Broadening the Lens Beyond the Bubble
In D&I we talk a lot about privilege. And that when we are in a position of privilege we have a duty to be an active ally to those less privileged and fortunate around us.
I am a white and cisgender man. I also live in London, one of the most LGBT+ Inclusive cities of the world. As a gay man, I appreciate how much privilege this adds up to.
It is easy to overlook how where we live is one source of privilege. I learned to appreciate this over the last two decades having lived and worked in the LGBT+ friendly bubbles of New York and London, versus cities like Tokyo and São Paulo whose cultures of LGBT+ inclusion are still emerging.
Half of the Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in ten US cities which Open For Business refers to as AAA, AA or A rated cities. At JP Morgan Chase we are fortunate to have nearly 200 out LGBT Managing and Executive Directors across twelve countries. However, 80% of them work in very LGBT+ inclusive cities.
One’s view of inclusion at any company is intrinsically biased toward their immediate environment and circumstances — that is especially true for people who are on the outskirts of our community. For example, if you are a straight very senior leader and you work in the global headquarters of your multi-national company you may see LGBT+ executives all around you. You probably see a thriving LGBT+ ERG that gets funding, resources, and attention. You may notice an employee transitioning on your own floor and be proud of the support they are receiving. And it would be fair to look at all of that data and assume that your company is doing everything right. That your LGBT+ awards and scores are well earned.
But that is not the whole picture. Sadly what I just described is only the reality in very LGBT+ inclusive cities. There is a real risk that the corporate decision makers and LGBT+ Executives in those cities set priorities based on that positive view around them. But what is it like at that same company for a gay man in Mumbai? How supported is that transgender woman at the call center in Florida? Are some members of the Pride ERG in Singapore hiding as an ally, rather than coming out as LGBT+?
As LGBT+ and ally executives and leaders, we must recognize the important role we can play in sharing and leveraging our privilege with our colleagues who have a great deal less of it in cities that are not so LGBT+ Inclusive. Bring their voices with you when you meet with your senior leaders. Share with them the challenges our community is facing in more remote offices. Note the way LGBT+ leaders are visible in New York and how they are less visible in Georgia. This disparity needs to be elevated.
And if you are an out senior leader who travels for work to remote offices of your company I urge you to connect with the LGBT+ community within your organization during your travel. Find the time to take the ERG leaders for a coffee. Explore if there might be an appetite for a fireside-chat-type event. Find a way to just let them know that you’re there and that you see them. Those moments will embolden these brave ERG leaders on the ground. It will also demonstrate to the local managers that head office takes this very seriously. It’s one of the most impactful ways you can advance LGBT+ belonging to every corner of your companies’ operations.
Another way you can help is by supporting your ERG leaders and encouraging your LGBT+ Executive peers across the U.S. and around the globe to attend either the Out & Equal Workplace Summit in Washington, DC or its Southern States Forum in July or any of Out & Equal’s Global Forums in Brazil, India, and China. It will allow them to network and to develop the skills to implement best practices with the right local nuances.
So much progress has been made. 20 years ago – when I started my corporate career – only 4% of Fortune 500 companies included protections for sexual orientation. Today that figure is 93%. This trend is mirrored with gender identity protections: In 2002, only 3% of Fortune 500 companies included gender identity in their non-discrimination policies and today 85% take this necessary step toward inclusion. But there is more work to do to make this inclusion, and a true feeling of belonging, a reality for LGBT+ employees in every corner of our companies’ operations, and transport these supporting environments far beyond the ‘bubble’ cities. A thoughtful and tightly knit global network of ERG leaders, ally executives, and LGBT+ executives will ensure it does not take another 20 years to achieve.
CO-CHAIR OF THE JP MORGAN CHASE LGBT+ EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
OUT & EQUAL BOARD CHAIR