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Senior Leaders Critical in Building Inclusive Workplace Cultures

By Melissa J. Anderson

In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Karen Sumberg, and Lauren Leader-Chivee explained “What ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Really Costs.” According to Hewlett, et al., “Closeted employees are less likely to deliver the energy, enthusiasm and innovative spirit companies require to be competitive in today’s market. Only 21% of closeted LGBTs trust their employer, compared to 47% who are out.”

But building an inclusive culture is not only about women – it also means supporting individuals from other minority groups as well.

It’s not hard to understand the benefits building a culture that is welcoming and supportive of everyone. As Hewlett revealed in her article, the business-case for LGBT means diversity will benefit everyone – shareholders included.

For the time being, though, there are people who still need convincing about the strategic value of inclusion. Luckily, there are senior leaders who are working top-down to build open workplaces, where LGBT individuals feel they can bring their whole selves to work.

Senior Leaders Support an Open Workplace

For example, PwC‘s CEO Bob Moritz has been very active in the firm’s efforts toward LGBT inclusiveness. Jennifer Allyn, Managing Director at PwC’s Office of Diversity explained, “He is an outstanding ally who has been extremely generous with his time. In addition to giving the introduction to our ‘It Gets Better‘ video, he filmed a segment for our firmwide webcast in honor of Pride last June.”

She continued, “He’s met with our GLBT board and affinity circles. And he was instrumental in helping us endorse the ENDA petition for the HRC.”

Similarly, last week, the Human Rights Campaign presented its Innovation Award to Goldman Sachs for its Ally Strategy – which has senior leaders from each of its 13 business groups actively supporting the firm’s efforts toward LGBT inclusiveness. Tami Rosen, Managing Director in the Human Capital Management division and the firm’s ally to the LGBT Network Steering Committee, explained, “The program has energized the network – for senior people to come forward and discuss what you can do to make a more inclusive workplace is really mobilizing on the issue.”

Both Rosen and Citibank‘s Chief Auditor Bonnie Howard are speaking Wednesday at the first ever “Out on the Street” conference. Howard is a strong supporter of the Citi’s LGBT affinity network. She said, “When I was asked to participate on the panel, my immediate answer was, ‘of course.’ I have genuine enthusiasm for it, and I feel I can’t do enough.”

She continued, “To have someone in a senior executive position [supporting the group], it means a lot. It shows Citi is listening.”

For PwC, Goldman, and Citi, top-down support is helping create a culture of inclusion. Allyn, Rosen, and Howard each commented on the desire to create a “workplace of choice,” underscoring the strategic importance of LGBT diversity at the organizations. Howard said, “You learn a lot as an ally. This is a priority across the industry.”

Firmwide Support for LGBT – Out on the Street

This Thursday, several banks including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Barclays, Citi, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley, are joining forces at an event for LGBT employees on Wall Street. Howard, who will be speaking at the event, said, “For all of these firms to get together and support LGBT sends a powerful message. There is a lot of energy and excitement and pride in everyone I talk to about the event.”

Rosen said the event is particularly important for the industry as a way to attract the best talent. She said, “We want to learn best practices, and share our own best practices as a way to enhance our inclusive workplace where people can be out if they so choose.”

Howard said, “As an ally you have to be open about what you don’t know, and listen. At Citi, half of the co-chairs of the pride-network are female. LGBT isn’t one flavor – everyone has their own perspective and you have to look for opportunities to appeal to all. We are trying to continue to make sure all aspects of LGBT get what they need out of the network.”

The event will include a diverse range of speakers and panels. Maggie Stump, Chief Investment Officer of Quantitative Management Associates, and a transgender woman, will be speaking one one of the panels. She said, “I’m participating because there are very few transgender individuals visibly working at high levels in the financial sector. I believe that it is important to demonstrate that members of the transgender community can, and do, occupy positions of responsibility and can be an asset to both the firms that employ them and their customers.”

Out on the Street is being hosted by Deutsche Bank and was created by Todd Sears, Principal, Coda Leadership Consulting LLC. The event is designed to help companies share best practices on building “open” cultures, as well as enable LGBT individuals to network and share their experiences of being out on Wall Street.

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