Why LGBT+ equality and inclusion are critical for our industry?

Monday 11 November 2019

Seven questions for Matt Cameron

Author: Maha Khan Phillips

Matthew Cameron is founder and managing director of LGBT Great, a global membership organisation working to develop all aspects of LGBT+ equality and inclusion in the global investment and savings industry. He talks to Professional Investor about some of the key issues, and considerations for employers


1. Tell us about why you launched LGBT Great two years ago, and the work that you do?

I launched LGBT Great based on my own personal experience of working with the investment and savings industry.  I recognised that there were a lot more LGBT+ people working within the sector than we realised, but the key point that none of them were visible, and this was at odds with other sectors. 

LGBT+ talent possesses high levels of the richness needed to deliver inclusion based on learning and lived experience. The business case is also significant: The LGBT+ population has a spending power of approximately $5 trillion, for example. And one study by Credit Suisse, the first of its kind, found that companies with LGBT+ diversity outperformed companies without this diversity. 

Against this backdrop, figures from The Office of National Statistics reveal that there are more people identifying as LGBT+ than ever before. The figure was 1.7% in 2015, and 2% in 2016, and this is continuing to increase. For the investment industry therefore, this represents a growing pool of talent – assuming the industry can attract it.  

On top of this, there is the argument for diversity and inclusion. We know that LGBT+ talent brings cognitive richness to business, and inclusive leadership. The asset management sector is 76% made up of one identity group only, according to a Mercer survey from 2017. Only 1% of fund managers identify as Black, and only 3% identify as LGBT+. There is a large gender pay gap, and only 4% of investing decisions are currently made by women in the UK. 

2. Why is it important to support LGBT+ talent in the investment industry?

Because the LGBT+ employee population provides access to a rich and diverse pool of talent. Like any group of talent, LGBT+ talent is looking for recognition, reward and acceptance and traditionally our sector is typically one identity group. Other industries have been developing LGBT+ inclusion for a long time, including technology, banking, insurance and legal, and the investment sector is behind at a time when expectations are increasing. 

Over 80% of all young people are looking for visual demonstrations of diversity and equality when making conscious employment choices. LGBT+ is often a litmus test for how inclusive an organisational culture is – if they cannot see this in practice, many will not apply.  

In our study ‘A starting point for investment and savings industry inclusion’, it was identified that banter is the number one concern for over 40% of LGBT+ employees within our industry. In addition, 25% are considering leaving their current employer. Additionally, our ‘Aiming for Great’ research report revealed that 82% of LGBT+ talent said that their next career move will be based on how LGBT+ friendly the firm they are considering is. 

The workforce is evolving, and future talent is seeking employers who place a clear focus on diversity and inclusion. Talent is attracted to firms whose leaders are able to demonstrate an ‘inclusive’ style of leadership, and they seek organisations that value difference, embrace authenticity and champion diversity.

LGBT+ talent brings high levels of the ‘human’ skills needed to development inclusive leadership. Inclusiveness, authenticity, empathy and resilience are the top four skills rated by LGBT+ talent in the industry.

3. Is the investment industry doing enough for LGBT+ inclusion at the moment?

The answer is yes and no. There has been some great progress. When we started a few years ago there was little or no visibility. Today we have engagement from over 100 firms globally, and over 350 role models, including 50 executives from our #50For50 campaign. 

Firms are working to complete the iiBT tool, the Investment Industry Benchmarking Tracker, to review, measure and improve LGBT+ progress. 

However, there is still much to be done. Many firms are reluctant to focus on the LGBT+ agenda, or want to be involved, but without creating quantifiable actions.  Our ‘Aiming for Great’ report concluded that there is a large gap between what LGBT+ talent is seeking, versus what is currently on offer by the industry. 0% of firms currently recognise the unique skills that LGBT+ talent offers, whereas 94% said that their LGBT+ identities were a positive enhancement to their skills and competencies. 

0% of firms view LGBT+ talent as different to any other groups and 70% are not thinking about LGBT+ diversity and inclusion in particular. In comparison, 82% of LGBT+ talent said that their next move will be influenced by how LGBT+ friendly the firm is, and 77% are looking for quantifiable demonstration in practice. 

Only 10% of firms have visible allies at executive and board level, whereas 92% of LGBT+ talent is looking for this. 84% of respondents felt that senior level advocacy is important. 24% therefore do not feel supported by leadership. 

4. What are some of the challenges around inclusion that still have to be overcome?

There are five key issues challenges here:

  • Bias / lack of understanding and awareness.

  • Concern for getting it wrong and looking bad = negative perception.

  • Momentum – how do we keep the agenda going? 

  • Moving Diversity & Inclusion from a nice to do, to a positive business enhancer. 

  • Moving beyond identity categories to that of pragmatism. 

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