade and Economic Development Committee, the committee that will consider proposed legislation. Rep. Ryu is the chair of the House Community Development, Housing and Tribal Affairs Committee. This is the House committee that will consider proposed legislation. Sen. Takko represents one of the most tourism-dependent legislative districts and Rep. Condotta is the author of legislation offering a different funding mechanism for tourism.

    In their letter, these members said “It is imperative that we find a solution so that Washington State will not be the only state in the nation without a robust statewide tourism marketing program. We see the impacts of closing the state tourism office in 2011, particularly in the rural areas of our state. We have so much to offer in Washington State that it is a tragedy we cannot let the rest of the nation and the world know why they should come visit.”

    As soon as the legislature ends, these members will be working with WTA and representatives from its member organizations to forge a solution to the funding issue. 

    We look forward to continuing to work with each of you as well as we work toward long-term, sustainable tourism funding in Washington State. GSBA member response to our calls to action were critical in getting our message to the legislature about the importance of supporting tourism funding both now and in the future.
  • An Enduring Commitment to Leadership

    The 31 highly-driven scholars that were sitting in the room at Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences are no strangers to being the first at things.

    On April 9, 2016, the GSBA Scholarship Fund launched a leadership workshop, bringing together 2015-2016 scholarship recipients for an all-day conversation. Scholars attending schools all over the state came together for the opportunity to build valuable connections, learn ways to collaboratively address shared interest in social and political issues, and provide insight for further developing this leadership initiative for future cohorts.

    The GSBA Scholars Leadership Initiative and the day’s workshop were a collaborative development, led by Ron Walters, an independent strategic planning consultant and friend of GSBA, with direction from current scholars, alumni, and GSBA staff.

    PHOTO_SCHOLARS_5During the first half of the day, Ron took the scholars on a challenging individual and group journey of prioritizing major issues (like race in America, transgender rights, income inequality) to taking on Wicked Problems through a Design Thinking framework. Scholar Zane Rapiñan said it was "great to talk about big issues with scholars, it was a diverse group where each person had our own personal intersectional fights, strengths and experience. Put us together in a room, suddenly there is a simultaneously broad and specific ability to come up with ideas to solve these 'wicked problems'".

    After lunch, the students were treated to a brief overview of the GSBA by President and CEO Louise Chernin, followed by the ever-inspiring Danni Askini, Executive Director of Gender Justice League and candidate for State Representative of the 43rd Legislative District. Danni shared her story, which has included over 15 years of activism in both Maine and Washington State, and answered questions from the scholars, ranging from how to access local healthcare resources to furthering activism on their own campuses. 

    Scholars ended the day by engaging in a shared interest mapping activity, discovering overlapping interests and, in some cases, discussing intersections of these interests where they least expected. Scholar Mara Rae noted that "because of this workshop specifically, I was able to make several important connections with other GSBA scholars, which will directly help in the work that we are doing".

    While the day seemed to end with more questions than it began, the Scholars left with an energy of possibility, new friendships, and a successful introduction to GSBA's Leadership Initiative.

  • Building for the Future, Honoring the Past

    by Mark Rosén, Director of Programs and Fund Development
    | Feb 24, 2016

    Leslie GiblettWhether she is running a half marathon or attending a celebration at the Governor’s mansion, Leslie Giblett seldom stands still. Her energy and passion around making the world a better place are nonstop. Coming from a family of five children, with three of the five being LGBT, she knows better than many the struggles faced by young people whe

    n a parent is non-accepting. After her parents divorced she saw her brother incarcerated by their own mother, simply because he was gay. Luckily Leslie had the support of her father and Aunt Elo, (for whom she has created an endowed Professorship at the University of Washington), and was able to attend college. Her other family members were not able to find their way, and succumbed to various life altering situations which ended their lives at an early age. However, they all found comfort and family in the LGBT community. As the only surviving gay sibling, it was Leslie’s wish to honor her brother and sisters by creating the Giblett Family Endowment through the GSBA Scholarship Fund.  With this gift, Leslie is helping others on their paths to success and joining with the GSBA community to create that welcoming family of support that is so crucial to those who must overcome hardship to have a chance at achieving their dreams.

    We asked Leslie what her motivation was in creating this endowment and she shared that her primary goal was to provide hope for the future. “There are many potential scholarship recipients who have lost that feeling. From a personal point of view, if my siblings had had hope for the future, they may not have all passed away so early. I would like our scholarship recipients to know that it's possible to overcome hardship, and live a more enhanced life by getting an education.”

    “Creating a legacy is important to me from a personal level, as I saw in my own family, it's not always possible to 'see the other side' and know that if you persevere, you can make a difference.” She wants to ensure that those who have a lack of parental support are able to overcome it with the help of the Scholarship Fund. Now with the help of the Giblett Family Endowment, the GSBA Scholarship Fund has a new way of helping those who need it. Thank you Leslie Giblett -- marathon runner, community leader, fashionista, and philanthropist – for working so hard for our community and always looking fabulous while doing it.

  • Transgender in the Workplace

    | Feb 24, 2016

    ElayneWylie_large_flipcropBy Elayne Wylie, Gender Justice League


    Transgender people in Washington State are facing the biggest battle our community has seen in a long time.  While there are protections for transgender people to use public accommodations already on the books, and despite the fact that the state Human Rights Commission has offered up rules clarifications on those protections, both lawmakers and extreme right-wing groups in the state are seeking to roll back protections for transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in Washington State. The newly-launched Washington SAFE Alliance (Safety & Access For Everyone) seeks to educate lawmakers and state residents alike in why those protections exist in the first place, and how everyone can be safe.


    What does that mean for workplace equality? How do current provisions in state law, as well as federal law, affect the rights and freedoms of transgender people?


    As the media has offered up numerous times in 2015, the decision to transition and live authentically in the gender of one’s true self is not an easy process. Nevertheless, more than 700,000 people in the United States identify as transgender, and a new generation of young people have access to new channels for learning, new language and new understanding about themselves, and are coming out at younger and younger ages. Workers in Seattle, Washington are among those in 200 cities and 17 states in the U.S. that enjoy specific protections for transgender people. So why do many transgender people in this region complain that they were fired, passed over for promotion or opportunity at work, or simply unable to find equitable work at their experience level?


    However, there exists a lack of institutional structure, both at the federal level and at state and municipal levels, that contributes significantly to the disparity in employment equality for transgender people. This void also undermines the social structural inequalities that LGBTQ people have faced. This is evident in the 2015 finalization of a 3-year rules clarification process for the 2006 Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination law for Washington State.


    In short, transgender people should be protected by law and by practice from prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory actions from coworkers and employers, but they are often not.  A staggering 90% of transgender people report, in a 2008 nationwide survey by the National Center for Trans Equality, experiencing harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job, or felt forced to take actions to hide their identity from coworkers to avoid negative behaviors from others. Nearly half of all transgender people report being fired, not hired or denied a promotion due to them identifying as openly trans. And specific protections in Washington State often fall far short of extending any real protection for workers.


    The Human Rights Commission publishes the corporate equality index, which charts companies on the Fortune 1000 on the depth and breadth of their non-discrimination policies, as well as pro-employee measures and inclusive benefits. To receive a 100 score, companies must annually demonstrate a commitment to and the implementation of seven major criteria, some of which is of specific relevance to transgender workers. A frequent problem, however, is how many companies choose to put a queer veneer on their diversity efforts without providing realistic and practical methodologies in-house to diversity solutions that actually work. Such corporate healthcare policies contain enough inclusive language to garner a good score on the Index, but fall short in meeting transgender people where they are at, often leaving employees paying hefty fees for essential but non-covered services, or forcing them to pay up front and be reimbursed. This often leaves those employees on the outside of a glass door, able to see inside, but unable to gain access. Some employees are often terminated for their status as a transgender person, despite the company’s Index score, and even public outcry against such actions aren’t a guarantee that those people have legal recourse, or even to be rehired.


    More importantly for small and medium-sized companies in Washington, human resources employees are facing the same questions as their bigger corporate counterparts, but likely without the resources to devote to solving those issues. How do we train our employees to understand key concepts that relate to both transgender employees and transgender customers? Do we have structures in place to address a new hire who is transgender, or to accommodate an existing employee as they choose to transition?


    Another key breakdown is how businesses and organizations view cultural competency training with regard to the transgender community. Despite the legal and fiscal ramifications of how transgender employees and customers are engaged with in the workplace, training on these issues is typically given so little regard that training and consulting is often requested without a line item in the budget, and thus is regarded as a low priority.  Employees receive, on average, two hours of instruction in a group setting, with little or no follow-up measures, skill building, or accountability for the knowledge received.


    Gender Justice League, one organization that provides workplace competency training, fields questions from both individuals and organizations about workplace best practices regarding employees and customers, and has been adapting existing educational modules for use in providing in-depth workplace training, with a provision for long-term workplace competency. Many calls that come in seek to schedule trainers for one to two hours at most, with no follow-up or more in-depth work.


    The stakes have never been higher. Despite state laws being on the books for more than nine years, recent proposals from conservative, anti-transgender organizations are spurring lawmakers to revisit critical protections for transgender people. The Washington SAFE Alliance offers hope and accurate information to prevent those protections from being removed.  Public accommodations, essentially all of the spaces outside our front door, are under attack. By recognizing now the dangers in rolling back those protections, we may be able to make a difference for not only the transgender people in our community, but for everyone in the state.

  • President's Award: Kent Thoelke

    | Feb 17, 2016

    THOELKEKent Thoelke is a passionate crusader for all he believes in and the GSBA has been blessed that he believes whole heartedly in the mission of the Scholarship Fund. When Kent first learned about the Scholarship Fund, it quickly became a family project for him, along with his husband Kevin Gaspari, his parents, Rich and Shay, and sister Richelle. Both of Kent’s parents became interviewers and when Rich passed away, Kent and family created the Rich Thoelke memorial scholarship. Kent’s involvement has been at every level from volunteer, to co-chair of TASTE.

    Kent is a tireless ambassador for the Scholarship and in his role as co-chair helped raise the bar for the event to record high levels of participation and fundraising resulting in over $775,000 raised in 2015. With a work schedule that has him traveling over 260 days a year, Kent’s dedication to the cause is a testament to his belief in the power of the Scholarship Fund to change lives. Traveling around the globe, Kent never hesitates to share the story of GSBA and has truly become an international spokesperson for the work of GSBA. Kent is the perfect example of the power of belief and dedication to change the world and make it a better place.

  • Business Leader of the Year: Mona Smith

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Mona Smith
    has served her community in monumental ways and has had an outsized impact on some of our communities’ major issues. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, her community involvement started at a very early age and she has never stopped. Mona has been a steadfast advocate for LGBT civil rights, taking key roles in the effort to gain marriage equality in both Washington and nationally. In numerous leadership positions with GSBA, including two-term President and Public Policy Task Force Chair, she oversaw key policy work that strengthened the sustainability of GSBA and the GSBA Scholarship Fund, while expanding the role of GSBA in advocating for both civil rights and business issues.

    One cannot talk of GSBA and Public Affairs without talking about the role Mona has played in the past decade in leading our policy efforts. GSBA now has both a seat and a voice at the table. As the National Chair of the Victory Fund Campaign Board, Mona leads efforts to elect LGBT people to public office across the country. She actively supports many local organizations including Legal Voice and Q Law, and is tireless in her support of GSBA (Bronze Sponsor) and the GSBA Scholarship Fund (Emerald Jewel Club). All of this, while she takes care of her personal clients and enjoys family life with her wife Natalie and their dog Cocoa. Integrating philanthropy and social justice into her business, Mona is a true business and community leader.

  • Business of the Year: Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Tuxedos and Tennis Shoes Catering and Events
    has been in operation in Seattle since 1986. Their name reflects the range of services they offer, from elegant formal affairs to casual events. Founder David Haggerty was joined by David Meckstroth in 1989 as co-owner and partner in the business. Together they have run the Hall at Fauntleroy in West Seattle for 20 years and are the exclusive catering partners with ACT Theatre, Cornish Playhouse, and Benaroya Hall in addition to running the restaurant and café at Benaroya. They attribute much of their success to their entire team of amazing people. Their love of supporting the community is clearly evident.

    Like many catering companies, Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes gets constant requests for donations and support for causes. They are committed to organizations focusing on LGBT youth, kids and education and cancer research and have supported a myriad of organizations including West Seattle Helpline, Lambda Legal, Fred Hutch Obliteride, Harborview/UW Medicine, YouthCare, the Trevor Project and the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus. Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes is also a regular caterer at GSBA networking events and joins us every year at the TASTE. They host an annual Thanksgiving community meal for 400 people, open to anyone in need. Not content to rest on their laurels, they continue to grow and are forming a new brand – D2 – launching in 2016.

  • Voice for Social Justice: Ana Mari Cauce

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Ana Mari Cauce
    is the first woman, Latina, and lesbian to serve as permanent President of the University of Washington. Born in Cuba, where her father was the Minister of Education, Cauce’s family escaped the political turmoil there by moving to Miami when she was three years old. To support the family, her parents took jobs in shoe factories. They instilled in their children the importance of education, which has been in Ana Mari’s DNA ever since.

    She joined the University of Washington faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of psychology, researching mental-health interventions for at-risk youth. She has held numerous leadership positions at the University of Washington, including heading multiple departments, Provost, and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. She has received numerous awards for her scholarship, teaching and activism, including the much-prized Distinguished Teaching Award. As interim President, Ana Mari launched the Race & Equity Initiative, bringing together faculty, staff, and students to address issues around inequity and social justice. She has spoken publicly about her own experiences with prejudice as an immigrant and a lesbian. Her devotion to fighting social inequity runs deep, she says, in part because her older brother Cesar, a civil-rights activist, was killed in 1979 by members of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina.

    She has also come out of the closet in another way: she is a proud member of the tribe of “nerds and geeks.” As she says, “Geek is the new chic.” Whether geeks or students of color, young women, LGBTQ, or all of the above, the students at the UW can count on President Cauce encouraging them to reach for their dreams and making them proud they all belong to the tribe of Purple and Gold.


  • Nonprofit of the Year: Ventures

    | Feb 17, 2016


    empowers aspiring entrepreneurs with limited resources and unlimited potential to improve their lives through small business ownership. Their focus is empowering "unbankable" individuals, often experiencing generational poverty, to start their own businesses. They partner with organizations such as Entre Hermanos to provide culturally appropriate training to immigrant communities. Their particular focus on low-income individuals means that their success rate has that much more power - lifting up entire communities with the success of each small business. An astounding 80% of Ventures clients are still in business and making a profit after 2 years. Through their retail incubator in Pike Place market and their rentable food truck, Ventures has a visible presence in our city and a way for the general public to discover the great new businesses fostered though their programs. GSBA members who have gotten their feet on the ground thanks to Ventures include Repair Revolution, our 2013 New Business of the Year, and Sal Floral Design, now one of the top florists in Seattle.

    When Executive Director Beto Yarce started his own small business in Seattle he didn’t have all the support he needed to navigate the system. Experiencing these challenges firsthand gave him the unique perspective to understand the hurdles faced by Ventures’ clients. He has overseen the tremendous growth of the organization, including receiving a major grant from the Small Business Administration to expand its services. Beto is passionate and inspired by Ventures’ mission and the opportunity to support other entrepreneurs by helping them realize their business visions.

  • Corporate Leader of the Year: Kevin Baldwin

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Under the leadership of Kevin Baldwin since 2001, PwC’s Pacific Northwest office has grown from 400 employees to over 700 and doubled its revenues. Kevin believes strongly in building diversity at all levels, from PwC’s leadership team to new recruits fresh out of college. Kevin wants to make sure their employees are a reflection of the entire community PwC serves. He is the Partner Champion for PwC’s LGBT Open Affinity Group, and has pushed the company on LGBT inclusion issues. PwC has become a sponsor of the Seattle Pride Parade and contributes a large contingent every year. In part due to his efforts, PwC was one of Diversity Inc.’s top ten companies for LGBT employees in 2015 and top three in overall diversity. They have had a 100% corporate equality index rating from HRC every year since 2006, and won the 2009 Point Inspiration Award for LGBT inclusion, for being a company that champions respect and includes LGBTQ people at every level.

    Kevin helped bring PwC on as GSBA’s first Ruby Jewel Sponsor, committed to investing significantly in both the Chamber and the Scholarship Fund. He sits on the GSBA Corporate Advisory Board, the Executive Committee of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and is a board member of the Washington Biotechnology & Biomedical Association. Currently he is co-chairing former Governor Gregoire's Challenge Seattle Partnership to work with government and business to improve our region's transportation, education and affordable housing and to tell Seattle’s success stories around the world.

  • New Business of the Year: Bulk FR8

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Bulk FR8
    is a business on the move in every way. As a domestic leader in liquid bulk logistics and freight management, Bulk FR8 provides safe and innovative freight brokerage solutions for chemical companies across the United States and Canada. Wayne Levinson’s vision to fill an industry need and create a dynamic and diverse team is what has created the incredibly rapid success of his company. In just a few short years, Bulk FR8 is now a $20 million enterprise. The have built their company around their values of communication excellence, integrity, breakthrough market knowledge, and steadfast dependability.

    A yoga master, snowboarder, and ardent traveler, Wayne has relied on strong professional and mentoring networks to help him with the best advice before making key decisions. He took this to heart and has devoted himself to doing the same for others. Wayne mentors a group of young entrepreneurs ranging in age from 13-25. Stressing the importance of education, Bulk FR8 offers their team of smart, motivated and passionate people the opportunity to continue their industry knowledge by encouraging and covering the costs for them to seek degrees and industry certifications. Wayne himself is currently in his master’s program in civil engineering at the University of Washington. When Bulk FR8 first joined GSBA, they were asked why a trucking company wanted to join our chamber. The answer they gave was simple – “We wanted folks to know that there are gay truckers out there.”

  • Community Leaders of the Year: Tamara Murphy & Linda Di Lello Morton

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton say that when they open the doors of their restaurant, Terra Plata, they are welcoming the community to their dinner table. The truth of this is borne out by the sheer number of fundraisers they have hosted for local nonprofits such as Mary’s Place, Legal Voice, Seattle Culinary Academy, Country Doctor, Fare Start, LifeLong, and GSBA. Linda and Tamara’s generosity is not limited to within the walls of their restaurant. Linda has scaled the highest peaks of the Cascades and raised over $250,000 in support of the Breast Cancer Fund. One of Tamara’s first community support efforts involved cooking meals for Babes with AIDS at Fort Worden.

    Both Linda and Tamara are ardent believers in teaching the importance of sustainability. They have created some of our region’s defining culinary events to fund their favorite organizations - Burning Beast (in support of the educational work of the Rubicon Foundation) and the Incredible Feast for the Good Farmer Fund (helping local farmers with unexpected expenses such as last summer’s drought). Other nonprofits they support include Big Table which exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant industry transformed by building relationships around shared meals and caring for those in crisis, transition or falling through the cracks. They say that “Success comes from being an active participant in our community.” Linda and Tamara understand the value of civic activism, and for being a small business voice working hard to make our home a better place for all.

  • Your Voice in Olympia: Youth & Economic Opportunities

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Olympia CampusAddressing the homeless youth crisis in our region, which has a disproportionate impact on the LGBT community, has long been a stated priority of GSBA. As our community’s business organization, we have focused our efforts on economic approaches such as last year’s Youth Equality and Reinvestment (YEAR) Act. There are several bills in Olympia that seek to make it easier for homeless youth to receive critical services and for those exiting the criminal justice system to successfully reintegrate into society.

    For the third year running, GSBA reiterates its support for the Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity (CROP) bill, which could allow persons who have committed certain non-violence offenses to appeal to a judge for a certificate stating that they have paid all their debts to society. This lowers the barriers for employment for people with criminal records, giving them a greater chance of successfully reentering society. GSBA joined with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to encourage state senators to support the CROP bill.

    New in 2016, the GSBA Board of Directors has unanimously endorsed the Supporting Opportunities & Rehabilitation (SOAR) act, which seeks to provided increased rehabilitation measures for juvenile offenders. Proposed items include: adding rehabilitation as an express intent of Juvenile Justice, mandating deferred disposition for qualifying juveniles, eliminating mandatory minimums for juvenile automobile crimes, providing more discretion around specific kinds of domestic violence cases and eliminating mandatory arrest for offenses between minor child and parent/step/grandparent, and removing license revocation for non-driving drug/alcohol/firearm offenses. Additionally, our friend and partner Rep. Joan McBride has proposed HB 2396, a bill that would allow a school nurse or guidance counselor to provide informed consent for health care decisions for a minor in the case that a student is homeless and without a legal parent or guardian.

    Finally, with our Travel Gay Seattle initiative, GSBA is also committed to building Washington State’s tourism industry. As the only state without a dedicated tourism bureau, Washington is missing out on an obvious engine of economic vitality and revenue growth. Fully supportive of the Washington Tourism Alliance’s goals of a self-assessed state tourism fund, GSBA advocates in the meantime for bridge funding of the group as it continues to bring inbound tourism dollars into our state.

  • Your Voice in Olympia: Defending Our Anti-Discrimination Laws

    | Feb 17, 2016

    Sen. Liias speaking against SB 6443Your GSBA advocacy team has had a busy winter. With the short session in Olympia, there is a lot to do but not much time. If you have been following us on Facebook, Twitter or in your email inbox, you know that GSBA has been very involved with the Washington Safety & Access For Everyone (SAFE) Alliance over the last few months. There is a national backlash against LGBT after an unprecented streak of victories for our community, and our opponents are attempting to unravel our hard-fought civil rights.

    There were seven anti-LGBT bills proposed in the Legislature this year, six of which specifically aimed to rollback civil rights protections for transgender Washingtonians that have been law for over a decade (read more about the bills). Senate Bill 6443 would repeal a regulation allowing transgender people to access facilities according to their gender identity and would forbids the Washington State Human Rights Commission from making any more regulations about access to single-sex facilities. SB 6443 was brought up for a floor vote on February 10, and in a nail-biting fifteen minutes we watched as this awful bill failed by the closest of margins (24-25). The remaining anti-LGBT bills in the Legislature are unlikely to be brought up for a vote after SB 6443 failed. However, we are preparing for the eventuality that our familiar opponents will try to file a ballot initiative.

    The collective effort of all the organizations supporting the Washington SAFE Alliance made a difference - including many GSBA-member businesses and nonprofits. Many legislators said that these issues were the ones they heard about most frequently in January. A strong showing of strength from equality-minded Washingtonians carried the day, including three Republicans who listened to the calls and emails from their constituents to oppose SB 6443.

    We are proud of all of you who joined us to defend basic and necessary civil rights in Washington. We aren’t done yet! As we move into the next steps of the coalition, please make sure that your business has endorsed the Washington SAFE Alliance.

  • Gina Grahame

    | Feb 16, 2016

    GSBA is proud to welcome Gina Grahame as the keynote speaker for our Business & Humanitarian Awards Dinner on February 23.

    Gina Grahame exemplifies the indomitable spirit that lives in us all. With courage and determination, Gina envisioned and built the life that she wanted and deserved. How she did it and what she learned along the way - about others and herself – is a powerful lesson in rising above obstacles and being true to who you are.

    Gina is an award-winning speaker, coach, and consultant on how to “Be Authentacious!”™ Her clients include companies of all sizes, corporate executives and politicians.

    Gina Grahame is the Vice President of Corporate Partnerships for GaymerX and the founder of She is very active in the San Francisco LGBT community as board member and Vice President of Membership and Outreach for the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA), the Bay Area’s LGBT chamber of commerce, and as Vice President of Public Relations for Rainbow Toastmasters.

    Learn more about the Business & Humanitarian Awards and register.
  • The 2015 GSBA Business & Humanitarian Awards

    | Jan 11, 2016


    The GSBA Business & Humanitarian Awards honor top businesses and business leaders each year, recognizing business performance and contributions to the community. GSBA will honor eight individuals and businesses at our annual Business & Humanitarian Awards dinner on Tuesday, February 23, 2016 at the Seattle Marriott Waterfront, 2100 Alaskan Way.

    The keynote speaker will be Gina Grahame, VP of GaymerX. Ms. Grahame is a highly successful professional and a member of and an advocate for the Transgender Community. She will talk about “The Power of Authenticity, the Process of Overcoming Adversity, and the Transgender Experience."

    The 2015 Business & Humanitarian Award recipients are:

    Business of the Year: Tuxedos & Tennis Shoes, David Meckstroth and David Haggarty, Co-Owners
    Business Leader of the Year: Mona Smith, Attorney At Law
    Corporate Leader of the Year: Kevin Baldwin, Northwest Managing Partner, PwC
    Community Leaders of the Year: Tamara Murphy and Linda Di Lello Morton, Terra Plata
    New Business of the Year:  Bulk Fr8, Wayne Levinson, Owner
    Non Profit of the Year: Ventures, Beto Yarce, Executive Director
    Special Recognition - Voice for Social Justice: Ana Mari Cauce, President of University of Washington
    President’s Award: Kent Thoelke, Executive Vice President of Scientific & Medical Affairs, PRA

    Event Emcee: Sally Clark, Director of Regional and Community Relations, University of Washington

    “Being recognized for business success is not new, but being honored for
    understanding that success in the 21st century must also include a commitment to equality, philanthropy, and sustainable business practices, is definitely unique,” said Louise Chernin, GSBA President and CEO. “For 35 years, GSBA has stood out among business organizations, often as the lone voice for its commitment to advancing equality in business. Over 80% of GSBA members are small businesses, but the important role they play in keeping our local economy strong is huge. They are employers committed to equality, volunteers, and philanthropists, often using the limited resources they have to give back to their community. The impact of GSBA’s work has never been more evident as a growing number of businesses strive to create inclusive work places in order to attract diverse talent and a changing customer base.”

    Title Sponsor: Wells Fargo | Presenting Sponsor: Vulcan
    Dinner Sponsors: RBC Wealth Management, Seattle Goodwill
    Award Sponsors: BECU, Pride Foundation
    Supporting Sponsors: Girlie Press, Team Photogenic, Sal Floral Design

    Purchase your tickets here.

  • A Message from Louise Chernin, GSBA President & CEO

    | Dec 30, 2015


    Dear GSBA Members,

    You are the best!

    As we come to the close of 2015, we want you to know we remain steadfast in our commitment to your success. We will continue to offer you top quality opportunities to reach the LGBT and allied market; provide you with important business and community information; showcase your business as one which supports equality; connect you with outstanding like-minded business leaders, and be your voice on the city, state, and federal level as we advocate for small business, and continue our unwavering commitment to advance equality and diversity in the workplace; and, of course, ensure a better future for all by investing in the next generation of leaders through our Scholarship Fund.

    Thank you for choosing to be a GSBA member.

    Some of GSBA's 2015 proudest moments:

    * Launched a new GSBA website
    * Created GSBA's first Small Business Council
    * Filmed by Logo TV for a video about the GSBA Scholarship Fund
    * Had a leadership role in advancing trans-inclusive health care policies
    * Participated on the Mayor's Hate Crime Task Force
    * Received a $10k grant from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in partnership with Wells Fargo to promote LGBT Certification
    * Raised over $750,000 at a sold-out TASTE of GSBA
    * Awarded $350,000 in scholarships to 48 students

    Before we say goodbye to 2015, please take 3 very important steps:

    Renew your 2016 GSBA membership

    Make a difference in the life of an LGBTQ student by making that important and very feel good donation to the GSBA Scholarship Fund

    Start 2016 by registering for our January programs

    Have a safe, happy, and prosperous New Year,
    Louise Chernin, President & CEO

  • Intentional Economic Development

    | Dec 18, 2015

    “A good economy and good development do not happen by accident.”

    Bellevue Mayor Claudia Balducci kicked off GSBA’s economic forecast panel stating the importance of intentional action by government to spur and foster the kind of economy that benefits everyone. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray continued by observing that the Puget Sound region is experiencing its greatest growth since the gold rush and that “This is an incredible moment in our history, so how do we do it right? We must work with businesses to build on those successes!”

    Gladys Gillis, panel facilitator and Principal of Starline Luxury Coaches, asked about the spike of both high-wage and low-wage jobs across the country, at the expense of critical middle-wage jobs. The new Seaport Alliance between Seattle and Tacoma is now the third largest container port in North America, and was given as an example of the kind of generator for those middle-wage jobs. Gillis asked the mayors what role they saw for small business in the economic development of their cities. 

    Balducci expects the number of Bellevue small businesses to double by 2019, while Murray stated that over 63,000 new jobs were created in Seattle in the last five years. This is largely driven by the tech sector, with an estimated seven jobs created for every new tech job generated. Working together for regional solutions was seen as a necessity, whether for transit, homelessness or affordability. The recent Restaurant Success Initiative between Seattle, King County and Washington State was mentioned as a model to replicate. However, Murray did concede that the rapid development of the Pike/Pine corridor on Capitol Hill did not take the neighborhood small businesses into account and that the City needed to do more to hear their concerns.

    Attracting international investors is both a priority and an area where our region has lagged behind as cities like San Francisco have offices abroad devoted to attracting direct foreign investment. Nonetheless, these international investors – particularly from China – have been active in our area, notably with the groundbreaking Global Innovation Exchange partnership in Bellevue between the University of Washington, Tsinghua University and Microsoft. Murray and Balducci pointed to this as a model of success for the region – increasing outside investment, building on our strengths and expanding opportunities for the whole region.

    A functioning transportation network was named by both mayors as the top priority for Puget Sound. Neither city has it easy though, with Bellevue (incorporated only in 1953) as a 20th century car-centric city with superblocks and Seattle as dense urban center platted out in the 19th century with aging infrastructure that cannot always accommodate the sheer volume of personal vehicles on its roads. Mayor Murray touted the recent passage of the GSBA-endorsed Move Seattle levy, which will provide a desperately needed investment in Seattle’s transportation network. 

    Businesses need people to be able to live near where they work to prevent gridlock, so concerns of affordability are of paramount importance as well. Murry touted Seattle’s leadership on what he calls “the most aggressive housing affordability program in the United States.” Balducci was proud of Bellevue’s leading on environmental innovations, particularly related to water quality and shoreline stewardship.

    Facilitator Kevin Baldwin of PwC concluded by mentioning that in 1800 only two percent of the world’s population lived in cities, but now over half do. As presented in a study for APEC, this sets the stage for the importance of leadership of our mayors as the pressing issues we face are increasingly at the city level rather than state or federal.

  • Meet Jason

    | Dec 17, 2015

    DITTMER, JASON_headshotMeet Jason Dittmer, GSBA's Director of Marketing & Communications.We sat down with him and asked him our customary introductory questions:

    Welcome Jason! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

    I am from Montana and moved to Seattle in the early 1990s. I was drawn to the city because of its theatre scene and worked onstage and off at many fringe theatres during their infancies. I love a great story whether its told onstage, on screen, or in print – and am currently consuming  a lot of documentaries, histories, and biographies.

    What did you do before coming to GSBA?

    Prior to GSBA, I was the Director of Marketing at Seattle International Film Festival and Whidbey Island Center for the Arts (Langley, WA) and worked for a number of nonprofit organizations including United Way, Washington Works, Open Circle Theater, and Williamstown Theatre Festival.

    What are you looking forward to doing in your new job?

    GSBA is marking its 35th year in 2016. I am honored to be part of the team that celebrates our organization’s past and that is looking toward its future. I’m looking forward to exploring how we can better celebrate our community’s successes, be a stronger voice in advocacy for business and social issues, and provide even more support for LGBTQ scholars. 

    Now that you’ve gone pro and will be working all throughout Pride weekend, what will you be doing to relax the week after?

    For the last few years, work commitments have kept me from fully enjoying the glory of a Seattle Summer. This year, I plan on finishing my garden, floating on Lake Washington, reconnecting with old pals, and treasure hunting (I have a vintage problem).
    You can reach Jason at JasonD [at]
  • Walk Me to the Car: IT Security

    | Dec 17, 2015

    Amit SharmaBy Amit Sharma, CenturyLink IT Security Advisor

    IT Security is not novel.  Security concerns are ubiquitous.  Yet, it’s the very breadth and depth of IT security that makes it challenging for business managers.  There’s a mind-numbing amount of information out there about the very topic.  In this post, we will focus on a few simple ideas that will keep you on top of IT security discussions from the perspective of business leadership and outcomes.

    The top 3 things I need to know about security.

    • The goal is resilience, not perfection – You are going to get attacked. (The bad guys are probably probing your network even as you read this.)  The goal should be resilience – making sure that your business is able to defend itself well, understand the vulnerabilities and recover quickly should a security breach occur.
    • Your focus should be on business impact – Though there are a million questions and concerns about your company’s exposure to security risks, there is really only one question to ask: “What is the business impact of an incident for the information or assets in question?” E.g. what’s worse – the network going down for an hour or the business brand credibility being bruised in the eye of the consumer? The security risks with the highest potential business impact should be first in line for risk assessment and IT security resources.
    • Security is technical, but also people-centric – Conversations about security can get bewilderingly technical, even for IT professionals.  But, becoming secure has a lot to do with people and the security policies that govern their interactions with your information, apps, and customers.  Many security breaches result from poor oversight, such as sharing passwords and neglecting to apply security patches to old software.

    Give me two good reasons to pay more/better attention to IT security.

    • There is potential for serious trouble – This is not big news, but a major security incident can be a career-ending or stock-price destroying event. Being knowledgeable about what really matters in security has become an essential executive skill. If you can’t afford the cost of a breach – make sure you’re protected.
    • You can likely get better protection for the same level of spending – ITSecurity is not cheap, but what’s more expensive is the cost of a breach – a single incident in 2014 cost one major retailer nearly $165,000,000. If you understand how security truly relates to the business and to the bottom line, you will be poised to make better security investments.

    Where are the risks?

    • Missing the complete IT security picture – Adversaries  look for vulnerabilities across a wide spectrum of IT and business processes, and the worst breaches often occur in the little areas where few people thought to focus, like the memory cache on a credit-card terminal. This is where a risk assessment is key! If you don’t know where you’re vulnerabilities are how are you expected to plug the holes?
    • Misallocation of IT security resources – If you don’t understand the business impact of a security breach, you may allocate resources in the wrong place. For example, if your network is vulnerable and exposes you to a high-impact incident, you need to invest in securing your network. This may sound obvious, but some organizations attempt to secure everything at the same high level and wind up under-securing the assets that potentially affect their businesses the most.

    What is the takeaway idea for me?

    IT Security is a broad and extremely complex subject that can be effectively managed through a disciplined focus on building resilience and securing assets with the highest business impact vulnerability.  By balancing the people and technical aspects of you IT security strategy with a firm grasp of business impact, it is possible to improve security without necessarily raising the level of spending.

    Amit Sharma can be reached at for any questions about how to protect your business and mission-critical assets.