FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KTFA) — A recent study by Out Leadership, a foundation working toward building LBGTQ+ leaders, ranks Arkansas 46 out of the 50 states for having an inclusive workplace environment.
Emily Lawson is the CEO of Pink House Alchemy, a manufacturer of cooking and drink products in Fayetteville. She says Arkansas is not where it should be as far as having inclusive workplace environments.
“As a woman, as a gay woman, I’ve had to open my own doors. Every door I’ve had to open on my own,” said Lawson.
Juan Muneton-Ramirez is the CEO of the Muneton Group, a construction company out of Bentonville. He’s currently in New York City expanding his business to Wall Street. In his experience, as soon as he has mentioned being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, his work life in Arkansas became miserable.
“In Arkansas, I feel like we are 20 years behind when it comes to LGBTQ rights,” said Muneton-Ramirez.
As two successful Northwest Arkansas business owners and members of the LGBTQ+ community, they’ve seen the equity gaps in the state’s businesses.
Lawson said she feels privileged to not experience any personal aggression towards her sexuality. She calls herself a ‘serial optimist’, and faces hate with that same attitude.
Although, Muneton-Ramirez can’t say the same. He said he’s lost multiple jobs after telling coworkers he’s gay.
Muneton-Ramirez said the discrimination he’s faced in Arkansas is similar to what he went through growing up in Mexico.
“Where God hates me. Where society hates me and I hate feeling that way. I said, ‘no, I’m not going to deny who I am. I’m not going into the closet again’,” said Muneton-Ramirez.
As business owners, Lawson and Muneton-Ramirez are doing everything in their power to make strides for the LGBTQ+ community to feel safe in the workplace. They are starting these efforts when it comes to hiring, implementing mental health days and workplace education.
“Just pushing the envelope enough with the community to say, ‘this is who we are,'” said Lawson.
Muneton-Ramirez said it’s important to not be afraid or feel shame when at work.
If you’re wanting to celebrate PRIDE month with those at Pink House Alchemy, it’ll have a large booth in the Walton Arts Center parking lot in Fayetteville.