By Melissa J. Anderson

Last summer, Out on the Street was launched in order to gather individuals and employers on Wall Street and share best practices for attracting and retaining LGBT workers and allies. This week, the group published its first report: a best practices guide for employers on the cutting edge of LGBT inclusiveness, written by Todd Sears, Founder of Out on the Street, with Jonathan Saw and Suzanne Richards.

Sears explained, “What we wanted to do was capture content from the working sessions from the inaugural Out on the Street in a way that would be implementable by leaders, regardless of the industry they work in.”

Sears added that the group had received a number of questions from OOTS participants on next steps following the initial conference. “This is a step-by-step for what what companies can do. We’ve put a stake in the ground in making specific recommendations for what leaders should do.”

Best Practices: Leadership

Sears highlighted that the Center for Talent Innovation’s “Power of Out” research made clear that being “out” was integral to a positive career progression; not being out can create feelings of isolation and frustration which ultimately can lead to leaving a firm. He explained that having an LGBT role model at the top can make it easier for LGBT employees to be out – and it can send a powerful signal about the firm’s corporate culture of inclusion. “If you are in a leadership position and it’s safe for you to do so, you should come out at work,” he said.

The report, “Thinking Outside the Closet: How Leaders Can Leverage the LGBT Talent Opportunity,” is the first in a series, Sears explained. The group plans to release at least one more this year.

The report emphasizes the importance of leadership behavior on the topic of LGBT employees. It says:

“The perception of both LGBT and straight employees that leaders live the values they articulate is fundamental in building trust. Remember, being authentic on this issue does not mean that you must be LGBT or have LGBT friends or relatives; it means that your actions and words in public about LGBT people and issues go beyond bland diversity pronouncements to activities and initiatives that truly change the culture on the ground.”

Sears pointed out how industry CEOs are talking leadership roles on LGBT issues – for example Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s recent marriage equality video and John Mack’s open letter supporting marriage equality in New York last year, while he was Chairman of Morgan Stanley. “That sends an even stronger message about how much Wall Street has actually changed over the years, and how comfortable Wall Street actually is with taking the lead on this marriage equality issue.”

He also mentioned the importance of straight allies being active, vocal supporters of LGBT employees. “What sponsor organizations kept saying about the whole notion of allies is almost the idea of having allies come out as allies.” For example Richard Parsons, former Citigroup Chairman, and Brian Leach, Citi’s Chief Risk Officer were keynote speakers at a webinar panel called “The Ally – A Driver for Social Change” sponsored by Citi’s Pride Employee Network.

What’s Next

Sears praised the financial services industry for taking a leadership role when it comes to LGBT inclusiveness. “All of the major players – and even the second tier players – have a 100% rating on the HRC Corporate Equality Index,” he explained. “As an industry, financial services is clearly leading in this space. Look at how quickly tax equalization has become less of a new thing and is now becoming a standard benefit across financial services.’”

Because the majority of Wall Street firms have the right policies in place, he explained, the group is trying to address behaviors – cultural issues are more difficult to change than policy ones, and make a big difference in the day to day life of an LGBT employee.

The “Thinking Outside the Closet” white paper series will continue to focus on different aspects of leadership in LGBT equality in the workplace.

“In keeping with the mission of Out on the Street, future white papers will continue to explore the intersection of LGBT equality and good business.” Sears said.