Including LGBTs in Financial Services

> Posted by Jeffrey Riecke, Communications Associate, CFI

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What’s the percentage of MFI clients worldwide that are LGBT? How about the percentage of staff at MFIs? Broader yet, how inclusive is the financial services industry of queer and trans people?

As you’d probably guess, concrete answers to these questions aren’t available. And even raising the issue is controversial in many countries. Over the past year anti-gay legislation was enacted in Russia, Nigeria, Uganda, and India. The notion of financial institutions working towards LGBT-inclusive operations is far off in many countries.

But here in the U.S. (and in other areas worldwide) change is happening, as demonstrated at the Out on the Street Summit last week in New York City. The event, part of the Out on the Street initiative, featured senior leadership from some of the largest financial services providers in the world, including Michael Corbat, CEO of Citigroup, and Ajay Banga, President and CEO of MasterCard. Held on May 1, the event focused on business opportunities and leadership strategies for and within the LGBT community, as well as the financial services industry’s role in advancing LGBT equality.

The financial services industry, with its immense reach, is well-positioned to help set an example for all businesses when it comes to LGBT equality. The Out on the Street Summits and movement seek to set a forward-looking inclusion agenda, driving strategy and change for LGBT equality and its business case.

This was the fourth annual Out on the Street Summit in New York City. In recent years, the movement has gained momentum, expanding its programming from New York to also include annual summits in London and in Hong Kong, which are both held each fall.

Along with Citigroup and MasterCard, speakers at last week’s summit included Barclays, Wells Fargo, Moody’s, Deutsche Bank, and Morgan Stanley. The event also incorporated non-financial ally organizations, including The New York Times, CBS News, and the National Football League.

Revealing one’s sexual orientation in the workplace is still seen as risky. Only 11 percent of millennials are “out” at work, while 61 percent are out at school, according to a study from the Human Rights Campaign. Why the enormous difference?

Before the 2013 summit in London, event organizers conducted a survey and asked LGBT respondents what straight allies need to do to improve workplace equality. The top response was speaking up in defense of LGBTs – in meetings, to clients, to managers, and to coworkers. Other popular answers were supporting a coworker who is coming out of the closet, attending an event in support of LGBTs, and telling colleagues in conversation that they are a straight ally.

Image credit: Mauricio Lima/ Getty Images

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