Breaking through one more ceiling

308

At the LGBT Wall Street Summit Maggie Stumpp spoke her mind.LGBT Summit on Wall Street – A First.

The recently concluded summit of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) financial industry representatives was like breaking through one more glass ceiling on the way to the top of the building that is society. The summit, billed by the organizers, Out On The Street, as the first LGBT Leadership summit on Wall Street, was attended by more than 160 men and women representing several different financial institutions on Wall Street on Wednesday, Mar 30 at Deutsche Bank’s offices on Wall Street.

As a first, the summit discussed the many ways in which being LGBT on Wall Street, seen as a hindrance to hiring, retention and career advancement, can be overcome with understanding and accepting managers, changes in a homophobic culture geared toward greater talent retention, the commercial viability of attracting clients and socially progressive companies, utilizing LGBT specific messages in recruitment, and recognizing global trends toward diversity and inclusion.

LGBT Wall Street Summit panel

Mark Stephanz, vice chairman, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Ph.D., president, Center for Work Life Policy; Sonelius Kendrick-Smith, director, Deutsche Bank; and Bonnie Howard, chief auditor and global control head, Citigroup at the summit. Photos by Antoine Craigwell.

In his opening remarks Seth Waugh, CEO of Deutsche Bank Americas said that the diversity of the audience at the summit was like a rainbow. While promoting diversity in the workplace, acknowledging and giving equal rights to LGBT employees, he said that from a business perspective, it was commercially viable to do so.

Partnering with straight allies fosters the relationship between allowing for acceptance and diversity, and the commercial aspect of LGBT employees, Waugh said. It is not a high bar to define someone as an ally, someone who doesn’t discriminate against LGBT.

“This gives us the opportunity to show we care. We educate our LGBT employees about the issues they are likely to face. All types of diversity make better sense as we seek to recruit the best and the brightest; decisions, which are reflected in our client pool and creates a richer mosaic,” he said.

Out On The Street founder and principal of CODA, LLC, Todd Sears said that it is important to begin the dialog among senior producers in the financial industry. The banks and financial institutions, which make up Wall Street, he said, have an estimated 880,000 employees and collectively hold approximately $440 billion in capitalization.

“I was out in college and when I had my first job on Wall Street, my managing director called the guy next to me a faggot. I promptly went back into the closet and started looking for a new job. I found one and I let them know my sexual orientation and they were supportive. I was able to build with them and brought lots of LGBT clients to the company,” said Sears.

In her presentation, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Ph.D., placed the theme of the panel discussion “Wall Street as a workplace of choice: Culture” in perspective when she revealed the results of a 2010 study of LGBT out at work in comparison to their straight counterparts. Although the study’s results have been temporarily embargoed pending official publication, Hewlett, as director of the Center for Work Life Policy, said that LGBT acceptance and comfort at being able to be themselves at work has a lot to do with the culture of the organization. Hewlett stated that increasing is the number of companies who see a commercial advantage to participating in the Center’s Hidden Brain Drain Task Force, which assists companies hold on to their LGBT talent, those who would otherwise leave because they are working in an uncomfortable environment.

Considering diverse work pools from a global perspective, companies are taking into account their employees’ sexual orientation by ensuring that they attract and retain the best talent. Hewlett said research revealed that LGBT are more educated and qualified than their heterosexual counterparts. In many ways, Hewlett’s data presentation was similar to the published results of the General Social Survey conducted by The Williams Institute. That survey suggested that 37 percent of lesbian and gay people (LG), and 46.6 percent of those who are bisexual (B) reported higher levels of education either with college or graduate degrees than 26 percent of their heterosexual counterparts. The Institute, a part of UCLA School of Law, said a combined 43.6 percent LG and B are out in the workplace and known among other employees.

But, in workplaces LGBT employees still have to contend with stigma, discrimination and racism. Many feel isolated and disengaged; they are disinterested in participating in company events, including bringing their partners to parties or outings. Many do not have photos on their desks or as screen savers, or have phone conversations with their partners while at work, as do many heterosexuals.

Close to 95-percent of those who attended the summit indicated by standing that they were out at work. Few, who remained seated, raised their hands to show that they are LGBT but not out at work and fewer still said they were straight.

“It says a lot that even at a LGBT event that there are some LGBT who do not feel comfortable to stand up and identify that they are gay or lesbian,” said Brian McNaught, a LGBT trainer and a moderator for one of the panel discussions.

When asked why someone at a branch or a desk should come out, Mark Stephanz, vice chairman of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said, “Hiding is tiring.  I came out three years ago because I couldn’t continue to expend the time, energy and brain function.”

Married with two children, Stephanz said he told his wife and the first person he told at work was his boss, “I felt it important to have that one-on-one conversation with my colleagues and clients. Then, I thought I was risking my career. Many think that coming out would be much worse that it turned out to be for me.”

But another panelist, Sonelius Kendrick-Smith, who is African-American, and a director and portfolio manager with Deutsche Bank and a member of his company’s Rainbow group, said that in one of his previous jobs, even though at the time he was already out to family and friends, he was concerned about coming out on the trading floor.

“At one of my previous jobs, I went to my boss, the head of the Fixed Income Department, and told her that I am gay and I didn’t want to go back into the closet. She assured me that the company will protect me. She said that she has two brothers who are gay and gave me her support. But the problems I had after coming out was more of some stupid stuff. Once I went to the bathroom. When I walked in, I met another man using a urinal and as soon as he saw me, he turned his back and tried to hide himself,” Kendrick-Smith said.

The definition of a straight ally is someone who is a little more than “pissed-off” who wants to make things better said Bonnie Howard, chief auditor, Global Control Head, Citigroup. Many straight people, who want to be allies often feel as though they would likely say the wrong thing.

Hewlett added that lesbians are more likely to have children and do not seem to receive the harsh treatment as men because that are seen as mothers who are gay. Data shows that isolation and backlash is more often directed toward men than women and that many gay men distrust their employers. And, compared to women, she said, a pattern among gay men has emerged of those who come out after they have been married.

But, McNaught, said that it’s important to have people in the top level management who are out or comfortable with LGBT issues, which makes it easier for employees to come out. Heterosexuals, he added, are not the enemy, management need to be authentic in their demonstrations of support for LGBT.

An openly gay member of the NY Stock Exchange, Walter Schubert, said that as the first person to come out on the trading floor, it took about a year for people to become comfortable with him.

“I’ve learned that homophobia is anti-feminism, where homosexual men are assumed by heterosexuals to be just like women, but being gay is not personal, it’s a public matter. A person’s behavior is private, but their orientation is public. It is important that employers and managers be available to talk,” said Schubert.

Many Wall Street companies have embraced a program where managers have symbols of a tent in their offices as a sign to LGBT employees that these offices are safe places to come for refuge.

A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because his company’s public relations department had not given permission to speak with the press, said that companies have to assure candidates when they are being hired that it’s okay to go to a multicultural or diversity group, “From the get-go, African-American LGBT are under enormous pressure, such as skin color, their sexual orientation and the number of projects they have to deal with. The challenges are there and everyone has to make the decision which battles they would deal with. I was fortunate that the racism was not that great and the homophobia was dealt with by an overt support system from my managers, which helped my confidence and productivity. Being comfortable, I was able to bring all my talents and skills to my job.”

As if demonstrating the strength and power of being LGBT, Maggie Stumpp, Ph.D., chief investment officer with QMA Associates who is transgender, manages an estimated $80 billion in assets and investments, said she had a picture on her desk of herself in drag. No one commented because they thought it was her sister. She decided to transition from male to female 10 years ago. At the time, she came into her office with a business plan on how to tell people about transitioning. On one occasion, her team was fired by a client when they found out she is transgender.

Introducing the panel discussion on driving innovation with strategic partnerships and investments, and quoting from a national transgender survey, Stumpp said that 47 percent of transgender lose their jobs, 16 percent are involved in the illicit drug trade, and 14 percent have incomes above $100,000. She added that 27 percent of all transgender have college degrees compared to 10 percent of the general population, and 20 percent have graduate degrees as opposed to 9 percent of the same general population.

 

At the LGBT Wall Street Summit Maggie Stumpp spoke her mind.LGBT Summit on Wall Street – A First.

The recently concluded summit of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) financial industry representatives was like breaking through one more glass ceiling on the way to the top of the building that is society. The summit, billed by the organizers, Out On The Street, as the first LGBT Leadership summit on Wall Street, was attended by more than 160 men and women representing several different financial institutions on Wall Street on Wednesday, Mar 30 at Deutsche Bank’s offices on Wall Street.