A handful of firms have tried to improve LGBT+ inclusion by setting up an employee network and this is regarded by the industry as a litmus test. Whilst networks provide a safe place for colleagues to come together, they often act as a barrier to inclusion because they are insular and fail to connect with others. The impact is, ironically, more isolation than effectiveness.
Another key challenge has been that the industry has been fixated on gender and diversity efforts have been focused on improving conditions for talented women. The result is that the pensions industry has fallen behind in other areas of diversity and failed to position itself as a sector of choice for LGBT+ talent, clients and investors. It is fair to say that things need to improve.
The future progress of the LGBT+ agenda lies in energising the support of influential role models and allies who have the power and privilege to lead and take action. LGBT Great has grown into a global effort of more than fifty firms which exists to engage senior executive allies and steer towards greater LGBT+ inclusion. The programme works by providing actionable insights, visibility and outreach initiatives and by advocating for the positives that a culture of LGBT+ equality can yield.
When we launched in November 2017 the starting point was bleak. A study completed by the Diversity Project and Mercer revealed that 3 per cent of the industry’s workforce identified as LGBT+ despite global estimates being approximately 1 in 10. Our own study revealed that only half of the workforce knew if their firm provided LGBT+ supportive policies. 92 per cent said that visible allies at executive level were important to them but that only 10 per cent of firms provided this.
Despite this backdrop, LGBT Great has worked to turn this adversity into future opportunity through constructive conversation. Our flagship initiative, Project 1000, is a five-year drive to find and shine a light on one thousand LGBT+ and supportive ally role models. This has now attracted the support of over 2000 industry employees and over 500 industry role models from a wide range of investment houses, asset owners, consultancies, pension firms and trade bodies. In 2021, we are intensifying our push across the pensions industry and we would love to obtain your support.
We are delighted to be collaborating with the Pensions Management Institute and look forward to working together in 2021 and beyond. Together, we are seeking the support of pension providers, regulators, funds, and employees working to step forward as supporters for LGBT+ inclusion by signing up to become a Project 1000 role model. In return, LGBT Great will profile you on our website and offer access to our online webinar series throughout the year. We reply to everybody and you can sign up to show your support here.
This article was featured in Pensions Aspects magazine February 2021 edition.
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