This year the UK is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first-ever pride for the LGBT+ community, marking half a century of protests, fights for equal rights and visibility, as well as celebrations for what has been achieved so far. Even the Royal Mint is marking the event with a rainbow-coloured special edition 50p coin.
But 50 years on, how does the financial services industry compare with the level of representation LGBT+ people have reached in mainstream society?
The sector is slowly moving towards greater inclusion and LGBT+ diversity via a series of campaigns and initiatives, as well as the creation of several activist groups.
DiversityQ’s sister brand, International Adviser, reached out to the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI) and the CFA Institute to ask whether things have changed in the industry.
While all three trade bodies believe that strides have been made when it comes to becoming a more diverse sector, they, unfortunately, think there isn’t robust enough data – if any – to mark any tangible progress for LGBT+ diversity in the industry.
Sarah Maynard, global head of external diversity, equity, and inclusion at CFA Institute, told IA: “We don’t have robust data on sexual orientation and gender identity as it is still not the norm to collect it in many workplaces.”
“The wider point here is that trust in organisations and colleagues is still being developed.”
Matthew Connell, director of policy and public affairs at the CII, also admitted that the industry doesn’t currently know “how many LGBTQ+ financial services professionals there are.”
He added that all we have is “little information about how things have changed for individuals working in the sector”, but there is no data on “whether they feel comfortable sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity with colleagues and customers.”
What can be done?
In a bid to change that, Connell told IA the CII will send out a survey to its 124,000 members later this year to “understand where we are on the journey to becoming a more inclusive profession.”
He added that the research will “benchmark where we are at and allow us to share good practice that empowers individuals and firms to act to become truly diverse organisations that meet the array of needs of the public.”
CFA Institute’s Maynard said that there are steps companies can take themselves without waiting for input from trade bodies.
“Encouraging people to be themselves at work means creating an inclusive workplace – this holds for all, all the time, not only in pride month”, Maynard added. “Enabling employee resource groups to be seen and heard matters, but they need to be properly resourced, and their work recognised as the leadership it is.”
“Similarly, providing education and training so that employees have a safe space not only to express themselves but also for those who need to build understanding. Team leaders’ behaviour should set expectations by being fluent with the language which makes all individuals feel included.”
Karen Ashcroft, CISI global director of finance & HR, diversity, equity and inclusion lead, echoed Maynard’s sentiments.
“Building a positive culture is important and all employees, from the most junior to the most senior levels, have a role to play in making the workplace more LGBT+ inclusive,” she said. “Trust is integral to the culture, and by educating, story-sharing, using gender-neutral language and creating opportunities for conversation around identity, we can try to build workplaces which allow us all to be authentic.”
“Whilst pride is a time for celebration, it is also important to remember and acknowledge the discrimination and harassment that many LGBT+ people face the whole year round and all over the world. At CISI, we are ensuring that employees are also aware of the mental health resources that we offer for those in need of support, including the CISI Mental Health Portal, which is accessible to anyone working in financial services.”
By Cristian Angeloni, a news reporter for International Adviser covering global news stories about the financial services industry.