Workforces are becoming more inclusive. Yet many LGBT+ employees still do not feel as if they can be their true selves at work – which has ramifications on performance and wellbeing. Darren Rickards, Head of Corporate Banking, CEEMEA and Co-Exec Sponsor of the EMEA LGBT Pride Employee Network at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, outlines some practical tips for treasurers looking to encourage inclusivity within their teams.
Whilst ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and PR initiatives quite rightly speak the language of inclusion, it’s up to all of us as individuals to create, encourage and foster an inclusive workforce. Looking at the treasury space, there are many practical steps treasurers can take to encourage frank conversations and to promote an open and honest culture:
1. Encourage your employees to bring their whole selves to work
Before I came out at work, I was a totally different person. I was headstrong and taciturn, and I avoided any conversation about my private life – which meant that my team saw me as rather aloof and distant. Coming out fundamentally changed this: being a more authentic version of myself has allowed me to become more outspoken, persuasive and engaged in my job. Removing the anxiety around coming out has freed me to concentrate on things that really matter and unleash my potential.
2. Watch your language and check your privilege
As any LGBT+ person knows, an off-the-cuff remark can delay coming out by months or even years. It is therefore so important that we watch our words and keep our teams in check, to make sure unconscious bias isn’t legitimised. Often, we will be completely unaware that casual conversations and terms of reference may ostracise others. Make a positive statement about inclusivity by cutting negative statements out of the conversation.
3. Take discrimination seriously in your recruitment and promotion practices
Establish a strong anti-discrimination policy and ensure that all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace. In cases of homophobic bullying, promptly recognise the problem and take action.
4. Develop support and engagement programmes for LGBT+ employees
At Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we are very proud of the initiatives that we have had in place for a number of years, to support a diverse and inclusive workplace, such as mentoring, employee networking groups, seminars and conferences. Our global Ally programme, for example, allows colleagues who aren’t LGBT+ to show their support of their LGBT+ colleagues; join training sessions to better understand what it means to be L, G, B or T; and attend events and talks that discuss some of the issues facing this community. Moreover, our LGBT+ Pride Employee Network is at the centre of everything we are doing to create an LGBT-inclusive culture and to bring allies with us on our journey.
5. Upskill senior leadership with answers to difficult questions, helping to bring inclusion into their day-to-day working practices
Frequently, there is an appetite to shift cultural norms, but a lack of knowledge to make progress. To combat this at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, we hold seminars that are open to all our employees across Global Banking and Markets, and support functions, such as ‘So what if you’re gay?’ sessions with LGBT and straight employees. These have facilitated extremely open and candid conversations with no questions being ‘off limits’. I take the view that given my relative seniority, I can do more good than bad by speaking about my personal experiences and offering advice so that we hopefully reach a point where these sessions are no longer necessary.
Times may have changed, but often people’s fears and experiences of discrimination have failed to keep pace. We cannot forget that it’s the people who make our organisations great. If we realise the power of diversity and value all our differences – in thought, style, culture, experience, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – we will be even stronger. Inclusion is so much more than a buzzword, it is a prerequisite to how we do business.
Keep your eyes peeled for the longer version of this article which will appear in the next issue (no. 262) of TMI.