LGBT activist Todd Sears met fellow activist Paula Ettelbrick during Sears’ work with the Stonewall Community Foundation, an organization that funds LGBT initiatives in New York City.

Ettelbrick became the first female executive director of Stonewall in 2010, launching Out in Front New York, a training initiative for LGBT leadership in nonprofits.

“I had the pleasure of working with Paula on a number of issues over the years, and will always remember how hard she pushed me – challenging me to be more of an activist (a word I’ve always been uncomfortable with—still am).” Sears posted on Facebook.

Now Sears and the organization he founded, Out Leadership, are being recognized for their efforts in developing corporate level LGBT leadership and visibility.

The Paula L. Ettelbrick Award, recognizes achievements by individuals or organizations in advancing LGBT attorneys. But the Out Leadership training and networking initiatives span the financial, legal, and insurance industries, with Out on the Street, Out in Law, and Out in Insurance and more recently a youth leadership initiative – Out NEXT. Sears has also launched Quorum, a networking group focused on advancing LGBT leadership in corporate boardrooms.

To date, Out Leadership counts 61 financial service organizations, law firms, and insurance companies in 134 countries among its members, a growing community that Sears jokingly referred to as "a good old gays' network," according to the Huffington Post.

Out Leadership’s network includes a growing number of fortune 500 financial, banking and consulting firms like American Express, Bloomberg, and Goldman Sachs.

Thirty-three Out Leadership companies along with 343 members of OPEN Finance, lent their signatures to a an amicus brief sent to the Supreme Court, stating their support of marriage equality in advance of the Obergefell v. Hodges arguments.

“Todd’s lifelong innovation and insight on inclusion has allowed for many major companies to benefit from diversity,” said Minority Corporate Counsel Association (MCCA) President Joseph West in a statement.

Sears will receive the award named for Ettelbrick by the MCCA at their Creating Pathways to Diversity Conference, June 29 in Washington, D.C.

Sears says he’s honored to receive the award, calling the MCCA “an organization that has worked tirelessly, like Paula did, to increase diversity in the legal profession. It’s a great reminder to keep pushing myself to do more, to be a better leader and activist, just like Paula would have wanted.”

About Paula Ettelbrick

Paula Louise Ettelbrick spent 25 years helping LGBT individuals and their families through her work with organizations such as Lambda Legal Defense, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights Commission.

Ettelbrick assisted thousands of LGBT individuals during that time, and during her time as an educator and mentor at New York University, Columbia University and the University of Michigan. She passed away in 2011 after an ongoing struggle with cancer.

About Todd Sears

Prior to Out Leadership, Todd Sears created the first team of Wall Street financial advisors focused on the LGBT community at Merrill Lynch. He later became the Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Credit Suisse. Sears married his husband, architect Chris Garvin in a beach ceremony on Fire Island in 2011.

About the MCCA

Founded in 1997, The Minority Corporate Counsel Association ( advocates for the hiring and promotion of minority attorneys in corporate law firms.