I came out to my parents when I was 18 and again when I was at university. For LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people, coming out is a constant process and it can generate tremendous anxiety. People stay in the closet because they fear they will lose their family, friends or career.
When I came out on Wall Street 19 years ago, when I was an investment and private banker, it was still rare for people to be openly gay in that industry At Merrill Lynch, I ran the first team to focus on the LGBT+ market and brought in US$1.5b in new assets.
In 2010, I got laid off. I was sitting on my sofa with a severance cheque and a martini and thought, ‘No-one is creating the business conversation about LGBT+.’ So I set up a platform to bring business leaders together to talk with CEOs in the LGBT+ space — about business, talent and equality.
Employers should consider how much stress it causes employees when they feel pressured to hide important aspects of their identity. On the flipside, imagine how much happier and more productive employees can be when they feel they don’t have to hide those things. Nearly 10 per cent of the population identify as LGBT+. Don’t think about diversity as a problem — view inclusion as an opportunity. LGBT+ is the canary in the coalmine when it comes to culture — the level of comfort people feel reflects the level of their inclusion in the organisation’s culture.
In November 2019, the AICD will host an invitation-only event in partnership with OutLeadership’s Quorum initiative – a talent accelerator for LGBT+ directors.
Keep an eye out for the upcoming DirectorCast podcast series in which Marcel Mol, AICD General Manager Education, and Todd Sears discuss the origins of Out Leadership, as well as the positive impact of valuing difference in the boardroom.