Fulton Bank launches Diverse Business Program

Stating a commitment to making banking and financing products more accessible to groups that historically have been underserved, Lancaster-based Fulton Bank has launched its new Diverse Business Banking Program. 

The program is designed to meet the needs of minority, women, veteran, and LGBTQ business owners. 

“This program advances our purpose to change lives for the better,” Fulton Financial Chairman, President and CEO Curtis J. Myers said in a statement. 

Myers said on the company’s website that Fulton Bank is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

The basis of the program is Fulton Bank’s Diverse Business Advocates, bankers who have earned a special certification and can provide individualized mentorship, educational resources, and custom solutions to meet the needs of diverse business owners. 

The program’s products and services include the following: 

  • Business banking product bundles. 
  • Flexible approval criteria for loans and lines of credit. 
  • Merchant services. 
  • Payroll and cash management services. 
  • SBA (Small Business Administration) products. 

“We’re building on the work Fulton Bank has long done as a trusted advisor for our customers,” said Joel Barnett, director of Commercial Affinity Banking. “In addition to serving diverse businesses, we want to strength relationships with community organizations so we can connect diverse businesses with the network and resources they need to succeed.” 

The company’s website also promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion among its team members. Chief Diversity Officer Quianna Agent-Phillips said Fulton Bank’s inclusion efforts help forge connections throughout its workforce and foster collaboration among team members. 

Fulton Bank, which has offices in the Lehigh Valley, is a subsidiary of the Fulton Financial Corporation.

Hershey Company’s inclusion of trans woman creates heated dialogue online

The Hershey Company’s celebration of Women’s History Month included an image of Fae Johnstone, a transgender woman, on the chocolate bar’s wrapper, prompting heated dialogue online with critics calling for a boycott of the company’s products. 

Conservative social media members accused the Hershey brand of “erasing women” and “featuring a male in costume.” Thursday’s top trending topic on Twitter was the hashtag #BoycottHersheys after critics disagreed with Johnstone’s picture being on the wrapper for Hershey’s International Women’s Day campaign in Canada.  

The 27-year-old Johnstone, a 2SLGBTQIA+ advocate, is one of five women featured in Hershey’s “Her for She” campaign. 

The Hershey Company stated in a press release that the SHE bars are empowering and that it was bringing the chocolate bars back for a third year to honor influential women and girls who impact lives. 

“The Hershey’s SHE bars serve as a heartwarming reminder to take a moment and shine a light on the women and girls who inspire us every day,” the company said. 

The word “Hershey” appeared in 32,000 tweets Thursday. The company responded to the online furor by tweeting a statement that it values togetherness and recognizes the strength created by diversity. 

“Over the past three years, our Women’s History Month programming has been an inclusive celebration of women and their impact,” the company said on Twitter. “We appreciate the countless people and meaningful partnership behind these efforts.” 

The Hershey Company’s inclusion of Johnstone drew praise from numerous social media members and outrage from many others. Johnstone tweeted Thursday that the reaction to her inclusion as a trans woman in Hershey’s IWD campaign “shows just how far we still have to go in the fight for feminist liberation.” 

Johnstone added in her tweet that she will “always stand up for women and girls, cis and trans.” 

The other four women in Hershey’s Canadian campaign included climate-tech researcher Naila Moloo and Indigenous-rights activist Autumn Peltier. The company said its initiative spotlights Canadian women who are “working to build a better future through their passion, activism, and work in their communities.”  

The controversy is the latest involving a major candy company. Last year, M&M’s stated it was altering the appearance of its female green and brown candies so the mascots would be less gender stereotypes and more “inclusive, welcome, and unifying.” 

M&M’s announcement was also met with online criticism, opponents of the change accusing M&M’s of being too politically correct. 

The social-media backlash illustrates the polarized views of gender identity and trans rights and comes at a time when there are reportedly over 150 bills in U.S. statehouses targeting transgender people. 

According to the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy group and political lobbying organization, the number of bills introduced this year represents an all-time high in the U.S. for a single year. 

At time of writing, an email seeking comment from The Hershey Company had not yet received a reply.

Bradbury-Sullivan names new executive director

Ashley Coleman –

After a search that lasted several months, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown has named a new executive director. 

A search committee, led by DRG Talent, chose longtime LGBTQ+ community leader, Ashley Coleman, and she has been appointed to serve in the position by the center’s board of directors. 

Coleman was formally introduced at a community event hosted by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center Jan. 9.  

“We are thrilled to have Ashley join us as the executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LBGT Community Center,” said Liz Kleintop, chair of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center’s board of directors. “Ashley is a strong, collaborative leader bringing many competencies to the Center that will help the board and staff work toward a new vision of the Center that benefits the LGBTQ+ community throughout the Lehigh Valley.”  

Coleman has worked in the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia for over ten years having previously served as executive director at galaei, an empowerment and social justice nonprofit and as senior events manager at Mazzoni Center, a health and wellness center serving the LGBTQ+ population.  

According to a press release, Coleman began her activism and advocacy began as a youth in the Lehigh Valley, leading Queer youth initiatives while producing large scale events for nonprofits in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  

She went on to serve as the general conference coordinator of the world’s largest Transgender specific conference from 2016-2019. She led galaei through the production of Philadelphia’s 50th Pride parade and festival in 2022.  

“I am honored to join the dedicated staff and board at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. Bradbury-Sullivan Center is a keystone in LGBTQ+ support far beyond the limits of the Lehigh Valley. I am truly elated to work together to continue the lifesaving work of the Center and cultivate opportunities and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals that have been left on the margins,” said Coleman.  

She succeeds Interim Executive Director Bill McGlinn, who began leading the Center in March 2022. “The Lehigh Valley LGBTQ+ community will be well-served by having Ashley L. Coleman as Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center,” McGlinn said. “I have been impressed with Ashley’s tenure with both galaei and Mazzoni Center. She has a deep understanding of the role an LGBTQ+ community center can play in advancing the health and well-being of the complex and wondrous community we are privileged to serve. I have complete confidence in Ashley’s readiness and ability to serve as an inspirational leader and assist in realizing the next chapter of our center.” 

LGBTQ+ advocates say companies can avoid ‘rainbow-washing’ during Pride month


June is Pride month for the LGBTQ+ community, and support for Pride month is definitely growing in corporate America. 

Many national and local companies have hung rainbow flags in their windows or added rainbows to their logos and social media posts. But is this just “rainbow-washing?” 

Advocates for the LGBTQ+ community are saying that while those signs of support are much appreciated, they remind businesses that the issues facing them don’t just happen in June. 

Stephen Jiwanmall, director of communications and marketing for the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown said companies can do more than rainbow logos to support their LGBTQ+ employees and customers. 

“Oftentimes it comes off as performative,” Jiwanmall said “Were looking for authenticity.” 

He said that can be something as simple as keeping those rainbow flags and logos up year-round instead of just in June. 

“Use rainbow signage permanently,” he said. 

Meaningful change is the best way to support the LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, he said. 

Companies can implement clear non-discrimination policies that provide security for people at work and in the community. 

Becoming more culturally aware of the issues facing the LGBTQ+ community can also help a great deal. He said understanding the importance of such things as a person’s pronouns is one way leadership can show support. 

“You should be using language that’s affirming,” he said. 

He noted that Bradbury-Sullivan offers classes to help businesses be more culturally aware of the LGBTQ+ community and consulted with 41 businesses in the Lehigh Valley last year. 

Bradbury-Sullivan executive director to step down

Adrian Shanker –

Adrian Shanker, the founding executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, has announced that he has decided to step down at the end of March.  

Since founding Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in June 2014, Shanker has led the capital fundraising, property acquisition, and programmatic development from the start-up phase to its current annual budget of $1.6 million. The Center also now has two dozen employees.  

Under Shanker’s leadership, the organization successfully sued the Trump administration to block three anti-LGBTQ rules from going into effect.  

He also created the biannual Pennsylvania LGBTQ Health Needs Assessment, which is now the largest state-level LGBTQ+ health data in the nation.  

In 2017, Shanker navigated a merger with Pride of the Greater Lehigh Valley that led to significant programmatic and budgetary growth of the region’s annual Pride festival.  

In 2021, the organization served more than 10,000 community members through supportive services, arts and culture programs, youth programs, and more.  

Claire Ippoliti, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center’s board chair commented on Shanker’s departure. 

 “The board of directors feels both gratitude and sadness with the departure of Adrian Shanker as our executive director. Under Adrian’s strong leadership, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center has thrived and grown. Adrian will be missed. The board of directors is committed to ensuring a smooth transition and looks forward to welcoming a new leader,” Ippoliti said.  

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to work to create, build, and grow Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center,” Shanker said. “The decision to step down from an organization you love, especially one you are the founder of, is never easy, but I have decided to do so, because I have full confidence in the board and staff of the center, who I know are well-situated to continue to grow the impact of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center’s programs and services into the future.” 

The organization’s board of directors will form a search committee to find Shanker’s replacement. A timeline has not yet been set. 

Local companies rank high for LGBTQ+ inclusion

PPL Corp. was among the Lehigh Valley Companies t hat made the Corporate Equality index for their LGBTQ+ inclusion. PHOTO/FILE –

Several companies headquartered in the Lehigh Valley, or which have a large presence in the Lehigh Valley have ranked on the Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ equality on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index .

The index is considered the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey and report measuring corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ+ workplace equality. 

Among those making the list were Air Products, Olympus Corp., and PPL Corp. 

“Creating a culture of inclusion at PPL is paramount to our success as an organization,” said Vincent Sorgi, PPL president and chief executive officer. “This honor reflects our commitment to advancing a more diverse workforce and fostering a workplace centered on mutual respect, understanding and equality for all – no matter your gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.” 

PPL earned top marks for its LGBTQ+-related policies and practices, including non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, family-friendly leave policies and public engagement with the LGBTQ+ community. 

Other companies with a strong presence in the Lehigh Valley include ADP, Amazon, CBRE, Sodexo. M&T Bank, WaWa Inc., T.D. Bank and The Giant Co. 

“Each and every team member makes us the brand that we are, and this distinction again highlights our ongoing commitment to creating a workplace culture of inclusion and belonging,” said Matt Lutcavage, vice president of team experience, The Giant Co. “We are real people serving real people which is why at The Giant Co. everyone is respected, valued, heard, and welcomed just the way we are.” 

The results of the 2022 CEI showcase how 1,271 U.S.-based companies are not only promoting LGBTQ+-friendly workplace policies in the U.S., but also for the 56% of CEI-rated companies with global operations who are helping advance the cause of LGBTQ+ inclusion in workplaces abroad. 

Pennsylvania adds protections for LGBTQ workers

LGBTQ employees in Pennsylvania now have the protection of the state behind them.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed Executive Order 2021-04, which updates Pennsylvania’s workplace policies regarding sexual harassment to reinforce protection for members of the LGBTQ community.

The executive order adds sexual orientation and gender identity or expression as protected classes under the commonwealth’s sexual harassment policies.

“Sexual harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity is wrong and unacceptable,” said Gov. Wolf. “Updating this policy underscores the protection against harassment in the workplace for commonwealth employees who are members of the LGBTQ community and reinforces our commonwealth’s firm stand against any and all forms of sexual harassment.”

Also this week, the state legislature reintroduced House Bill 300, known as the Fairness Act.

The Fairness Act is bipartisan legislation that extends non-discrimination provisions in state law to protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender expression or identity.

Adrian Shanker, executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, commented on the added protection the executive order and bill would provide.

“LGBTQ Pennsylvanians deserve equal protection under the law, which is why it is so important that state legislators today introduced common sense legislation to add legal protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment, and public accommodation. This issue should also be addressed on the federal level with the Equality Act. Either way, our community deserves the equal protections that both of these efforts would provide,” Shanker said.

Governor Wolf previously signed two executive orders that expanded protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender expression or identity for state employees and, for the first time, employees of contractors doing business with the commonwealth.

The signing of Executive Order 2021-04 will lead to an update to commonwealth sexual harassment trainings and management directives.

Equal Credit Opportunity Act needed to end credit discrimination

Donna LoStocco

On March 9th, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued an interpretive rule clarifying that the prohibition against sex discrimination under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act means that lenders cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

This was welcome news, but it is not enough. Federal legislation is needed to remove any confusion about what is and what is not credit discrimination.

As the President and CEO of First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, I am all too aware of the great importance of loans to help all Americans – especially low and middle income individuals and families – achieve their dreams of home ownership. Most lenders would agree with the basic premise that our industry should not stand for credit discrimination. I’d even suggest that credit discrimination harms our community’s attempts to empower the American dream and achieve a higher level of inclusivity.

Thankfully, a federal solution exists. On February 25th, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to end legal discrimination against LGBTQ Americans in housing, employment, public accommodation, credit, and jury service. The bill, known as The Equality Act, is now en route to the Senate before it can reach President Biden’s desk for his signature.

Protections from discrimination are necessary for all Americans seeking loans. These protections should be preserved into law. There’s no question these protections are good for financial services sectors. There must be clear and unquestionable guidelines and rules that don’t change from state to state or from city to city to empower the American dream for everyone. Many lenders operate across city or state lines and one set of rules for all of us helps to ensure that our entire industry is prepared to succeed.

Passing the Equality Act through the Senate would send a clear and urgent message to all lenders that credit discrimination is wrong, harmful and not aligned with lending industry goals.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey serves on the Senate Banking Committee and that’s why we look forward to his support of the Equality Act to place this commonsense and fair-minded public policy into effect to protect all Pennsylvanians, and all Americans from the discriminatory practices of a select few. This law will provide credit discrimination protections for 13 million LGBTQ Americans and will also provide protections in employment, housing, jury service and public accommodations.

For many people, nonprofit and member-owned credit unions are the pathway to affordable, accessible and inclusive banking and lending, and ultimately, the American dream. Senator Toomey can help 13 million Americans achieve their dreams – and that’s something we should all be proud of.

Donna LoStocco is President and CEO of First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union


State AGs ask FDA to drop ban that blocks gay men from giving blood

A letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, signed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro and 19 other state attorneys general, asks the agency to lift its ban preventing gay and bi-sexual men from giving blood.

The request comes at a time when the nation’s blood supply is low, due to the pandemic.

The FDA currently recommends that men who have had sex with another man in the past three months not donate blood. The guidance was recently reduced from a 12-month waiting period earlier this month.

The letter asks the FDA to remove the waiting period altogether and enact a risk-based rule rather than one based on gender or sexual activity. Not doing so, the letter says, prevents a group of healthy individuals from donating blood at a time it is badly needed.

“It is time to end this dated, discriminatory practice, especially during an emergency when all Pennsylvanians want to play a part in keeping people in their communities safe and healthy,” said Shapiro. “Restrictions for blood donations should be based on fact-based risk factors, not discredited, homophobic presumptions about someone’s life.”

The FDA’s guidance originated in 1983 as a rule that banned gay or bisexual men from donating blood. The rule was changed to a 12-month waiting period in 2015.

Earlier this month, the American Red Cross announced that it has a critical blood shortage because of the decrease in drives and donations, noting that it only had a five-day supply of blood on hand.

Country wide cancellations of blood drives and donations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly affected the nation’s supply of red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

Lehigh Valley companies top Corporate Equality Index

Two Lehigh Valley-based companies have scored 100 percent on the 2020 Corporate Equality Index released today by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation of Washington, D.C.

The organization is the educational arm of the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization.

Each year it asks companies to take a survey on their policies and practices to meet the needs of their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer workers.

Air Products of Trexlertown and PPL Corp. of Allentown made the list of more than 680 companies, nationally, which were designated as “A Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.”

Organizers said having 680 companies score 100 percent is a record for the index. The rankings came after a review of 1059 participating companies.

There were a total of 37 companies in Pennsylvania scoring 100 Percent.

This is the 18th year the index has been reported, organizers said participation has grown dramatically over the years.

The first Index in 2002, for example, had only 13 top-rated companies.

The Corporate Equality Index reviews companies for their non-discrimination policies; employment benefits; their support of an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility including public commitment to LGBTQ equality and responsible citizenship.

Mental health concerns among LGBTQ are pressing issue in Pa.

Mental health concerns among the LGBTQ population are a pressing issue in the state, according to Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine.

Levine testified at the state’s Mental Health Caucus on Jan. 15, sharing that LGBT adults are more than twice as likely to experience a mental health condition as heterosexual adults.

“The LGTBQ community faces unique health care needs, and access to mental health treatment without stigma is among the most pressing,” Levine said. “…Understanding that it is okay to not feel okay is essential as we work to establish a healthy Pennsylvania for all.”

Lesbian, gay or bisexual-identifying high school students are five times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers, according to the Department of Health.  Nearly 50 percent of all transgender adults have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4 percent of the overall U.S. population.

A 2018 LGBT Health Needs Assessment by the Pennsylvania Department of Health found that 93 percent of LGBTQ people ages 25 and younger who were questioned in the study had experienced a mental health condition in the past 12 months.

Levine shared the statistics as part of the state’s new “Reach Out PA: Your mental health matters” initiative which aims to increase awareness of mental health needs in the state.