Welcome to Breaking the Blueprint — a blog series that dives into the unique business challenges and opportunities of underrepresented business owners and entrepreneurs. Learn how they’ve grown or scaled their businesses, explored entrepreneurial ventures within their companies, or created side hustles, and how their stories can inspire and inform your own success.
LGBTQ+ people often face higher rates of isolation and discrimination, meaning that this community can especially benefit from gatherings that foster support and connection.
This is especially true for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and professionals, as finding opportunities to learn from people who share similar life experiences can be challenging.
In this post, we’ve curated a list of annual events and conferences for LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and professionals. Whether you’re seeking mentorship, training from experts, or just some old-fashioned socializing with like-minded business owners, these events are made for you. While most have already taken place for 2022, keep your eyes peeled for the 2023 dates.
Events and Conferences for LGBTQ+ Professionals
1. Lesbians Who Tech & Allies Summit
Despite the name, the annual Lesbians Who Tech & Allies Summit is inclusive of all techies, centering LGBTQ women, women of color, and non-binary leaders. The ninth summit was in October in San Francisco, with in-person and virtual options.
Their summits feature networking and mentorship opportunities, career fairs, leaders and celebrity speeches, parties, and educational sessions. While much of the content is geared toward the tech world, many sessions focus on broader topics like leadership, diversity, politics, and advocacy, which may appeal to any LGBTQ entrepreneur.
2. Out & Equal Summit
The Out & Equal Summit has been held for over 20 years, creating a place for LGBTQ+ professionals and allies to learn how to create more inclusive workspaces. The latest was in October 2022 in Las Vegas, with a digital livestream option.
This conference is intended for any professional interested in LGBTQ+ workplace equality — especially executives, HR and DEI experts, Employee Resource Group leaders and members, and more. In addition to hosting learning sessions and keynote speeches, this event provides attendees with networking opportunities, workshops, and social events.
3. NLGCC International Business & Leadership Conference
The NLGCC, or the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, is the only organization that offers a certification for LGBTQ-owned businesses (Certified LGBT Business Enterprise®).
It also provides business owners with networking and business opportunities year-round — and at their annual conference. Despite being U.S.-based, their International Business & Leadership Conference claims to be “the largest LGBT business event on the planet.”
In addition to networking and keynote speeches, attendees get access to leadership programming, speeches, B2B bootcamps, expos, matchmaker meetings between suppliers and companies, and more. The 2022 event was in Las Vegas in August.
4. Out Leadership Summit
This organization aims to drive equality and advocate for inclusion in business. They have several talent development programs for emerging leaders, women, and board-level executives.
Out Leadership also hosts yearly summits worldwide to unite leaders and business owners. The 2023 US summit will be on May 15 in New York in partnership with Lambda Legal.
5. StartOut Chapter Events or National Awards
StartOut exists to support LGBTQ entrepreneurs and accelerate their businesses. The organization has chapters in several major cities, such as Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, and New York, where local LGBTQ+ business owners can connect and attend frequent educational and social events.
StartOut also puts on a national gala, the StartOut Awards, which celebrates LGBTQ entrepreneurs and is an ideal opportunity to socialize and network with peers. The 2022 event took place in October in New York City.
6. The ROMBA Conference
Reaching Out MBA’s annual ROMBA Conference is a massive event for LGBTQ+ business students and post-MBA professionals.
The conference features social receptions, career fairs, panels, workshops, and competitions. LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs with business backgrounds can utilize this event for professional development, networking, and recruiting talent. The 2022 conference was in October in Washington, D.C.
7. Out Professionals Events
This organization for LGBTQ+ professionals hosts virtual events, but if you’re fortunate enough to live in a city with a chapter, you can attend local events and connect with other entrepreneurs.
Cities such as Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. have Out Professionals chapters and host monthly in-person events to help LGBTQ+ people build their careers and network. The organization is expanding and seeking more cities where people want to start chapters.
Industry-Specific LGBTQ+ Conferences
We included Lesbians Who Tech & Allies in this general list since technology touches nearly everything these days, and its sessions appeal to a broad range of professionals.
However, there are also many smaller, industry-specific LGBTQ+ events and conferences. If you want to network, socialize, and learn with your peers in your field, see if your industry has something specifically for LGBTQ people. Here are just a few of the ones out there:
- The NLGJA (The Association of LGBTQ Journalists) annual convention for those in journalism
- The Midwest LGBTQ+ Health Symposium for those in medicine and healthcare
- NAGLREP’s yearly convention for LGBTQ real estate professionals
Local LGBTQ Events
Chamber of Commerce
Some cities, regions, and states have their own LGBTQ chambers of commerce, where LGBTQ-owned businesses and allies can become members.
This not only links LGBTQ entrepreneurs with an affirming local business community, but it makes them visible to those seeking to patronize LGBTQ-friendly businesses. These local chambers frequently host community events, from social and networking opportunities to business training sessions. The NLGCC has a list of local affiliated chambers nationwide; check to see if there’s one in your area, and scope out their website for upcoming events.
Local Pride Festivals
Every year, more cities, counties, and regions host annual Pride celebrations. While you’ll typically find parades and marches, many Pride events also feature festivals with booths for rent. Entrepreneurs often use this opportunity to sell goods, create a local presence, or promote their business with freebies or giveaways. If your area has a Pride celebration, consider renting a booth.
Get Ready to Mingle
LGBTQ+ professionals have many opportunities available to connect with and learn from other entrepreneurs at events. All of the summits on this list are valuable opportunities to learn and grow — select one that speaks most to your needs and get ready to mingle.