Industry representative organisation for diversity and inclusion LGBT Great has released its Global Top 100 Executive Allies list, featuring senior executives and c-suite individuals within the international financial services industry, International Adviser can reveal.
The initiative shines a light on the leaders and the firms around the world that have worked as allies to promote LGBT+ visibility both within their companies and across society.
The list features executives from firms such as Schroders, Man Group, Fidelity International and Blackrock, from all over the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK, the US, and Europe.
To understand what this means for the industry, LGBT+ professionals and the societies the firms operate in, IA spoke with LGBT Great managing director Matt Cameron.
“The idea of this campaign was to really build on the success of the 50 that we achieved last year,” Cameron said.
In July 2019, LGBT Great unveiled its ‘50for50’ campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, the event that many deem to be the beginning of the modern LGBT+ civil rights movement.
The initiative saw 50 c-suite executives ‘come out’ in support of LGBT+ issues and professionals within the UK financial services sector.
“But we’ve also stepped it up a notch this year,” Cameron continued. “Less focused on the UK and a lot more global, we’ve got people featuring from America, Bermuda, Taiwan, parts of Europe and Hong Kong.”
To compile the list, LGBT Great asked industry professionals to nominate senior executives who demonstrated good advocacy and leadership around the diversity and inclusion agenda.
“Off the back of those nominated, we would then arrange a call with them. We basically have been interviewing them to understand what they’ve been doing as an ally to others.”
The organisation said it built the picture of allyship around five key traits:
- Resilience; and,
“Everybody has the reason why they’re an ally and is different for everybody.
“But starting to be ally, you have to really know your reason and affirm that reason and understand that reason.
“So, for some people, it’s about the fight against social injustice; for others, it’s around this is better for our business, or it’s about wanting to help or helping to dismantle stereotypes and support those people that need more support,” Cameron explained.
Breaking down barriers
He admitted he was surprised by some of the entries because homosexuality is still criminalised in jurisdictions like Singapore.
“We’ve actually got a lot of people who you wouldn’t necessarily think that their identity would be supportive of LGBT.
“So, for example, in lots of parts of America, we’ve got people from very Republican states in the US that are typically quite conservative and quite Christian in religious values, and they tend to be less supportive sometimes.”
But what does the list mean for the people featuring on it?
“They’ve committed to continuing the engagement on LGBT+ inclusion,” Cameron said.
“Generally speaking, most of them are going to be executive sponsors, making sure that their support is clear, it’s consistent, continuing the dialogue around some of our research that we’re doing as well.
“The good thing about this is that it breaks down the barriers of the chief executive versus the graduate who’s just joining, because it’s about equality and it’s about a lot of this change being driven from the bottom up.
“What I mean by that is the people who are perhaps early in their career that are looking at the industry or in the industry, obviously fiercely passionate about this subject, they don’t see the difference between LGBT and non-LGBT.
“For them, it’s about everyone, it’s less about the category. They kind of expect that the company, if you want to self-identify, why can’t you? And so, they’re often a lot of the stimulus.
“And it’s the bottom-up approach that is causing and influencing leaders to do better, I think, on the subject.”
Drive for change
Cameron said that the Global Top 100 list is just a first step in the mission for greater inclusion and diversity for LGBT+ professionals and customers within the financial services sector around the world.
This is because there is a lot of work that firms and allies can do first-hand to drive the agenda forward, not only for their businesses, but also for the countries they live and work in.
“Of course, [homosexuality] is still illegal, I think, in about 70 countries now. I think there are still 12 countries where it is punishable by death.
“But I guess, the importance of having visible sponsorship from executives is that, as we know, the investment and the savings industry is a very influential sector.
“And we have seen before, that when businesses collaborate, and work together, that they are actually able to influence equality.”
Cameron believes that leaders can ignite positive change through visible allyship and positive action.
“The global view of this is that it’s leadership’s responsibility to create an environment where each person can feel like they belong and bring their whole true self to work.
“If employees feel that, it will make a stronger organisation who are better able to serve clients and investors. So, making sure that we’ve got representation in firms in countries where homosexuality is illegal, it helps to provide that psychological safety. More so than if that sponsorship wasn’t there.”
Attitudes to advocacy
Cameron added that there are three approaches to bringing the LGBT+ agenda forward around the world at the moment.
“We currently have the ‘When in Rome’ approach, where you have to be respectful, but the role of the executive sponsor there is to make sure that, if there are employees on the ground in a particular country where it is illegal, that they fully consider the legal, social risks for those employees.
“The role of the executive sponsor there, is to make sure that questions are being asked and considered.
“The next step up from that is more of a model where companies can apply pro-LGBT policies and practices to their own employees, without seeking to change the law or culture outside of the company.
“It can be policies around non-discrimination, equal medical benefits to same-sex couples, domestic partners, offering training and participation on LGBT+ topics, through an employee resource group, for example; and an executive sponsor there can take an active role in the invitation to those learning sessions.
“And then, the other end of the spectrum, of course, is where there’s a real advocacy model, this is where the industry has an opportunity to work together, and is where the firm strives to change the climate in a country. So, lobbying with the government or supporting local activists, for example.
“That’s the opportunity, I think, for the industry at a future date, but for that to happen, there’s got to be connected, executive leadership and sponsorship from those in power. I hope that this initiative is a steppingstone to helping some of these places where there’s still work to do,” Cameron added.
International Adviser‘s parent company, Last Word Media, is the exclusive industry media partner of LGBT Great.
Click here to see the Global Top 100 Allies List