workOPEN: a Campaign and a Conversation

Saks Fifth Avenue and dot429 have started a campaign to encourage LGBT professionals to be open in the workplace.

While the eagerly awaited SnOMG wintry weather event may not have happened in the Bay this past weekend, may San Franciscans still had reason to be excited—and proud—on Saturday: the official start of workOPEN, a collaborative campaign started by dot429 and Saks Fifth Avenue aimed at the LGBT professional community.

Similar to the way the “It Gets Better” campaign advocates for gay youth and emphasizes that life does get better, the workOPEN project hopes to reach LGBT professionals with the following message: “Progress in business and our professional lives is even more achievable when we are open about our sexual orientation.”

“If you’re an employee, you do better work if you bring your whole self to work,” said Sabrina Riddle, dot429 Chief Creative Officer.

Riddle stated that being “open” at work can be quite powerful and empowering for the LGBT professional. In order to communicate that message and foster conversations about being open in the workplace, on Saturday dot429 and Saks Fifth Avenue invited LGBT-identified workers and their allies to tell their stories about being open in the workplace.

One of the individuals to tell his story was Andrew Freeman, owner of the hospitality and public relations company Andrew Freeman & Co. While he thinks visibility of LGBT professionals should be a non-issue and will be a non-issue in the near future, Freeman stated that visibility is everything for the community. That visibility starts with the individual and allows the LGBT person “to be accounted for, accountable to, and be authentic,” he said.

This project has been in development for the past seven or so months and resulted from a simple lunchtime conversation, said Dawn Dzedzy, Director of Marketing for Saks Fifth Avenue. Ms. Dzedzy stated that the “It Gets Better” campaign topic came up in the context of ways the company could reach out to the larger community. As a result of this conversation, Saks realized it wanted to reach out in its own way. Ms. Dzedzy said the company then partnered up with dot429, an online and in-person social network focused on forging connections and creating opportunities among LGBT professionals and their allies.

Seven months later, the workOPEN campaign officially started.

Shaun Sanders, the Principal Urban Culturalist with Graffiti PR, values the conversational element of the campaign as well as how it emphasizes showing up and being present, both in one’s life and one’s career. Richard Klein, dot429 CEO, hopes the campaign’s message will not only inspire current LGBT workers but future generations as well.

“We believe that by showcasing LGBT success stories across many different industries and geographies, we can inspire hope and ambition in this and the next generation of LGBTA professionals,” Mr. Klein said.

Saks and dot429 plans to expand the project and the conversation over the next few months and hopes to do filming at every Saks Fifth Avenue store location. More information about the project and dot429 can be found at the professional network’s website.

Scott Hovdey
BARE Reporter

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