FORT MEADE, Md. — For the first time in nearly a decade, the Intelligence Community (IC) Pride Summit returned to the National Security Agency (NSA) — spotlighting the theme "Authent(ic)" to show how IC agencies should strive to constantly create spaces where employees are not afraid to be themselves, regardless of their identity.
Held just days after President Joe Biden signed the Executive Order (EO) on “Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex Individuals,” the summit highlighted the strength that comes from the power of community.
The IC Pride Summit was established by the CIA’s Pride Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2012 as a forum for IC-wide LGBTQIA+ ERG’s to share educational resources, best practices, and collaboration opportunities. The Summit also provides a space for discussion on implementation of recent policy changes that affect LGBTQIA+ federal employees.
Since its inception, the Pride Summit has become a place for all IC employees — regardless of identity — to gather, share experiences, educate each other, and create spaces of inclusion and progress.
NSA Deputy Director George Barnes noted the importance of inclusion in the workplace during the Summit.
“Creating spaces for inclusion is no longer optional, it’s necessary — if you don’t know how to approach a situation, ask,” Mr. Barnes said. “Be politely curious. Notice who is not sitting at the table, or even not sitting in the room, and invite them in. Show respect and make others feel welcome. We will all benefit.”
In her remarks, keynote speaker ADM Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, discussed how her appointment was built on the shoulders of those before her that had to work in the shadows, and emphasized the need to ensure that does not happen again.
“This is an ongoing process — and while I’ve had my own struggles, I recognize that even within my story, I am privileged by the level of my education and the color of my skin,” ADM Levine said.
ADM Levine then urged Summit participants to listen to the stories of each unique individual within the pride community, for every person has a unique story and different idea of what it means to be authentic. To do so, she encouraged everyone to welcome conversations with people with different mindsets and different viewpoints.
She also noted that the current administration is working to have an inclusive approach to government — and in doing so, giving people a voice and a chance to initiate change.
“This administration accepts us in all our rainbow colors,” ADM Levine said. “We can see this in the EO that was passed earlier this week which combats unlawful discrimination and eliminates disparities that harm LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families and defend their rights.”
ADM Levine later added that while advocacy is great, but it's not enough to make large change.
“What we need is three fold. Advocacy — speaking out, making changes. Policy — making changes to how we talk about things including the community,” ADM Levine said. “Legal — we need to make sure our laws are including and protecting the LGBTQ+ community.”
Mr. Barnes then presented ADM Levine with an NSA medallion for the work that she is doing to promote authenticity and diversity within the government.
“On behalf of myself and the National Security Agency, I'd like to thank you for being here and for the work being done for DEI within the Federal Government,” Mr. Barnes said. “We need to embrace those who are walking through life as their authentic self.”
Breakout sessions covered topics including “Transgender Inclusion Training”; “LGBTQIA+ & Disability”; and “Pride & Color: A Queer Person of Color Experience.” These sessions offered participants from IC agencies the opportunity to meet virtually to discuss topics relevant to authenticity.
Following the day-long summit, Greg Smithberger, NSA’s Director of Capabilities, provided a recap for the participants and highlighted the ways in which NSA has been pushing to create spaces which encourage authenticity.
He explained that as the Pride ERG sponsor as director of Capabilities, he asked the ERG to help him to grow as an ally and a sponsor — and they delivered. He noted that it was an honor for him to support many learning opportunities hosted by the ERG and to witness the progress achieved for the community over the last year.
He concluded by stating that the Pride ERG sets the example of how to create spaces of inclusion and encourage authenticity within IC workplaces.
National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director Navy Vice ADM Frank D. Whitworth III closed the summit by announcing NGA will host the 11th annual IC Pride Summit in 2023 and expressing his support of the event.
“We all need engagements like this to come together to learn and grow,” Vice ADM Whitworth III said. “Whether we’re sharing our own experiences or learning from others, opportunities like this help us come together to become more respectful as colleagues, smarter as an intelligence community, and stronger as a Nation — so let’s take the lessons we’ve learned today, share them back in our offices, and determine a way forward for lasting change.”
Visit NSA’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion page for more information on agency initiatives to maintain a welcoming and inclusive environment for every employee.