LGBT identity as big data

Windy City Times | James Felton Keith

On October the National Institute of Health (NIH) announced that it was seeking comments from citizens while organizing priorities for its 2016 to 2020 fiscal year strategic plan to advance the health and well-being of sexual and gender minorities. I will be accepting comments through November 2. Considering the modern political times and the introduction of the Equality Act to both chambers of congress, the best effort that the NIH or any government agency can make is to ensure that they are collecting an equal amount of data on LGBTQ Americans as they are on others. Agencies should look internally for solutions first. Corporate strategists and administrators know that collecting the Big Data that comes from their own employees yield insights to identify their lowest hanging fruit.

As federal legislation influences the delayed support of state and municipal government’s non-discrimination policy across the United States, it is necessary to note that the LGBTQ community still has limited data points that tell our full story. We have a vague understanding of how we live, where we live, what our economic influence is, and without putting the colorful horses before the carriage…who we are. During pride month in 2015, while CEO of @LGBTChamber, I was asked to speak before an audience of officers and administrative staff at the Homeland Security Border Patrol on the US/Canada border in Detroit. My focus as a representative of all chambers of commerce was inclusion, not pride.

After some politically correct questions and head nods with regards to the pending marriage equality ruling, which everyone in the audience seemed to be on the right side of, someone blurted out “what is the right term to use for Bruce Jenner”. After responding “Caitlyn”, we were able to have a much more candid conversation on the new confusion that comes with understanding gender and sexuality; but more importantly, the potential for inclusion that comes along with identity. One consensus of the audience was that they didn’t want to know “what goes on in other people’s bed rooms”. This consensus came after I introduced my mother in the audience to respond to one woman on the administrative staff who asked me what my dating life was like with women, as a bisexual man. Perhaps we got a little too candid. It is true that our individual curiosities have varying priorities, but our institutional curiosities should be policy priorities that identify opportunities for the institution. My confession to the audience was that “the more you know” is a valid adage in equality, as well as, workplace data.

The biggest data collection efforts reside where the people do, and offering more opportunities to identify ourselves in narrow form is what has changed our socio-cultural times. The observation of culture has also influenced the way in which we develop products, services, and policies. Even if the data is discreet by some measure, the benefits of accepting LGBTQ employee data are logistical.

  • Getting to know queer employees better in measurable terms can affect all of our quality of life. After establishing more elaborate organizational data, reserve the option to engage new types of diversity with affinity groups or employee resource groups (ERGs) that provide support and further insights for planners and decision makers to leverage. Organizations range from a few individuals to choirs to companies to governments to loose networks of nations.
  • Every diverse group within an organization brings a unique cultural presence that was developed externally. Understanding the nuanced lifestyle data often has great impacts on subsequent economic and datasets, while building affinity for organizations from individuals.
  • This past August about 800 of us heard Suze Orman say on stage in Ft. Lauderdale at the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce annual conference that a good financial planner wants to first know about your life and lifestyle before recommending financial services and products. Insurance data collection on LGBTQ people and their varying family make-ups is necessary for governments and corporations to make insightful policy decisions to protect the value that we all contribute.
  • HealthCare data ranging from health insurances to mental and psychological support programs to pharmaceutical support are lacking per the LGBTQ community. The lack of data effect the overall health of Americans via stigma and disenfranchisement.

Treating LGBTQ identity as a Big Data commodity that needs to grow in order for us to be valuable is the first step in identifying big solution to big problems facing America’s community. Governments and the corporations that support our citizenry need to make the integrity of our identities their first priority.


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